Skin aging is associated with a loss of moisture, and hyaluronic acid (HA) is the key molecule involved in skin hydration. In recent years, hyaluronic acid products have become popular due to their ability to hydrate and plump the skin, to make it appear more youthful and radiant.
While salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and azelaic acid are commonly known to fight acne by exfoliating the skin and unclogging pores, the question is: can you also use hyaluronic acid for acne?
Get ready to uncover the pros and cons of this popular ingredient and discover whether hyaluronic acid is the right fit for your skin.
What Is Hyaluronic Acid?
Hyaluronic acid is naturally synthesized in the body and is most commonly found in the skin, joints, and eyes and helps provide structural support to tissues.
As we age, our bodies produce less of it, leading to the development of wrinkles and other signs of aging1.
HA plays an important role in wound healing and tissue repair, as well as maintaining the elasticity and firmness of the skin.
It has an amazing ability to attract and hold onto water – up to 1,000 times its own molecular weight2. This helps keep skin and tissues well-hydrated and lubricated, which is essential for their proper functioning.
It isn’t just important for drawing moisture to the skin. It’s also used in medical treatments such as joint injections for osteoarthritis, plus hyaluronic acid injections are used as filler in cosmetic procedures.
By the way, keep in mind that hyaluronic acid is not the same as sodium hyaluronate. Although they are pretty similar, they work different and have different benefits for the skin.
Is Hyaluronic Acid Good For Acne And Oily Skin?
Hyaluronic acid is a natural substance found in the skin, making it suitable for all skin types.
Its moisturizing benefits are especially helpful for dry skin, but you may be surprised to learn that these properties also make it good for fighting acne.
When the sebaceous glands produce excess oil, pores can become clogged, leading to breakouts.
Acne products often combat this problem by stripping away natural oils to unclog pores. Dehydrated skin starts producing even more oil to compensate, leading to more acne.
Hyaluronic acid hydrates the skin without adding any extra oil. Some research show it may even help decrease the production of sebum3, therefore it’s perfect for controlling your skin’s oil production.
Other moisturizers typically work by creating an artificial barrier over the skin to trap moisture. This is usually with the help of occlusive agents (such as petrolatum or mineral oil), which sit on top of the skin and prevent water from evaporating. They also clog pores4.
Because hyaluronic acid is non-comedogenic, (in most causes) it won’t clog your pores and cause breakouts, making it a great addition to your skincare toolbox.
Does Hyaluronic Acid Help Treat Acne?
Now you know it may help hydrate the skin without causing breakouts. But does it help treat the acne itself? That depends. Hyaluronic acid doesn’t directly treat acne, but it can indirectly help by improving skin barrier dysfunction and reducing inflammation.
You may not realize your excessively oily skin is actually dry skin underneath. And for those with dry skin that is contributing to acne breakouts, moisturizing properties of HA may be particularly beneficial.
By adding hyaluronic acid to your skincare routine, you can help keep your skin moisturized and reduce its need for excess oil production, decreasing the damage and irritation that exacerbate acne breakouts5.
And because it is a natural component of the skin, it’s generally well-tolerated and can be combined with other treatments for acne prone skin.
Does Hyaluronic Acid Help Clear Skin?
Using a hyaluronic acid serum can improve the overall texture and appearance of your skin, making it smoother.
As your skin hydrates and “plumpens”, the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles decreases.
How does that work? When applied to the skin, HA molecules form a mesh-like structure on the skin’s surface that helps to lock in moisture.
Its chemical ability to attract and hold onto water molecules gives the skin a more youthful appearance by keeping it hydrated and plump.
It also indirectly improves wound healing and tissue repair by promoting the synthesis of collagen. By reducing redness, it helps improve skin texture.
And by keeping your skin hydrated, hyaluronic acid helps control sebum production, which in turn is very important if you’re struggling with acne.
Should You Be Using Hyaluronic Acid For Acne?
If you’re wondering “Is hyaluronic acid for for acne?”, the short answer is: it depends on the severity of your acne.
Those with drier skin, mild acne and excessive sebum production may benefit most. Used as a hydrating ingredient, HA can help reduce excess sebum production.
In cases where acne is caused by other factors such as hormones, diet or genetics, hyaluronic acid may not be the miracle cure you’re looking for. It can still help overall skin health, thereby reducing acne.
The truth is, whatever the cause of your acne is, this skincare ingredient can still be a great addition to your beauty regimen because of its other benefits.
It’s worth noting that it also depends on the type of product you use, not just whether HA is an active ingredient.
Some products with HA may also contain heavy oils or comedogenic ingredients that can lead to clogged pores, making your acne worse.
Selecting the right product and using it correctly will determine whether you achieve a glowing complexion.
How To Use Hyaluronic Acid For Acne
You can choose from various types of skincare products like creams, serums, and lotions, which contain HA6.
Serums are a better option than moisturizers, because in creams and lotions the concentration of HA is diluted by other ingredients.
To apply a hyaluronic acid serum:
- Start by cleansing your skin.
- Apply toner if needed.
- Next, apply the serum to your face and neck. Gently pat it over your skin. Apply it while your skin is fresh and hydrated after cleansing.
- Apply moisturizer and sunscreen to finish.
Keep in mind that not all HA serums are created equally. Watch out for low-quality sources of HA. Low quality serums may contain animal products which can cause adverse reactions.
There isn’t just one type of HA either. There is low molecular weight hyaluronic acid (LMW-HA) and high molecular weight hyaluronic acid (HMW-HA).
LMW-HA penetrates the skin easily, providing deeper hydration and potentially stimulating collagen production7.
Mixed molecular weight hyaluronic acid serums combine both LMW-HA and HMW-HA for both surface-level and deeper hydration.
When choosing an HA product for acne, it’s important to avoid products that contain highly comedogenic ingredients, like cocoa butter, as these can clog pores and exacerbate acne.
Instead, look for products that are labeled as non-comedogenic (or even better – non-acnegenic) and free of potentially irritating ingredients.
How Does Hyaluronic Acid Help Treat Acne?
If you’ve ever tried to combat breakouts in the past by using products which strip the excess oil from your skin, you may have already learned how that can backfire.
Oily skin that is dehydrated and stripped of its natural oils will overcompensate by ramping up oil production.
When the excess oil mixes with dead skin cells, it can create a plug in the pore called a comedone. This is how a pimple or blackhead develops.
Additionally, when the skin is dehydrated, it can become more sensitive and prone to redness and inflammation. That means your acne-fighting products may be what is causing acne.
Instead, take action and use products which help in retaining water. That’s where HA comes in to help treat acne.
The mechanism behind hyaluronic acid skincare products is as follows: the HA molecules start to attract water molecules like magnets from your skin and the air around you.
As the water molecules attach to the HA molecules, they start to expand and spread out, creating a gel-like substance that sits on top of your skin. Each HA molecule can attract water up to 1000 times its own weight.
That means this gel or protective barrier, used to lock moisture in, is mostly made of water itself.
And we already know that hydrated skin means better control of sebum production. This way hyaluronic acid serum can help treat acne.
Can Hyaluronic Acid Reduce Visibility Of Acne Scars?
Yes, hyaluronic acid may reduce the visibility of atrophic acne scars. Studies have shown that HA gel injections8 and topical hyaluronic acid serums can be effective in improving the appearance of moderate-to-severe acne scarring.
When skin is wounded, the body naturally produces hyaluronic acid to help repair the damage. This amazing molecule also stimulates collagen production, which is what gives our skin structure and elasticity.
Collagen production helps to fill in depressed scars and improve the texture of the skin.
In the case of acne scars, the skin is damaged by inflammation and the healing process may not be optimal.
Applying HA topically may stimulate the healing process and improve the appearance of scars.
Other Benefits Of Hyaluronic Acid For Your Skin
- Boosts collagen production
Collagen is the protein that gives your skin structure and elasticity. More collagen means smoother skin, fewer fine lines and wrinkles, and an overall improvement in skin texture.
- Reduces inflammation
If you’re someone with sensitive or reactive skin, hyaluronic acid can be a lifesaver.
Its anti-inflammatory properties can soothe redness and irritation, making your skin feel and look more comfortable.
- Enhances skin elasticity
As I mentioned earlier, hyaluronic acid can stimulate collagen production, which can help improve your skin’s elasticity. This can leave you with firmer, more supple-looking skin.
- Protects against damage
By strengthening your skin barrier and preventing moisture loss, it can keep your skin looking its best even when you’re faced with UV rays, pollution, and other environmental stressors.
- Safe for most skin type
HA is in general well tolerated and suits most skin types. One of the biggest advantages is that hyaluronic acid doesn’t increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun!
Even though it’s called “acid”, it works completely different than AHAs and BHAs (like glycolic acid or salicylic acid), which increase skin’s photosensitivity.
Potential Side Effects Of Hyaluronic Acid
Although hyaluronic acid has many benefits for the skin, there are some potential side effects to be aware of:
- Skin dryness
HA draws moisture from the environment, but if the air is too dry, it may actually pull moisture from deeper layers of the skin, causing dryness.
This is more likely to occur if you have sensitive skin or are using a high concentration of HA.
- Allergic reaction
Although rare, some people may have an allergic reaction to hyaluronic acid.
Does Hyaluronic Acid Cause Skin Purging?
When using skincare products, you might experience what’s called “purging”.
This happens when the product speeds up the skin’s exfoliation process, leading to pimples coming to the surface more quickly. Purging is that initial breakout.
Don’t worry, it’s not a sign that the product isn’t working.
It’s most common with people who have acne-prone skin or are already experiencing some clogged pores. Plus purging is usually caused by products with AHA or BHA as key ingredient.
It usually takes about six weeks for the purging to subside. In most cases, it’s best to wait and allow your skin to adjust.
However, you need to know that hyaluronic acid itself doesn’t increase skin cell turnover, which means it doesn’t speed up the exfoliation of your skin (even though it has “acid” in its name).
HA is very unlikely to cause purging, but if there are other ingredients in the HA product you’re using, they may be the reason for purging and breakouts9.
Does Hyaluronic Acid Clog Pores?
Hyaluronic acid is generally considered safe and non-comedogenic, but in rare cases, it may cause pores to become clogged. People with oily or acne-prone skin may be more susceptible to this.
It’s important to use only a small amount of hyaluronic acid product and to make sure it’s fully absorbed before applying other products. Just a few drops of your serum is enough.
Use products with a low concentration of hyaluronic acid and avoid using heavy creams or oils that can trap the product and sebum in the pores.
Regularly cleansing the skin can also help prevent pore blockage.
Does Hyaluronic Acid Cause Acne?
Although hyaluronic acid is generally safe for acne-prone skin, it’s important to note that some HA products may contain other ingredients that can trigger breakouts.
Some people’s skin may also react to hyaluronic acid itself with irritation which causes inflamed skin or acne.
It’s always a good idea to check the ingredient list of a product and patch-test it before applying.
Is Vitamin C Or Hyaluronic Acid Better For Acne?
Both vitamin C and hyaluronic acid can be beneficial for acne, but their effectiveness depends on the underlying cause of the acne and the individual’s skin type.
If your skin is oily and inflamed, Vitamin C may be your best bet. It can help fight bacteria and inflammation, leaving your skin feeling bright and rejuvenated10.
On the other hand, if your skin tends to be dry or dehydrated, hyaluronic acid could be more helpful. It can provide deep hydration and prevent dryness (one of the causes that make acne worse).
Remember, everyone’s skin is unique, so what works for one person may not work for another.
Final Decision: Is Hyaluronic Acid Good For Acne?
Hyaluronic acid can be a helpful tool in managing acne by keeping the skin hydrated and regulating oil production.
Additionally, hyaluronic acid can strengthen the skin’s natural barrier and reduce inflammation. All these are key factors in preventing acne.
In general, if you have dry skin or mild acne, hyaluronic acid can be a great addition to your skincare routine.
And because it boosts collagen production and helps to heal the wounds, hyaluronic acid is really good for acne scars.
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