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Hyaluronic acid is a substance that occurs naturally in the skin, eyes, and joints. Its primary function is to trap water inside tissue cells, keeping the eyes moist and the joints lubricated.
Hyaluronic acid also has many medical and commercial uses. It is available in a variety of forms, including:
- dietary supplements
- face creams
- eye drops
In this article, learn more about the uses and benefits of hyaluronic acid, as well as the possible side effects and risks.
Some people use hyaluronic acid to promote skin health and fight signs of aging. It may help wounds heal, too.
Some doctors also use hyaluronic acid to relieve joint pain in people with arthritis.
The skin contains about half of the hyaluronic acid in the body. Hyaluronic acid binds to water molecules, which helps keep the skin hydrated and supple.
Levels of hyaluronic acid in the skin significantly decrease as people age, which can lead to dehydrated skin and wrinkles.
Taking hyaluronic acid or using cosmetic products that contain it may improve skin hydration and reduce signs of aging.
Researchers have looked at whether hyaluronic acid is effective for a range of uses:
The anti-aging effects of hyaluronic acid products may vary from person to person, depending on other factors that influence the skin, such as:
- smoking and alcohol consumption
- sun exposure
In a 2017 study, researchers examined the anti-aging effects of hyaluronic acid supplements in 60 Japanese adults. The researchers randomly assigned the study participants to either a treatment or a placebo group.
The participants who ingested the hyaluronic acid supplements experienced a decrease in wrinkles and an improvement in skin condition compared with those in the placebo group.
However, the study involved only a small sample size. It also received funding from a company that produce hyaluronic acid supplements, which may have influenced the results.
Another small study found that hyaluronic acid may improve skin elasticity and reduce skin roughness in as little as 2–8 weeks.
In a 2016 German study, researchers compared the anti-aging effects of four different face creams containing hyaluronic acid. The researchers observed increased skin tightness and a 10–20% reduction in wrinkle depth in all 20 participants.
Many cosmetic brands claim that their hyaluronic acid products can reverse signs of aging. However, most over-the-counter products contain hyaluronic acid molecules that are too large to pass through the outer layer of skin cells, according to a 2015 review article.
Hyaluronic acid not only promotes skin hydration, but it also plays a crucial role in wound healing.
In a study from the same year, researchers observed that hyaluronic acid helped diabetic foot ulcers heal more quickly compared with standard wound dressing materials.
In a 2019 animal study, researchers applied a biodegradable gel containing hyaluronic acid and poloxamer to skin wounds. The gel promoted wound healing by preventing bacterial infections and moisturizing the wound.
Relieving joint pain
Synovial fluid lubricates and cushions the joints. This fluid contains hyaluronic acid.
Over time, the hyaluronic acid in synovial fluid breaks down, which contributes to joint pain and stiffness, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
For this reason, some people have used hyaluronic injections to treat osteoarthritis.
However, guidelines from the American College of Rheumatology and the Arthritis Foundation advise people against having this treatment because there is not enough evidence to show that it is safe and effective to use.
In general, hyaluronic acid supplements, topical products, and injections appear to be safe when people follow the instructions on how to use them.
However, hyaluronic acid may produce adverse side effects and allergic reactions in some people. A person should always do a test patch before they start using a new skin product.
People who receive injections containing hyaluronic acid may experience the following side effects, which should clear up within a week:
These side effects are most likely to occur as a result of the injection process rather than the hyaluronic acid solution itself.
As the body naturally produces hyaluronic acid, this substance rarely causes severe side effects or allergic reactions.
However, people who have a history of severe allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis, should be cautious when using hyaluronic acid.
Its effects during pregnancy and while breastfeeding remain unknown, so women may want to avoid taking hyaluronic acid supplements during these times.
In general, people should talk to a doctor before trying a new supplement, especially if they:
- take a prescription medication
- are receiving treatment for an illness
- have a chronic health condition
People can always speak with a doctor about whether hyaluronic acid is right for them.
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance that helps retain moisture in the skin and eyes and lubricates the joints.
It also plays a crucial role in wound healing by controlling inflammation and redirecting blood flow to damaged tissue.
Hyaluronic acid levels decrease as people age, and this may contribute both to the physical signs of aging, such as the appearance of wrinkles, and to age-related conditions, including osteoarthritis.
Although hyaluronic acid is present in numerous cosmetic and medical products, its effects can vary from person to person.
People can purchase hyaluronic acid at a pharmacy or ask their doctor about medical products containing this substance. Some products are also available to buy online.