What is this hyaluronic acid?

It has been a hit of the modern cosmetic industry and even esthetic medicine, although it is said that “witches” acquired it already in medieval times by making rejuvenating jelly from cock combs.

Let’s take a closer look at this miraculous substance and discover its secrets together.

There is probably no other that popular cosmetic active ingredient nowadays than the hyaluronic acid. It is recommended for every skin type for external application on the epidermis in everyday care, even in winter.
It is also used for injections into the skin during mesotherapy treatments. It is a component of dietary supplements, so it can also be used internally. Cross-linked and not cross-linked, it is the most popular ingredient of cosmetic and aesthetic medicine treatments.

The name:
It’s name comes from the glass-like transparent appearance (from Greek: hyalos is glass) and the uronic acid molecules that it contains. The combination of the words ‘hyalos’ and ‘uronic acid’ gave the substance its English name: hyaluronic acid (HA).

A story of application in medicine and cosmetology:
Hyaluronic acid was first isolated from the vitreous body of the bovine eye in 1934 by Karl Meyer and his assistant John Palmer. The chemical structure of hyaluronic acid was established twenty years after it’s isolation. In 1954 Bernard Weissman and Karl Meyer developed its structure by isolating it from the human umbilical cord. In 1961, hyaluronic acid was first used for medical purposes during surgery of a damaged retina. Since 1980, research on the use of hyaluronic acid in esthetic medicine began. The first fillers based on hyaluronic acid were introduced to Europe in 1996, when the Swedish scientist Bengt Ågerup, associated with the Universitas Regia Upsaliensis in Uppsala, created a unique form of stabilized hyaluronic acid of non-animal origin, based on the unique patented NASHA™ technology (Non-Animal-Stabilized-Hyaluronic-Acid).

That’s why I decided to go to Sweden on my next beauty journey. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of this wonderful invention. In my opinion, this discovery deserves to be called the elixir of youth!

For many years, hyaluronic acid has been extracted for industrial purposes from rooster combs. Today, it is produced exclusively by biotechnological methods, by bacterial fermentation (according to the sources: from wheat with lactic acid bacteria).

Chemical structure (C14H21011N):
The hyaluronic acid is not really an acid but a polysaccharide, i.e. a complex sugar (or more precisely: glucosaminoglycan). Hyaluronic acid occurs in all living organisms and belongs to the group of compounds which have the same chemical structure in all species – both in bacteria and in humans. It is therefore non-specific in terms of species and tissue, which is one of the reasons for its safety.

A role in the human body:
Hyaluronic acid is a natural component of connective tissue in our body. Most of it is found in the skin, where it is produced by fibroblasts. Next to collagen, it is a key component of the so-called intercellular matrix. Hyaluronic acid is like a sponge. The scientific term: it is highly hygroscopic – that is, it has a great ability to attract water molecules to itself (one acid molecule attracts 250 water molecules). By attracting water, the skin remains properly moisturized and firm. In this way, it protects the skin from drying out, sagging and the formation of wrinkles. The amount of hyaluronic acid in the body decreases with age. We have most hyaluronic acid right after birth, and in a 40-year-old person it is half as much as in a 20-year-old person.

Cross-linked or uncross-linked hyaluronic acid (internal use):
Uncrosslinked hyaluronic acid is commonly used in cosmetology and esthetic medicine, included in mesotherapy and skin revitalization treatments. It’s action, consisting mainly in moisturizing the skin, is quite short-lived due to the presence of hyaluronidase – an enzyme that naturally breaks down hyaluronic acid. Therefore, after putting the uncrosslinked hyaluronic acid to the skin, it is completely removed from the body in a short time. In order to lengthen the period of maintenance of hyaluronic acid in skin tissues, it has been chemically modified, i.e. cross-linked. Cross-linking means the chemical connection of hyaluronic acid chains in such a way as to make them more resistant to natural hyaluronidase, which occurs in our tissues. Cross-linking produces a three-dimensional matrix that makes the acid more stable and resistant to degradation. This process allows us to obtain such a structure of acid that the body removes it much more slowly – not within a few days, but a few months or years. Crosslinking, on the one hand, protects the hyaluronic acid molecules from decomposition and, on the other hand, gives it specific physicochemical properties: viscosity, density, deformability or the ability to lift tissues.

High or low molecular weight (external use):

A high molecular weight hyaluronic acid
due to the size of the particles, does not penetrate through the epidermis to the deeper layers of the skin. Applied externally, it creates a protective film that reduces transepidermal water loss (TWL). Instead, it allows active substances to penetrate deep into the skin because it increases the permeability of the epidermis. It has an immediate lifting effect, it causes skin surface tension. It gives the skin smoothness, tension and softness.

A low-molecular hyaluronic acid
has a particle size to penetrate the stratum corneum. This way, it retains water in the deeper layers of the skin. Not only does it increase the level of hydration by binding water, but also acts as a filling and “pushing out” substance for wrinkles and increasing skin firmness. In this way, it contributes to improving skin density: it does not build it’s structure like collagen, but helps to fill it with water.