The moisture-bonding molecule that’s changing the face of skin care
If you believe the science (which is a controversial stance these days), slathering your skin with acid is the best thing you can possibly do for your face.
You may have noticed the words hyaluronic acid (HA) appearing on more and more products. Rest assured, this stuff won’t melt your face. Rather than burning the skin, HA does the opposite: it’s a moisture-binding dynamo that’s able to hold almost 1,000 times its weight in water. “It’s what we call a hydrophilic molecule,” says Dr. Terrence Keaney, a Washington, DC–based dermatologist who specialises in male patients. “Its charge is very attractive to water. It soaks it up and keeps it on the skin’s surface to eliminate water loss.”
HA makes the body more resilient, and it’s already present in your system — in your eyeballs, your joints, and your skin. But the older we get, the more of it we lose. And though it’s existed as a hydrating agent in grooming products for some time, scientists have only recently found ways to reduce the weight of the molecule so that skin can better absorb it. With that code cracked, it’s moved from a third-tier filler ingredient to top billing on every new skincare release.
Because HA is a water-based polymer, it mostly appears in barely there serums or gels, formulations that work better for guys. “Male facial skin produces more sweat, sebum, and hair,” says Keaney, “so heavier creams can feel goopy.” So he recommends HA products to a lot of his patients, particularly in the summer. Just like trading heavy wools for lighter linens, switching to HA in warm weather refreshes your skin in a humid season, when dryness isn’t such an issue. Give it a try the next time your medicine cabinet needs a restock — it’s the kind of friend with an unslakable thirst that you’ll actually be happy to have to hang around your house.