What is hyaluronic acid?
Hyaluronic (pronounced hi-ah-lew-ron-ic) acid — also known as hyaluronan or hyaluronate — is a gooey, slippery substance that your body produces naturally. Scientists have found hyaluronic acid throughout the body, especially in eyes, joints and skin.
What does hyaluronic acid do for you?
Hyaluronic acid is a remarkable substance because of all the benefits and uses it has in your body. Here are just a few of the benefits of hyaluronic acid:
- It helps things move smoothly. Hyaluronic acid helps your joints work like a well-oiled machine. It prevents pain and injury from bones grinding against each other.
- It helps keep things hydrated. Hyaluronic acid is very good at retaining water. A quarter-teaspoon of hyaluronic acid holds about one and a half gallons of water. That’s why hyaluronic acid is often used for treating dry eyes. It’s also used in moisturizing creams, lotions, ointments and serums.
- It makes your skin flexible. Hyaluronic acid helps skin stretch and flex and reduces skin wrinkles and lines. Hyaluronic acid is also proven to help wounds heal faster and can reduce scarring.
How is it made?
Hyaluronic acid is often produced by fermenting certain types of bacteria. Rooster combs (the red, Mohawk-like growth on top of a rooster’s head and face) are also a common source.
Is hyaluronic acid safe?
Yes. Research shows that hyaluronic acid is safe to use. Reactions or adverse effects from hyaluronic acid are rare, and it’s safe to use if you’re pregnant or nursing.
How does hyaluronic acid interact with other products?
Products that combine hyaluronic acid with other medications or compounds may have some risks of side effects.
It’s important to tell your healthcare provider about all medications that you’re taking, including supplements, vitamins, etc. They can help you better understand any potential concerns.
How can I take hyaluronic acid?
There are many ways you can take hyaluronic acid (either on its own or in combination products). Many are available over-the-counter. Some need a doctor’s prescription. For some, you need to see a trained medical professional.
A few of the different ways (available over-the-counter) that you can take hyaluronic acid include:
- By mouth: Hyaluronic acid comes in dietary supplements and pills. There’s even a liquid form that you can mix with water and drink.
- Taking hyaluronic acid by mouth can have many benefits. These include reducing arthritis pain, improving skin health and more.
- On your skin: Hyaluronic acid products come in various forms that you put on your skin. These include shampoos, lotions, creams, gels, ointments, patches and serums. You can also buy hyaluronic acid powder and mix it with water to create a hyaluronic acid serum you can apply to your skin.
- Hyaluronic acid has beneficial properties when used on your skin. It’s especially useful for reducing the appearance of wrinkles and age lines.
- Eye drops: A wide variety of eye drops contains hyaluronic acid.
- For intimate contact: Hyaluronic acid is a common ingredient in gels, creams or personal lubricants for vaginal dryness or pain, especially for women experiencing menopause.
Hyaluronic acid is also available by prescription in the following forms:
- By injection: Hyaluronic acid injections into your joints can relieve pain caused by arthritis. It’s also commonly used with medications given in an IV. Healthcare providers may prescribe it off-label to treat bladder pain (such as pain caused by interstitial cystitis).
- Under your skin: Fillers containing hyaluronic acid and collagen (a natural protein also found in your body) are approved for injection under your skin. These fillers help restore natural shape and appearance, such as for treating acne scars or adding volume to lips.
- In your nose: Some medications use hyaluronic acid because it helps your body absorb them, especially when taken through your nose.
- By inhaler/nebulizer: Hyaluronic acid can treat respiratory (breathing) problems such as asthma or infections.
Remember, only trained and qualified medical professionals should give injections. While experts say hyaluronic acid is safe, improper use — especially when injecting it — can lead to severe complications or even death.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does hyaluronic acid work?
Hyaluronic acid belongs to a type of long, complicated chain-like molecules called polymers. The chain has plenty of spots on it where other chemical compounds (like water, for example) can latch on. That’s why a quarter-teaspoon of hyaluronic acid can hold about one and a half gallons of water, making it the best polymer — natural or artificial — for absorbing water (and a key ingredient in moisturizing products).
Because it has lots of space for other molecules to latch on, hyaluronic acid is great for transporting other molecules throughout your body. It also has the ability to attach itself to cells, which is why targeted delivery of medications using hyaluronic acid is a major topic of study.
Hyaluronic acid’s chain-like structure also means it can act like a scaffold structure, allowing tissues to grow. This is a key step in how wounds heal on your body. Scientists have also found hyaluronic acid in human embryos and are studying what role hyaluronic acid plays in reproduction and development.
Does hyaluronic acid work?
Yes, depending on how it’s used. It’s a versatile molecule and scientists are still finding new and beneficial ways to use it. Right now, it’s most often used for skin, joint and eye health. It’s also the topic of hundreds of scientific studies and trials around the world.
What does hyaluronic acid do for skin?
Long-term use of hyaluronic acid serum on your skin or in a supplement taken by mouth can improve overall skin health. It’s also great for helping improve overall skin flexibility and elasticity (meaning it makes your skin more stretchy and soft).
Is hyaluronic acid good for acne?
Hyaluronic acid is widely used as an ingredient in fillers that repair or conceal scars left behind by acne. There has been some limited research into combinations of hyaluronic acid and other medications to treat acne, but so far, there isn’t much evidence that these are effective.
Is hyaluronic acid safe?
Yes, depending on how it’s used. Over-the-counter hyaluronic acid serums and products applied on your skin (creams, lotions, etc.) or in eye care products are considered safe. Hyaluronic acid supplements taken by mouth are also considered safe (but you should still tell your healthcare provider about them, as you would for any other medication, vitamin or supplement).
Prescription hyaluronic acid products should be taken exactly as instructed by your healthcare provider. Injections of any kind containing hyaluronic acid should only be given by a licensed, qualified medical professional.
When should I talk to my healthcare provider about hyaluronic acid?
You may want to talk to your healthcare provider about hyaluronic acid if you’re interested in using it as a supplement. You may also want to also ask them about treatment options that use hyaluronic acid for the following conditions or purposes:
- Skin health (especially dryness, scarring, stiffness and skin diseases like scleroderma and actinic keratosis).
- Eye health, especially for treating dry eyes.
- Joint health, especially for treating arthritis and soft tissue injuries.
- For wounds that are slow to heal.
- As a treatment option for bladder pain, especially pain caused by interstitial cystitis.
- Respiratory conditions like asthma.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Hyaluronic acid has many uses and benefits, from boosting skin, eye and joint health to accelerating wound healing. Like any medication or supplement, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before incorporating hyaluronic acid into your healthcare regimen.
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