Skin ageing is a complicated process, caused primarily by two different mechanisms—intrinsic ageing, which refers to the body getting old over time; and extrinsic ageing, which refers to the ageing caused due to cumulative environmental exposure, including sun damage and pollutants.
One of the many reasons younger skin can uphold it's suppleness, strength and resilience, is due to its high water content and the nourishing substances that it holds. However, over exposure to external stressors can trigger chronological ageing, with your skin no longer being able to maintain—or even achieve—a normal level of hydration. This phenomenon is commonly known as premature ageing.
"Research indicates that the key substance involved in sustaining and preserving your skin’s moisture content is hyaluronic acid (HA), which has a unique capacity for retaining water. In short, hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance in your skin which is directly involved in keeping it supple and hydrated. It's well-known for its distinct ability to attract and hold a balanced amount of water in all the layers of your skin, not solely the its surface," explains Paula.
"It is believed that hyaluronic acid can hold up to 1,000 times its molecular weight, in water. And while some experts debunk this statement, the fact remains that even if HA can hold half this much water, it's still a whole lot of water! Apart from its hydrating properties, it is also a good antioxidant, has potent anti-inflammatory properties, and plays an important role in wound-healing. It helps ensure that your skin is adequately hydrated, and visibly improves smoothness, dryness and wrinkles," she adds.
You may wonder how an excess of water in your skin won't damage it—breaking down the skin’s barrier and weakening its protective and resilient properties. "However, despite HA's incredible ability to hold on to an astounding amount of water, the reason it doesn’t end up drowning your skin is because it distributes just the right amount across all layers of the skin," explains Paula. This is why hyaluronic acid is termed a 'smart skincare ingredient'. This form of balanced hydration improves resilience, reduces dryness, and provides a radiant glow!
If you're on the lookout for a product that contains hyaluronic acid, you must pick one that has it listed high up on the ingredients label. HA may be listed as hyaluronic acid or as the salt form of hyaluronic, known as sodium hyaluronate. The salt form is a smaller molecule and more bio-available to the skin in terms of penetration. On the other hand, hyaluronic acid is a larger molecular and is more available in the upper layers of your skin. A product with both forms is ideal, providing full-coverage to all layers of the skin. However, Paula recommends that you keep in mind that the product is best-suited to your skin type and texture. If you possess combination to oily skin, you'd want to go for products that have a fluid, light serum, or thin lotion-like texture. Alternatively, if you have normal to dry, opt for products that have a richer, creamier texture.
(Take a look at Cosmo's edit of the best hyaluronic acid serums and creams out there: 8 Hyaluronic Acid Serums and Creams to Include in Your Skincare Routine)