Treatments designed to smooth skin and reduce wrinkles may rely on the power of hyaluronic acid. Learn some of its secrets with Groupon's guide.
If your joints don’t creak and your eyeballs don’t squish around in their sockets, you have hyaluronic acid to thank. It’s a gel-like substance that lubricates and gives shape to several key components of the body, and with the help of dermatologists and chemists, it becomes even more versatile. Injected in the form of dermal fillers such as Juvéderm and Restylane, it can soften fine lines and replace lost volume in skin, creating a more youthful appearance that can last up to a year. Because it’s already found naturally in the body, it doesn't irritate surrounding tissues when injected. (And humans aren’t the only creatures who rely on the substance—before chemists learned to synthesize it, it used to be extracted from rooster combs.)
Hyaluronic acid also appears in many moisturizers and anti-aging creams, but unlike dermal fillers, these won't have much impact on wrinkles. "When you use hyaluronic acid topically, it doesn't penetrate the skin," says Dr. Debra Jaliman, author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist. "It only acts as a moisturizer." But that effect shouldn’t be underestimated. Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, meaning that it draws in water from the air and holds it against the epidermis, hydrating the skin without clogging pores like some lotions and mud pits can. "Patients who are acne-prone really like this, as it is noncomedogenic," Dr. Jaliman adds. "It is also useful for patients who have eczema or rosacea, as it is not irritating."
While its effects on the skin are well known, some believe that ingesting hyaluronic acid could also be beneficial. In 2000, ABC’s 20/20 popularized the hypothesis that a diet high in starchy vegetables that boost hyaluronic-acid production was responsible for the unusually smooth skin of elderly people in the Japanese village of Yuzuri Hara, where many residents live to be over 90.