How hyaluronic acid may help fight signs of aging, heal wounds, and benefit your bone and joint health
- The benefits of hyaluronic acid include its ability to heal wounds, relieve joint pain, and support bone
- Applying topical hyaluronic acid keeps your skin hydrated, resulting in plumper skin with fewer visible wrinkles.
- Hyaluronic acid injections can also keep joints well-lubricated and is an effective treatment for osteoarthritis.
Hyaluronic acid, or hyaluronan, is a natural substance that helps to hold water in the body and keeps our skin, eyes, and joints hydrated. You can also use it as topical, oral, or injectable treatment for wounds, chronic pain, or aging skin.
Here's everything you need to know about hyaluronic acid and how it can benefit your health.
What is hyaluronic acid?
"Hyaluronic acid is a very common material in the human body. It's made up of something called ground substance," says Samuel Lin, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon and associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School.
Ground substance is a gel-like material that fills the space between fibers and cells in our tissues and cartilage. It's crucial for the proper development of connective tissues and cartilage. It also provides support and promotes the proper binding of cells and fibers in our tissues.
Ground substances like hyaluronic acid have the ability to retain a lot of moisture. Research shows that one gram of hyaluronic acid can hold up to six liters of water. About 50% of the hyaluronic acid in our bodies can be found in the skin, where it promotes moisture retention. It can also be found in the joints and eyes where it helps to keep them well lubricated.
As we age, the hyaluronic acid our body naturally produces starts to deplete. You can boost its production by using a synthetic form of hyaluronic acid, which is manufactured from animal tissue or through bacterial fermentation.
Hyaluronic acid comes in many different forms — including serums, supplements, eye drops, facial products, and injectables — and using it may offer the following health benefits:
Hyaluronic acid helps heal wounds
When you are injured, your body ramps up the production of hyaluronic acid. This is because it's essential for the regulation of several aspects of the wound healing process. It has been proven to regulate inflammation and cellular migration, and boost the development of new blood vessels, which are the main phases of wound healing.
In a small 2006 study, participants with trauma wounds, burns, and dermabrasions were administered hyaluronic acid as either a cream or dressing to their wounds. By the sixth application, researchers noticed a 70% reduction in the surface area of the participants' wounds, and 56% of the participants' wounds were also completely healed.
In a 2012 review on the effectiveness of hyaluronic acid in healing burns, surgical wounds, and ulcers, researchers also found that the use of hyaluronic acid promoted faster healing of wounds.
Hyaluronic acid has anti-aging properties
Hyaluronic acid is a great addition to many skin care products because of its anti-aging properties. It helps to prevent the skin from aging by keeping it well hydrated. This results in plumper looking skin with fewer wrinkles. You can either use pure topical hyaluronic acid serums or
In a small 2014 study, researchers monitored the effect of topical hyaluronic acid in treating wrinkles and improving skin hydration and elasticity. Researchers observed a significant improvement in the appearance and elasticity of the participants' skins after eight weeks of treatment.
Injectable hyaluronic acid can also be used as facial fillers to improve the appearance of the skin on your face. "It replaces the soft-tissue volume loss that occurs with aging, especially in the face," says Lin. "Over time the tissues in the face atrophy and thin. Hyaluronic acid can be used as fillers to help with facial rejuvenation. The longevity of these fillers varies from person to person. It lasts three to six months, on average, but it can be a little shorter or a little longer."
Hyaluronic acid may relieve joint pain
Oral hyaluronic acid is believed to help relieve joint pain by providing adequate lubrication for the joints when injected.
For our joints to remain in working condition, they need to stay well lubricated. Synovial fluid, a thick liquid found between your joints, keeps them lubricated. Hyaluronic acid is a major component of synovial fluid.
In fact, a small 2015 study found that participants with chronic joint pain experienced a reduction in pain scores within two weeks of taking oral hyaluronic acid daily.
Research also shows that hyaluronic acid is a great treatment for osteoarthritis, which is the most common form of arthritis. Hyaluronic acid injections have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis.
"It's relatively safe for people to inject ground substances like hyaluronic acid into the joints for pain relief," says Lin. "No one has a very strong working knowledge of how exactly hyaluronic acid does this. It does help to replace the soft tissue in the joints, thereby providing better cushioning and reducing friction."
Hyaluronic acid supports bone health
Hyaluronic acid has shown promising benefits for improving bone health in humans. It plays a vital role in the formation of hyaline cartilage, which provides support and flexibility to the bones in your nose, ribs, and ears. It also covers the ends of long bones, cushioning the bones from degradation and fiction.
In recent years, research has found that hyaluronic acid may also help in bone regeneration. It does this by triggering the regulation of cell behavior, leading to faster bone formation.
A small 2018 study observed the effectiveness of hyaluronic acid on bone repair in human dental sockets. In the study, two molar teeth were extracted from each participant, leaving open sockets. One was filled with a 1% hyaluronic acid gel, while the other was allowed to clot naturally. After 30 days, the bone socket treated with hyaluronic gel showed a higher percentage of bone formation compared to the one which was allowed to heal naturally.
How to use hyaluronic acid
If you want to use hyaluronic acid for skin health benefits, then topical creams or gels are your best bet. Oral hyaluronic acid supplements are better for relieving joint pain and improving bone health. And if you have chronic joint pain that is not responding to painkillers, then injections may work for you.
In some cases, people might experience an allergic reaction to hyaluronic acid. If you are using it topically, it's important to try a patch test first. If you are using supplements, injections, or any other forms and notice any itching, swelling, or pain then you should discontinue use right away and speak to a doctor.
Hyaluronic acid is beneficial in many ways. It can be used to relieve joint pain, help heal wounds, and aid bone health. It is also popular for its anti-aging properties, and is a great addition to many skincare products. However, some people might experience allergies or intolerances while using hyaluronic acid, so make sure to check with your doctor before trying it out.
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