Hyaluronic Acid Explained

Spring will arrive at some point. Until then, one thing we should all do regardless of our skin type is hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. One ingredient that can make all the difference? Hyaluronic acid.

What is Hyaluronic acid?

When someone mentions acids, the first association that comes to mind are AHAs, BHA, and PHAs. But Hyaluronic acid is a not an exfoliating acid, it is a polysaccharide (a large sugar molecule). It occurs naturally in our bodies, with the majority contained in our skin, but also in our eyes, joints, nerves and other organs. When applied topically it acts as a humectant, by drawing moisture to the skin. It hydrates, softens and minimises the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. What is good about Hyaluronic acid is that is suitable for all skin types (including oily, sensitive, acne-prone and combination).

What does Hyaluronic acid do?

Hyaluronic acid has a number of functions. Due to its ability to retain water (up to 1000 times its weight in water), it keeps our skin hydrated, plump and smooth. It keeps our joints flexible and our eye lubricated. A number of studies have shown it also has anti-oxidant properties and scavenges free radicals, improves skin elasticity and boosts collagen production. As we age, the natural levels of Hyaluronic acid in the body deplete. When you combine that with external factors (such as cold weather, central heating, and air conditioning) and lifestyle (frequent travel, drinking, smoking), regardless of your age Hyaluronic acid is an ingredient that you should look out for.

What to look for in a Hyaluronic acid product?

Check the ingredients list and look for Hyaluronic acid or alternatively Sodium Hyaluronate. Sodium Hyaluronate is the dry ‘raw’ ingredient. Hyaluronic Acid is reconstituted Sodium Hyaluronate. When it comes to choosing skincare products, these ingredients can be treated as one and the same.

Controversy and Spin – Does Size Matter?

So, we have just said that hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate can be considered equals in the skincare pecking order. But, wait – aren’t there different kinds of hyaluronic acid? Whole marketing claims turn on the pivotal point that size matters. The pitch is that products containing ultra small hyaluronic molecules (LMW-HA) are more effective. It sounds convincing – smaller molecules can penetrate deeper and act faster. However, scrape away the hype and the truth is this: the science simply does not support the use of small molecular weight HA.

Even worse, the peer reviewed science shows that smaller sized Hyaluronic Acid molecules have a significant inflammatory action. This can actually *quicken* ageing.

Ok, we understand that this is a big claim. It contradicts some heavy hitters in the cosmetics world (we won’t name them here). But the studies in the cosmetics industry supporting LMW-HA aren’t peer reviewed medical/scientific research.  Meanwhile, there are peer-reviewed studies showing the inflammatory effects of LMW-HA. Here are just a few:

  • Zgheib C, Xu J, Liechty KW. Targeting Inflammatory Cytokines and Extracellular Matrix Composition to Promote Wound Regeneration. Adv Wound Care (New Rochelle). 2014 Apr 1;3(4):344-355.
  • Gariboldi S, Palazzo M, Zanobbio L, Selleri S, Sommariva M, Sfondrini L, Cavicchini S, Balsari A, Rumio C. Low molecular weight hyaluronic acid increases the self-defense of skin epithelium by induction of beta-defensin 2 via TLR2 and TLR4 .J Immunol. 2008 Aug 1;181(3):2103-10.
  • S. M. Ruppert, T. R. Hawn, A. Arrigoni, T. N. Wight, and P. L. Bollyky. Tissue integrity signals communicated by high-molecular weight hyaluronan and the resolution of inflammation. Immunol Res. 2014 May; 58(0): 186–192.


One final thought – the smaller-is-better  camp sometimes  implies  that high molecular weight Hyaluronic Acid (HMW-HA) is too big to penetrate the skin and therefore has no real active reach. This masks one of the most interesting facts about HMW-HA, which is that even though it sits on the skin surface (where it attracts and binds water), it sets off an array of reactions within the skin that have a net anti-inflammatory effect. It is in fact significantly skin active.

Conclusion: When it comes to HA, Bigger is most certainly Better. Oh Yes.

LMW-HA is may speed-up ageing due to inflammatory potential. HMW-HA is anti-inflammatory, hydrating and the molecule of choice.

If you haven’t guessed yet – here at Ishtar we only use HMW-HA. A quick overview of the products containg HMW-HA are listed below.

Ishtar products that contain Hyaluronic acid


Hydro-Magic Collagen Catalyst – with Tripeptide-5 (which stimulates collagen synthesis and reduces wrinkle depth) and Natural Moisture Factors (to replenish skin’s moisture reserves). Suitable for all skin types and a fantastic treatment for dehydration.

Hydra Balm Emulsion with Alpine Willow Herb and Zinc – with Alpine Willow Herb (normalizes sebum production and reduces inflammation), Zinc Oxide (to soothe the skin) and Hyaluronic acid (to hydrate and plump up the skin). Suitable for oily and combination skin types.

Centella Stem Cell Night cream – with Centella Asiatica stem cells (to promote skin elasticity and firmness), blend of natural plant oils (to enhance skin function and protect the natural skin barrier) and Sodium Hyaluronate. Suitable for normal and dry skin types.

Vitamin K and Haloxyl Dark Circle Repair Eye cream – with 5% microencapsulated vitamin K (to repair the capillaries that contribute to dark under-eye circles), 2% Haloxyl (a peptide complex that works by eliminating the dark pigment that collects around leaky capillaries and improves microcirculation) and a blend of naturally derived oils and humectants to give a boost of moisture. Suitable for all skin types.

Spritz-Me-Up facial spray – with Sweet Lupin flower peptides (that create a protective hydrating barrier), vitamins B5 and D (to soothe the skin and boost hydration) and Hyaluronic acid and Sodium Lactate (powerful hydrating agents). Suitable for all skin types.

Recharge Face Mask – with Deep Sea mud, Gotu Kola stem cell extract (to purify and deeply cleanse the skin), Shea Butter and vitamin E (to nourish) and Hyaluronic acid (to hydrate). Suitable for normal, oily and combination skin types.

Lip Plenish serum – with Hexapeptide 11 (to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles), Tripeptide 29 (to increase the lip fullness) and microencapsulated Hyaluronic Acid (to slowly hydrate and plump up the skin). Suitable for all skin types.


Ultralase 8% PHA body lotion – with 8% Gluconic acid and a pH of 3.5 to gently and effectively remove the build-up of dead skin cells to improve uneven skin tone. The formula also includes Chamomile and Ginseng extracts (to soothe and soften) and natural moisture factors (to deeply hydrate).

Do you have a favourite Hyaluronic acid product? What is the biggest difference it has made for your skin?

Roberta Striga