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Are hyaluronic acid injections the same as a cream?

Hyaluronic acid is lauded for its skin hydrating abilities. We explore how hyaluronic acid works and how it differs in injectable and cream forms.

Are hyaluronic acid injections the same as a cream?

Topical hyaluronic acid serums and creams don’t have the same permanence as injectables, however they can be used in conjunction with injectables in order to keep skin hydrated and firm

Injectable hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid in injectable form is a cosmetic procedure that can be used to erase wrinkles and plump up lips. Injectable hyaluronic acid goes deeper than hyaluronic acid face creams, as it can penetrate the dermis and cause semi-permanent results, however it is more invasive and costly than using a cream.Injectables can be used to improve the skin’s contours and reduce depressions such as lines like crow’s feet around the eyes and mouth.

The process works by injecting hyaluronic acid into the skin around wrinkles, which results in a deeper plumping effect that can help to stimulate collagen synthesis[1]. This partially restores the skin components, while keeping the skin looking firm and plump. Results like skin firmness and reduced wrinkles are visible after treatment, and increased collagen production is visible within a month after the injection[2].The procedure is low-risk and allergic reactions are rare however they can manifest as tiny bumps under the skin, or redness, swelling and bruising, depending on the patient’s skin.

Does the hyaluronic acid in cream differ to that in cosmetic procedures (such as hyaluronic acid injections)?

Hyaluronic acid in creams is produced by biofermentation or synthetically, and is similar to the type found in cosmetic procedures. Hyaluronic acid injections contain a reticulated hyaluronic acid which is a gel that is thicker in consistency, in order to produce results that last for several months. In skin creams, a non-reticulated hyaluronic acid with a high or low molecular weight is used. Like the hyaluronic acid that is used in cosmetic procedures, the hyaluronic acid found in skin creams is reliable and produces effective results.

For hyaluronic acid to properly penetrate skin, it has to be bioengineered to have a much lower molecular weight than its original size

The different sizes of hyaluronic acid in creams

Hyaluronic acid is a staple in most skin creams because of its hydrating properties, and its ability to moisturize skin.

Hyaluronic acid assists in stabilizing the skin structure. Topically applied hyaluronic acid acts on the skin’s surface, providing excellent moisturizing properties. 

However for anti-age action, hyaluronic acid needs to go deeper into the skin to be effective. Only in the past decade have scientists been able to produce technologically-advanced hyaluronic acid formulas that are capable of penetrating the skin’s surface.

For hyaluronic acid to properly penetrate skin, it has to be bioengineered to have a much lower molecular weight than its original size[3].

In skin creams, hyaluronic acid comes in two different sizes- high molecular weight and low molecular weight.

A. High molecular weight hyaluronic acid has a large molecular size, allowing it to hold onto water at the surface of the skin and have high moisture retention[4]. It’s good for plumping up skin and hydration as its structure allows it to bind consistent amounts of water. High molecular size hyaluronic acid stays in the upper part of the epidermis, covering the superficial layers of the skin.  It retains water in the skin, which is important for moisture and in addition, it creates a barrier and soothing effect, aiding with inflammation, while protecting against sun exposure impact.

B. Low molecular weight hyaluronic acid is fragmented to have a smaller molecular weight, and is able to penetrate and hydrate the skin on a deeper level than high molecular weight hyaluronic acid. Studies have shown that the smaller the molecular weight, the greater the penetration and skin action on wrinkles and firmness[5]. Fragmented molecular size hyaluronic acid provides deeper penetration in the epidermis for anti-aging action. It increases skin-firmness, and reduces skin roughness, while aiding in cell cohesion and pro-collagen activity, contributing to anti-aging effects.

Hyaluronic acid is an excellent hydrating ingredient, which helps with plumping up skin, and making it look smoother. By applying hyaluronic acid serums and creams daily, you can help improve skin moisture and reduce wrinkle depth within weeks. Studies have shown that topically applied hyaluronic acid aids in healing the outer layer of the skin that has been damaged by the effects of UV[6].

[1] Wang, F. et al, 'In vivo stimulation of de novo collagen production caused by cross-linked hyaluronic acid dermal filler injections in photodamaged human skin.' in Archives of Dermatology 143.2 (2007) pp. 155-63 [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17309996]
[2] Funt D. et al, 'Dermal fillers in aesthetics: an overview of adverse events and treatment approaches' in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 6 (2013) pp. 295-316 [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3865975/]
[3] Dasa, V. et al, ‘Clinical and cost outcomes from different hyaluronic acid treatments in patients with knee osteoarthritis: evidence from a US health plan claims database’ in Drugs in Context 5 (2016) [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4924978/
[4] Liu, L. et al, "Microbial production of hyaluronic acid: current state, challenges, and perspectives" in Microbial Cell Factories 10 (2011) p.99 [Acessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3239841/]
[5] Jegasothy, S.M. et al, 'Efficacy of a New Topical Nano-hyaluronic Acid in Humans' in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology 7.3 (2014) pp. 27-29 [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3970829/]
[6] Chen, M. et al, "Topical Delivery of Hyaluronic Acid into Skin using SPACE-peptide Carriers" in J Control Release 173 (2014) pp. 67-74 [Accessible at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4128962/

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