Is Hyaluronic Acid Good for Acne Prone Skin?

If you’re among those who have acne-prone skin, your skin tends to produce excess sebum (oil), which clogs the follicles and leads to frequent breakouts. This can leave behind annoying scars that reach deeper levels of the skin. So, in case you are looking for a solution, we are here to help!

Acne is the most common skin problem, estimated to affect 9.4% of the population. While acne is a universal skin issue, treatments that address it are not.

What might work miraculously for one person could deliver mediocre results for another. Some acne treatments can even work against you and worsen your problem!

Fortunately, there are some products and active ingredients that have consistently worked well on different skin types. A great example is hyaluronic acid (HA).

Lately, hyaluronic acid has been making noise in the world of skincare, with many claiming that it can treat and reduce acne by keeping essential moisture.  But is there any truth to it? Is hyaluronic acid good for acne-prone skin?

In this article, we explore the hype surrounding this popular ingredient and how to add hyaluronic acid to your skincare routine

Hyaluronic Acid 101

Hyaluronic acid is a naturally-occurring polysaccharide — a group of sugar molecules found in abundance in your eyes, skin, and connective tissues. It’s responsible for lubricating and cushioning joints. Approximately 50% of it can be found in skin cells where it retains moisture, giving you a supple and glowing complexion.

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As we age, however, we experience a rapid decline in the production of hyaluronic acid. Not only that, the molecular weight of hyaluronic acid also decreases, which means it won’t work as effectively as it did before.

And so, we might be left with skin that is drier than the Sahara, leading to fine lines and wrinkles. Thankfully for us, hyaluronic acid is now available in topical form.

What Is Topical Hyaluronic Acid?

Topical hyaluronic acid can be found in a variety of skincare and cosmetic products.. Hyaluronic acid acts as a humectant because its molecules attract and bind with over one thousand times more water molecules than their weight.

Because it’s naturally produced in the human body, hyaluronic acid products are generally well-tolerated by all skin types, even by sensitive skin! This makes hyaluronic acid the most universal active ingredient in the skincare industry.

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Types of Hyaluronic Acid

As you may know, active skincare ingredients vary based on formula and can have different fancy names in ingredient lists, hyaluronic acid is no exception. Here are 3 most popular types of hyaluronic acid used in skincare products:

  • Hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid: As a humectant, the base (hyaluronic acid) splits into elements small enough to support the skin’s hydration needs. This prevents water from evaporating and protects the skin from external elements. With a molecular weight of less than 1,000-1,800kDa (daltons), it’s ideal for those with oily or combination skin.
  • Sodium acetylated hyaluronate: This type of HA attaches itself to the surface of the skin for better absorption. It provides longer-lasting hydration, making it a top choice for those with dry skin and people who live in dry climates. It can also limit the formation of wrinkles and fine lines.
  • Sodium hyaluronate: Offering the least molecular weight at less than 100-1000kDa, it penetrates deeper into the skin for intense hydration. It is stored in the connective tissues and stimulates the body’s natural production of HA, which can have anti-aging effects on the skin. As a result, it has become the HA of choice for popular cosmetic formulas.

Does Hyaluronic Acid Help With Acne?

Hyaluronic acid helps with acne, but the answer is not as black and white as you’d think.

Acne can result from excess sebum production or a buildup of dead skin cells. Many thus avoid hydrating products, fearing they will supply too much moisture to their skin, clog and cause more acne.

Harsh chemicals can be popular choices for people with acne-prone skin who are often looking for ways to prevent inflammation and defend the skin by getting rid of bacteria. However, while these acne treatments tend to strip the skin of moisture and lead to dryness, they can cause irritation, inflammation, or skin barrier dysfunction. In turn, these can cause more breakouts and acne

After treating acne with harsh active ingredients, the skin will overproduce sebum or oil to compensate for the lack of hydration. This can aggravate acne, creating a continuous cycle of dry skin and acne breakouts.

Hyaluronic acid works perfectly for these two cases, so incorporating it into your skincare routine may be a perfect solution!

What does hyaluronic acid do for acne?

Well, hyaluronic acid comes in a variety of molecular sizes. Smaller molecules can penetrate deeper into the skin, while bigger molecules can bind with more water on a surface layer of the skin. By holding on to moisture, it keeps skin hydrated, improves skin elasticity, and controls excess sebum production.

When it comes to hyaluronic acid and acne, HA can also enhance the lipid barrier. It supports your skin’s ability to defend itself against toxins and pollutants, triggering a reduction in acne while getting rid of dead skin cells.

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So, while hyaluronic acid does not treat acne directly, it helps moisturize the skin and regulate oil secretion, which in turn, leads to smoother, and firmer skin with less acne

What About Acne Scars? Does Hyaluronic Acid Help Treat Acne Scarring?

Acne can damage the skin and tissue underneath, causing post-inflammatory erythema, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or acne scars.

This triggers a series of chemical responses aimed at healing the affected tissues. Since this process is dependent on the production of collagen — which is associated with skin elasticity, there’s a risk that the tissues may not regenerate because you don’t have enough collagen components in your body, leaving you with scars. Hyaluronic acid might provide some relief in this instance. According to multiple studies conducted in this area, this magical moisture-binding ingredient could help diminish the appearance of acne scars.

As with any injury that happens to your body, your body sends its best soldiers to do damage control. Since this process is dependent on your body’s collagen, there’s a chance that the skin and tissue won’t revert to their original appearance, leaving you with scars, if you have insufficient collagen production.  

Hyaluronic acid may help diminish the appearance of acne scars. Research, including this 2018 study, established the effectiveness of hyaluronic acid in making acne scarring less visible without any adverse effects.

Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid for Acne-prone Skin

Acne-prone skin can be challenging to treat because it’s more susceptible to inflammation and breakouts. Unlike acne treatments with harsh chemicals, hyaluronic acid is calming, soothing, moisturizing, and non-comedogenic.

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Here are the most common benefits of hyaluronic acid for acne-prone skin:

Soothes the Skin

Hyaluronic acid is known to draw moisture to the skin. The ingredient readily binds to water molecules which relieves inflammation, irritation, and redness. As a result, it can help alleviate some of the discomfort that accompanies acne breakouts.

Initiates Wound Repair

Hyaluronic acid has wound-healing properties, so when breakouts damage your skin, it will initiate wound repair by increasing blood circulation in the area.

Antiseptic properties

Not only that, but this magic ingredient can also prevent bacterial proliferation in open wounds, which, in turn, minimizes the risk of infection. Since it also helps regulate inflammation, it can reduce acne scars.

Gives Skin a Radiant Glow

Hyaluronic acid has hydrating and moisturizing properties. It reduces discoloration by improving the skin’s texture and decreases the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, which can give your skin a radiant, glowing, and youthful appearance.

Retains Natural Moisture

In addition to binding with water molecules, HA creates a fine film on the skin’s surface, leading to lower transepidermal water loss. This helps you prevent dry skin and the complications that come from it. 

The best thing is its lightweight composition. This makes it ideal for oily skin as it won’t clog pores or leave a residue despite its moisture-rich content.

Potential Side Effects and Risks of Using Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is produced by our body, so it’s well-tolerated by different skin types. This is true even among pregnant women and breastfeeding mamas. However, it’s often combined with other ingredients to increase its effectiveness and extend its shelf life.

In general, HA works well with different ingredients, thus you can layer it with your other skincare products. However, be careful with using it with alpha and beta hydroxy acids (AHAs, BHAs), vitamin C, and benzoyl peroxide. While they’re great ingredients on their own, these potent substances may be too harsh on the skin and irritate when combined.

Note: Whenever you add new active ingredients to your skincare routine, consult your dermatologist first and do a patch test.

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How To Choose the Right Hyaluronic Acid Product

No two hyaluronic products are created equal. Some are significantly better than others as they don’t contain ingredients considered “comedogenic.”

To find a formulation that works for you, avoid:

  • Alcohol can irritate and dry your skin, causing irritation and inflammation.
  • Lanolin: This occlusive moisturizing ingredient is extracted from wool-bearing animals. It reduces water loss, but it can clog pores, leading acne-prone skin to breakouts.
  • Parabens can stimulate estrogen in the body, which can be troublesome for acne-prone skin.
  • Silicone creates a protective barrier on the skin. However, it can also lead to clogged pores. 
  • Sulfates can disrupt the skin barrier, making breakouts worse.

So, before you buy a hyaluronic skin product, read the ingredient list to avoid pore-clogging and acne-inducing ingredients. 

How To Use Hyaluronic Acid for Acne

Hyaluronic is incorporated in many skincare products, so you can pick from a variety of hyaluronic acid products, from toners to serums and masks!

Consider the concentration you’re using since higher concentrations don’t mean that a product is more effective. Instead, it can lead to skin irritation. A good concentration to start with is 1%, which you can increase as your skin becomes accustomed to it.

Now that you’ve picked the right product, follow this guide to maximize HA’s potency:

  1. Wash and cleanse your face.
  2. Mist your skin lightly or use a toner to give the hyaluronic acid serum a source of moisture to work with.
  3. Apply a few drops of hyaluronic acid serum to your fingers and gently work the product onto your face.
  4. Follow it up with a moisturizer to avoid trans-epidermal water loss. Without a moisturizing product, HA will use the water from your skin so you may end up with drier skin that’s more prone to acne.
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To conclude, hyaluronic acid is well tolerated by the skin so it isn’t likely to cause adverse reactions. It makes this ingredient a safe bet for all skin types, including sensitive and acne-prone skin.

Choose your hyaluronic acid product wisely. Make sure to read the ingredient list and do a patch test to see how your skin reacts before you start actively using it. Before long, you’ll be enjoying hyaluronic acid serum benefits for acne on your gorgeous skin.

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