Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a popular supplement as well as topical cream proposed to positively contribute to joint health and skincare.
Are the rumors true or is just hype around another supplement?
Let’s dive into what it is and how it is used…
A Naturally Occurring Substance
Hyaluronic acid, also known as hyaluronan, is a naturally occurring substance in the body. It has a “clear, gooey” consistency and is found in high concentrations in the eyes, the skin, and in the connective tissue surrounding joints.
Hyaluronic Acid and the Aging Process
Hyaluronic acid is mainly advertised to help slow down the aging process. A recent scientific study was published that seems to confirm the benefits of using hyaluronic acid for this purpose.
The study does state that wrinkling is a part of aging skin, which is due in large part to the “loss of skin moisture.” It continues, “The key molecule involved in skin moisture is hyaluronan or hyaluronic acid (HA).”
To make a long story short, increasing hyaluronic acid levels is associated with benefits to the skin, including decreasing skin wrinkles. Although the study was not conclusive and recommended that more studies are necessary before any findings are definitive, the product is sold as though it is equivalent to finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
It is purchased in drug or other retail stores, over-the-counter, in either cream or gel form to apply to the skin or in a form that is ingested orally. Both methods are purported to reduce wrinkles, but there is still no scientific evidence to prove that is true.
Many people have shared their experiences that when used as a moisturizer, HA can reduce the discomfort caused by burns or by scraping skin during a fall or with any type of rash. Some report that adding an HA containing moisture to an injury seems to speed up the rejuvenation of the injured area.
Hyaluronic Acid Supplements May Contribute to Joint Health
HA is found naturally in the synovial fluid that surrounds the joints and is what keeps the joints well lubricated. When they are well lubricated, they act like a cushion when you walk. It has been reported that oral HA increases the substance in the synovial fluid and is helpful to those who suffer from chronic joint discomfort.
Uses of Hyaluronic Acid in the Medical Community
There are several reported uses of HA within the medical community. These are primarily in the areas of ophthalmology, orthopedics, and plastic surgery.
Ophthalmologists inject HA into the eye during surgeries like cataract removal, repair of eye injuries, retinal detachments, and corneal transplants. It acts to replace the fluids that are lost during the performance of the surgical procedure.
HA drops are also used following eye surgery to reduce inflammation and promote improvement. Drops are also used to treat dry eye syndrome. Contact lenses are being developed that will contain a slow-release form of HA for those with dry eyes that need constant lubrication.
In addition to taking oral HA supplements, HA has been approved by the FDA for direct injection into a knee joint that is causing a person discomfort. It is expected to provide a cushion and keep the bones from rubbing against each other. Reports are that it is not as successful as the researchers hoped it would be.
Plastic surgeons use injectable HA to fill in wrinkles.
Other medical uses include:
- HA may soothe the throat of those who have problems with acid reflux.
- Prevent bladder problems, such as discomfort and frequent urination that are caused by certain medical conditions. It has been effective when inserted by way of a catheter directly into the bladder. Whether or not oral HA will help has not yet been determined.
The research indicates that HA oral supplements and creams are safe to use. They may assist people in several areas of life such as:
- Reducing joint discomfort
- Helping to minimize discomfort from dry skin
- Reducing fine lines associated with wrinkles
- Having a calmative effect on dry eyes
Like any supplement out there, HA isn’t a magic pill (or cream). That being said, there are confirmed positive uses of hyaluronic acid published by researchers with very few negative reports, making HA to be more than just hype.