What Are the Different Types of Topical Hyaluronic Acid?

Topical hyaluronic acid may be used to help speed up wound healing.
Topical treatment creams and serums vary in consistency.
Topical hyaluronic acid products may help increase skin softness and elasticity.
Some people who have arthritis apply topical hyaluronic acid cream to help relieve painful joints.
Some pain relief sprays designed to reduce muscle and joint soreness may contain hyaluronic acid.
Hyaluronic acid has anti-aging properties that help hydrate and soften the skin.
Article Details
  • Originally Written By: Barbara Wells
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 04 September 2015
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Topical hyaluronic acid typically comes in two forms: hyaluronic acid serum and hyaluronic acid cream. Serums tend to be lighter and more liquid-like, while creams generally have a heavier, ointment-like consistency. The percentage of active acid in a serum or cream varies by product as well as manufacturer, and the same is true of other additives. Some topical applications are mostly pure acid, but others have a range of other ingredients, usually aimed at helping to smooth the skin or aid healing, depending on the intended consumer. There are a couple of reasons why people purchase this sort of topical application, though the most popular tend to be cosmetic. The human body naturally produces hyaluronic acid in the skin and joints, and many experts advise that rubbing it onto the skin can reduce fine lines and wrinkles and can, as a result, reduce the effects of aging. Not all medical practitioners agree with this assessment. Additionally, creams and serums are popular as wound healers, as they can stimulate skin regeneration and might reduce the likelihood of scarring or other skin damage related to an injury.


Main Characteristics of Serums

Topical hyaluronic acid serums are more common in first aid than creams, though they are roughly equally as popular when it comes to cosmetic uses. In general these are made primarily of vegetable glycerin or aloe. Both substances act as a “carrier,” which means that they suspend the acid and keep it at a more or less even concentration; they also help with its absorption, which can ensure a consistent delivery with every application. Serums are usually clear and slightly runny, and tend to absorb very quickly.

Creams and Their Uses

Creams, on the other hand, are more often oil-based and tend to be denser, richer, and thicker. Oils commonly used include jojoba, sunflower, and macadamia nut. Most of these products are intended to moisturize and reduce aging in the skin, particularly the hands and face. Added ingredients meant to further improve skin tone and texture are therefore quite common, and include vitamin C, alpha lipoic acid, and dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE).

Paying Attention to Ingredient Percentages

The percentage of hyaluronic acid found in both serum and cream products can be as high as 65 percent, while others may have less than 15 percent. A lot depends on the manufacturer, as well as the intended use; the different doesn’t usually hinge on whether the product is a cream or a serum. Reading the labels carefully is the only way for consumers to be sure they’re getting a product with the percentages they want or need.

Understanding the Acid Generally

Hyaluronic acid is a natural substance found in the human body. It is known to hydrate and lubricate, and in general the highest natural concentrations are found in joint and eye fluids. It is necessary if heart valves are to function properly, and it also is necessary for the skin, which contains more than half of the body’s supply of the lubricant.

How Topical Preparations are Made

In most cases there are two ways to make hyaluronic acid outside of the body. One way is to grow it from bacteria in a laboratory; this is often the purest, but can be costly. A commonly used and more economical option involves extractions from chicken cartilege and rooster combs, both of which are very high in natural acid stores. Skincare products with bacteria-grown hyaluronic acid are often labeled vegetarian or vegan. Hyaluronic acid serums and creams labeled non-vegan frequently receive that tag because the cock's comb extraction method was used in its production.

General Benefits

The body’s naturally occurring supply can be drained more quickly by things like exposure to viruses, too much riboflavin, and ultraviolet radiation; in most people supplies dwindle with age, too. Topical hyaluronic acid skincare products — both serums and creams — are shown to increase skin softness and elasticity, and this is one of the main reasons they’re used.

Commonly cited benefits of regular topical hyaluronic acid use include improvement in skin elasticity, softness, and texture, and a decrease in fine lines. Research has shown that its benefits aren’t limited to the skin, however popular its use for that may be. It also has been shown to ease pain and, as a result, boost mobility in patients suffering from osteoarthritis, and its use in speeding wound healing and treating brain injuries also is under consideration.

Common Precautions

As with most things, though, there can be some risks. Allergic reactions are rare, but they can happen. Increased sensitivity to light and ultraviolet radiation has also been documented in some regular users of these creams, which basically means that sunburn is more likely when outside. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are usually advised to get a medical opinion before using these sorts of products, as well.


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Post 4

Hyaluronic acid actually occurs naturally inside your skin. So many brands use this ingredient now in their products. Although people are debating the efficiency of this.

Post 3

@anamur-- Hyaluronic acid is water soluble, so as long as the topical product has water in it, the acid should be effective.

My friend just started using a hyaluronic acid gel for her arthritis and she thinks it's great.

Post 2

@anamur-- That's a great question. I've actually been wondering the same. I asked my dermatologist about it and he said that hyaluronic acid in face creams probably won't get absorbed. But I've heard people say that hyaluronic acid does get absorbed, but it depends on the type, where it's obtained from and the carrier product.

I think that even if the hyaluronic acid isn't absorbed, it should still be beneficial for skin. I used a hyaluronic face cream and my face was very soft and supple from this product. As long as I get these kind of results, it's not necessary for the acid to get absorbed in my opinion.

Post 1

Some people claim that collagen in creams cannot be absorbed by the skin and therefore is useless. Is hyaluronic acid like collagen in this sense? Can the skin absorb this acid or does it end up sitting on top of it when applied?

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