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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Beauty basics: Hyaluronic acid

Suffering from dehydrated skin? Hyaluronic acid could be the answer to your skin problems.
The Straits Times - June 9, 2011
By: Karen Tee
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Beauty basics: Hyaluronic acid

What is hyaluronic acid and how does it benefit the skin?

Hyaluronic acid is a gelatinous compound (called a glycosaminoglycan) that occurs naturally in the body.

It is found in many parts of the body including the skin, joints, eyes and brain tissue and helps to keep cells hydrated.

It also lubricates and cushions joints to protect them from wear and tear.

The hyaluronic acid found in the skin also helps to strengthen the collagen layers, or 'scaffolding', that form the underlying supporting structure of the skin to keep it plump and wrinkle-free, says Dr Calvin Chan, medical director of Calvin Chan Aesthetic & Laser Clinic in Wheelock Place.

It is a humectant, which means it is able to absorb and bind to water molecules, hence boosting moisture levels in the skin, says dermatologist Eileen Tan, who owns Eileen Tan Skin, Laser and Hair Transplant Clinic at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre.

As it is able to retain water within its structure, it is a common ingredient found in many moisturisers and serums.

Ms Lauw Xiu Ting, a pharmacist at the National Skin Centre, says these products form a film on the skin's surface to retain moisture, thus keeping skin plump and hydrated.

This film is also the reason your skin feels smooth after application.

When choosing a skincare product for its hydrating properties, pick one that lists hyaluronic acid within the first five items on the ingredients list, as this indicates that it is in a high enough concentration to be effective, advises Dr Chan.

The hyaluronic acid does not get absorbed into the skin, so you have to apply your cream or serum daily.

Some other common moisturising ingredients to look out for include glycerin, ceramides, sterols, fatty acids, urea and paraffins, says Ms Lauw.

Hyaluronic acid is also used as a skin filler and is injected into the skin to fill out wrinkles and scars.

Hyaluronic acid fillers from brands such as Restylane and Juvederm are used to plump up hollows around the eyes, the nasolabial folds that run down from the nose to the mouth and marionette lines around the lips that are caused by skin sagging and fat loss that occur with age.

They can also be used to augment the nose, chin, cheeks and lips.

Costs for filler injections start from $600, depending on how much is needed. You have to go for top-up jabs every six to 12 months.

As with all aesthetic procedures, be sure to consult a qualified doctor.

Dr Ivor Lim, a plastic surgeon who has a clinic in Camden Medical Centre, says if a filler is injected too close to the skin's surface, it can give your skin a blue tint.

If too much filler is injected into the skin, it can also cause that particular area to appear puffy, he says.

In this case, there is nothing you can do but wait for the filler to break down naturally within your body.

There are no side effects when hyaluronic acid is broken down in the body, but you may have to wait six to 12 months for the puffiness to go away.

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