The differences between hyaluronic acid naturally present in the body, that is applied to the skin in skincare products, and that is injected as filler (e.g., Restylane©) is whether the hyaluronic acid is formulated in the body or the lab and whether the hyaluronic acid is cross-linked or not.
What is the Difference between the Hyaluronic Acid Found in the Body, Applied to the Skin, and Injected as Filler?
Dr. Jeffrey Harmon
Hyaluronic Acid is Naturally Present in the Body Turned Over Quickly
Hyaluronic acid is produced extensively in the body. It is broken down by natural enzymes in the body within 24 to 36 hours of being produced. Hyaluronic acid retains water well. It also acts as a shock absorber within the support matrix for skin cells.
Hyaluronic Acid Applied to the Skin Needs to be Absorbed to be Effective
Hyaluronic acid is excellent at retaining moisture. The term for this is a humectant. In fact, hyaluronic acid can retain 1,000 times its weight in water. That is why it is included in many skin moisturizers on the market. However, the lab-formulated hyaluronic acid molecules need to be small enough to be absorbed by the skin to be effective. Many products are ineffective because they are not small enough to be absorbed. Topical hyaluronic acid that is not completely absorbed by the skin will draw moisture out of the skin to itself. This will dry the skin. As a result, hyaluronic acid is probably best used in a humid environment so that moisture moves towards rather than away from the skin.
Hyaluronic Acid Filler Injected Under the Skin is Stabilized by Cross-Linking
Hyaluronic acid filler, which include Restylane© products, is composed of hyaluronic acid molecules produced in a laboratory which are cross-linked so that they develop certain properties useful for aesthetic purposes but also remain present without being dissolved by the body’s natural enzymes as quickly. These products can last in the body for six months or longer; that is, unless a medication called hyaluronidase is injected where it is located. Hyaluronidase is a lab-produced enzyme that can speed up the dissolution of cross-linked hyaluronic acid filler.
This filler needs to be injected under the skin because the size of the cross-linked molecules prevents skin from absorbing it. And, because hyaluronic acid filler absorbs water, swelling immediately after injection of hyaluronic acid filler is expected.
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Baumann L. Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Ingredients. McGraw-Hill Education; 2015.