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Does Hyaluronic Acid Help or Hinder Acne?

A woman stands in the mirror about to apply her hyaluronic acid, wondering to herself, "Does hyaluronic acid cause acne?"

 

If you suffer from frequent acne breakouts, odds are that through your research, you’ve probably become an expert in common active ingredients that might be helpful. Terms like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are familiar to you, and you certainly already know the importance of using non-comedogenic, oil-free products.

One substance that may or may not be new to you is hyaluronic acid. This recently popular ingredient is becoming more common in skincare products, some of which aren’t exactly cheap. So before spending your hard-earned cash on a new ingredient, it makes sense to ask, “Does hyaluronic acid help acne?”

What Is Hyaluronic Acid?

You may hear hyaluronic acid referred to by a few other names, including hyaluronan or hyaluronate. It’s a substance your body already produces and can be found in your joints, eyes, and skin. 

Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, which means it retains moisture and keeps you hydrated. In fact, with just a quarter-teaspoon of hyaluronic acid, your body can hold about 1.5 gallons of water.

Hyaluronic acid is also a primary lubricant that keeps your joints healthy and pain-free, and it keeps your skin smooth and flexible. It may even promote healing and can reduce the appearance of scars and fine lines. 

On its own, hyaluronic acid has a gooey texture that feels like something your science teacher would warn you not to touch with your bare hands. When you rub hyaluronic acid between your fingers, you’ll notice it’s somehow both slick and sticky, and almost seems like it wouldn’t absorb well into your skin. But don’t judge a book by its cover — this substance has many hydrating benefits when added to a skincare routine.

Does Hyaluronic Acid Help Acne?

Now that you know a little more about this substance, the big question is, does hyaluronic acid help acne? The answer: yes, and in more than one way!

First, hyaluronic acid can help prevent acne breakouts. One of the main causes of acne is sebum, the oil produced by the sebaceous glands in your skin. When your skin cells produce too much sebum, your pores clog. Clogged pores are like magnets for dead skin cells, dirt, and bacteria — all of which cause more severe and more frequent breakouts. 

This is where hyaluronic acid can save the day. Relevant, in-depth research has proven that hyaluronic acid can reduce excess sebum. Controlling sebum production balances your skin and reduces your chances of developing acne.

Second, the moisture-retaining properties of hyaluronic acid may help strengthen your skin’s natural barrier. When your skin loses too much moisture, it becomes susceptible to damage from the sun and other irritants. This can lead to dry, flaky skin, as well as more frequent bouts of acne. 

Again, hyaluronic acid to the rescue! It locks in moisture to keep your skin hydrated, and a hydrated barrier is stronger and more effective at protecting your skin, leading to less damage and fewer acne breakouts. 

In addition to preventing acne, hyaluronic acid can also reverse the damaging effects of frequent and severe acne breakouts. Because of hyaluronic acid’s inherent healing properties, open sores or wounds caused by picking at your skin or popping pimples may heal faster. Wounds that heal faster are much less likely to cause long-term scarring.

In a 2017 study, participants undergoing CO2 laser resurfacing to treat severe scars saw significantly better results when a hyaluronic acid topical serum was added to their treatment regimen. Researchers also found that the serum led to a shorter recovery time.

With dramatic results like this, it’s no wonder so many leading skin care products have added hyaluronic acid to their list of active ingredients.

Ways to Use Hyaluronic Acid for Acne

If your goal is to achieve clearer skin, there are several ways to use hyaluronic acid to fight acne and achieve the results you’re looking for. The easiest and most common way is to apply it directly to your skin using over-the-counter skincare products.  

There are a myriad of skincare products that include hyaluronic acid as an active ingredient, including cleansers, ointments, serums, and sheet masks. To see the full benefits of hyaluronic acid, look for products that include a variety of hyaluronic molecule sizes. Larger molecules have the added benefit of increased moisture retention, while smaller molecules can penetrate deeper into your skin’s surface.

Another option is prescription hyaluronic acid, which is used to treat more severe acne scars. Prescription hyaluronic acid is commonly delivered by injection in the form of fillers. The fillers are injected under your skin to reduce the appearance of severe scars. These injections usually also contain collagen, a common ingredient used for skin revitalization that also occurs naturally in your body. 

Research has proven that hyaluronic acid gel injections are an effective treatment option for acne scars. A 2018 study demonstrated the effectiveness of these injections in reducing the appearance of moderate-to-severe scars. Participants also saw significant improvements in their overall self-confidence and self-esteem.

Infographic: Does Hyaluronic Acid Help or Hinder Acne?

Risks and Reactions

If you’re still asking yourself, “Does hyaluronic acid help acne?” the answer is a resounding yes!

However, you may still have one remaining question: Is there any downside to using hyaluronic acid to treat acne breakouts and scarring?

For the most part, there’s very little risk in opting for products that incorporate hyaluronic acid as an active ingredient — but remember, an adverse or allergic reaction is possible with nearly any substance or ingredient. And of course, using too much moisturizer can sometimes cause breakouts.

If you’ve never used hyaluronic acid before, start in small quantities, gradually increasing the amount and frequency of your selected product until you’re sure your skin can handle it. If you experience any irritation or discomfort, it’s best to consult your dermatologist. 

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