These days, opinions are being treated as facts, and it’s hard to discern the difference sometimes. We read scientific studies because we believe in science. This is our opinion, and it may be your opinion, too.
Our opinions should come from sources that are studied and researched. Tried and true facts that have been proven over and over again. When you’re in the treatment room receiving a Botnia facial, you know the ingredients selected for you are both effective and functional for the skin. We believe that skincare should be handmade and that we should understand every step of the process, from farm to bottle. But this is just our opinion.
Aligning yourself with an opinion is a lot like aligning yourself with values. Opinions are based on your values and the people that you’re surrounding yourself with who share your opinion. Opposing opinions are just as important to take in and check against your values. They help remind us of the truths we believe in our lives.
There’s a reason why fear-mongering works so well on the human psyche. It works. It keeps us from doing things, makes us buy unnecessary things (um hello . . . toilet paper shortage of 2020!), or believing in certain ideas that can actually be beneficial for us! In the beauty industry, this tactic is used all the time in marketing and we’ve definitely been caught in the crossfire of hot topics in the past.
Take hyaluronic acid (HA) for example. We’ve heard from different sources that it’s been clinically proven to make you more sensitive with continued use, and from this source that 70% of the market is using the inflammatory kind of HA in their products. Let’s look at how you should read an article to prove its validity.
How to read a biomedical study
When you’re reading a study, you’re looking for proof that validates your question. You want to look at who’s doing the research (the authors), who they’re backed by and their institutional affiliations, and where the article is being posted. Is it a well-known beauty magazine or a website that publishes scientific research only? Reputable biomedical journals will be indexed by Pubmed.
Let’s take a deep dive into this research study: Advantages of Hyaluronic Acid and Its Combination with Other Bioactive Ingredients in Cosmeceuticals
First, you want to read the introduction and identify the BIG QUESTION the authors are trying to answer. A good question to ask yourself: “What is the problem this entire field is trying to solve?”
Big question: In our paper, we present firstly the biological effect of HA on skin level, after which the portfolio of some popular manufacturers was analyzed, commercially cosmetic brands and products containing HA were identified, and their declared qualitative composition was evaluated. Subsequently, the additional biologic effects and the toxicological potential of the other active ingredients were presented.
HA has many qualities that recommend it over other substances used in skin regeneration, with moisturizing and anti-ageing effects.
In cosmetic formulations, hyaluronic acid has the function of a viscosity modifier and/or a skin conditioning agent. HA is mainly used in anti-ageing cosmetic products.
Next, identify the hypothesis of the research. The scientific method requires that a hypothesis can be tested. Sometimes there’s more than one question.
Hypothesis: As it has been observed, the molecular mass and the mode of its synthesis or degradation define the HA biological effects [3,16,17].By a passive mechanism, high molecular weight HA (HMW-HA) permits the tissue hydration, contributes to the osmotic balance, and stabilizes the ECM structure. On the other hand, HA interacts with different receptor binding proteins, and its molecular weight can influence the receptor affinity or its uptake by the cells, leading to opposite effects. Low molecular weight HA (LMW-HA) has angiogenetic activity and can induce tumor progression or presents pro-inflammatory activity [15,16]. Thus, the biological activity of HA is due to its binding to different receptors.
You then want to find the approach the authors are using to answer the specific questions. What are the authors going to do to answer the big questions?
Approach: In the Applications of Hyaluronic Acid section: HA is widely used in drug delivery through several routes: cutaneous, ocular (intravitreal, periocular, subretinal), topical, nasal, oral, etc. HA can be conjugated with drug molecules (in the form of prodrugs) or can be incorporated in several molecular architectures (nanoparticles, microparticles, microspheres, gels, polyplexes, polymersomes, liposomes, micelles, implants, etc.).
In the methods section, you will find the experiments the authors used to test the hypothesis. Write these down and include as much detail as you need to fully understand the work. This is the evidence you’ll need to prove your big question.
Methods: In the Applications of Hyaluronic Acid section You’ll find all of the different studies they’ve pulled to show the findings of using HA in different fields: Medical (arthrology, cancer therapy, pneumology, odontology, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, rhinology, soft tissue regeneration, urology, wound treatment, etc.), pharmaceutical (e.g., drug delivery systems), nutritional (nutraceuticals, nutricosmeceuticals), or cosmetic field [3,8,9].
Methods: In the Use of Hyaluronic Acid in Cosmotology section: HA has a multitude of applications based on specific properties such as: (1) high hygroscopicity; (2) viscoelastic nature; (3) biocompatibility; (4) non-immunogenicity.
A multitude of factors are studied, including the existence of HA receptors for an active transport and a particular structure of the hydrated HA.
Check out the results of the research. You want to stay as objective as possible. Do the results answer the big question from the beginning of the research?
Results: In the Use of Hyaluronic Acid in Cosmotology section: In wound regeneration, HA has mainly cosmetic applications. In skin care formulations, it can be used as a moisturizing component, because of its hydrophilic nature. Using cosmetic products such as creams or lotions that contain HA helps to moisturize the skin and to improve elasticity, thereby decreasing the depth of wrinkles.
In cosmetic formulations, hyaluronic acid has the function of a viscosity modifier and/or a skin conditioning agent. HA is mainly used in anti-ageing cosmetic products. LMW-HA has the ability to enhance the level of moisture of the skin and expedite regeneration. HMW-HA forms a viscoelastic film when applied onto the skin and has a moisturizing effect. The main action of the HMW-HA polymer is film forming and it reduces evaporation of water from the skin and thus possesses an occlusive effect. Additionally, HMW-HA, Medium molecular weight (MMW-HA), and LMW-HA hygroscopic properties justify the ability to maintain skin hydration [87,88].
In fact, it has been proven that HA enhances the penetration of the active ingredient through the stratum corneum (SC), which behaves as a barrier to the entry of the molecule into the deeper layers of the skin, and the holding and locating the active ingredient in the epidermis. Topical preparations containing HA in formulation are used for their healing properties, decreasing the skin irritation. A topical preparation that contains HA (0.2% w/w sodium hyaluronate (NaHA)) as a main component is currently available for the amelioration of acute and chronic wounds (areas of grafted skin, post-surgical incisions, etc.) [13,77,88].
Lastly, read the conclusion/discussion/interpretation section of the research. What do you think the results mean? Do you have an alternative way of interpreting the results? Do you agree with the authors? Do you see anything they missed?
Conclusions: As shown, the efficacy of hyaluronic acid depends largely on the molecular weight, claiming different effects like hydrating, regenerating, and anti-ageing.
Cosmetics incorporating HA or NaHA also contain in their formulation different plant extracts, vitamins, amino acids, peptides, proteins, saccharides, probiotics, and even gold or malachite extract. Although these additional active ingredients can cause some minor side effects, they can raise the market price, and sustain additional claims of the cosmetic product containing HA or HA derivatives.
Now, go back to the top and reread the abstract section of the research. Does it match what the authors concluded in the experiment? Does it match your interpretation of the findings?
Go deeper: what do other researchers say about this finding? Who are the experts in this field? Do they generally support the finding or are there criticisms of the study mentioned?
In our conclusion, this study explains the use of HA in cosmetics and the findings depend largely on the molecular weight of the HA being used. When you further look into the source of this finding, you see that the research only included cosmetics with concentration levels of HA up to 2% and was tested on several species of animals and not on humans. While the final report concluded that using HA is safe, the parameters of the study don’t fit the type of HA we use at Botnia. We never use more than 0.5% concentration levels of HA in our formulations and we only test on humans (ourselves and our friends and family).
What are your conclusions? Did you find something different in your breakdown of the study? We’d love to hear your conclusions in the comments below!
We tend to find that authors will use parts and pieces of a research study to “prove” their argument, while omitting other pieces of information in the same study that disprove their argument. This is why it’s important as a consumer to know how to read these studies and form your own conclusions based on scientific facts.
We hope you form your own values and opinions and question sources and companies (Botnia included!) when you find hot trending beauty topics telling you that you should or shouldn’t do something. It’s another reason that makes Botnia different from other skincare brands. We like being challenged and we love testing our hypothesis and coming to scientifically-backed conclusions. We hope you do too!