Hyaluronic Acid, I Love You . . . But What the Heck Are You?!

At Botnia we proudly make organic, plant-based skincare by hand in our Sausalito lab and micro-farm. But you might inspect some of our ingredient lists, see “hyaluronic acid,” and wonder . . . what plant is this mysterious ingredient? And is it really an acid?! Like, the burn-your-face-off kind of acid? I’m asked questions on this key ingredient all the time, so here’s the quick and dirty on why I stand behind this (sometimes controversial) ingredient, with an assist from Botnia’s own cosmetic chemist, Melanie, to break down the science behind hyaluronic acid. And to get to the point, no it won’t burn your face off! And yes, our hyaluronic acid is plant-based.

Why Is It an Acid?

“Hyaluronic acid accepts electrons from water molecules and releases hydrogen ions into water solutions, so it fits the scientific definition of an acid. But it’s in no way exfoliating or irritating; in fact, it’s moisturizing.” Melanie Blum, cosmetic chemist at Botnia 

Botnia’s hyaluronic acid comes to us from a green laboratory (this is one ingredient we don’t make ourselves) and consists of glucose, soy peptone, and yeast extract. Hyaluronic acid is a natural polysaccharide (large sugar molecule) that occurs in various tissues of the body (skin, synovial fluids of joints, connective tissues). Within our own bodies, it’s responsible for tissue hydration, lubrication, and tissue stability, and it holds 500 times its own weight of water.  

This is precisely why I love hyaluronic acid: for its ability to hydrate the skin (in comparison to facial oils, which condition and lubricate the skin but don’t deliver hydration). With aging—while we likely become wiser and more content!—we lose our own natural hyaluronic acid in the dermis. That’s why it’s key to add in hyaluronic acid to your skincare routine to increase its natural moisture levels and keep it looking supple and dewy.

Naturally in Our Bodies

“Hyaluronic acid is naturally found in the body. It was originally discovered in 1934, in the vitreous humour of the eye. It was first considered to simply be a lubricant—but as research has progressed, hyaluronic acid has been found to play a role in an impressively wide variety of bodily functions.

In the big picture, hyaluronic acid’s main function is to deliver water to our cells. Its chemical structure is abundant in electron-dense pockets that are able to attract and carry water molecules. One gram (or 0.03 oz) of hyaluronic acid can hold up to six LITERS of water. There is no other natural compound that can hold this much water! I find this to be a chemical miracle, as well as an amazing phenomenon of the human body.

In the smaller picture, hyaluronic is essential in a series of bodily functions. It’s an important hydrating component of cartilage and muscular connective tissue. Hyaluronic acid is a major component of the skin, where it’s involved in tissue repair. Hyaluronic acid is found in umbilical cords of babies, suggesting it plays a role in tissue growth. Studies have shown that hyaluronic acid promotes the production of collagen, which maintains skin’s elasticity.” Melanie Blum, cosmetic chemist at Botnia 

 Papakonstantinou, Eleni et al. “Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging.” Dermato-endocrinology vol. 4,3 (2012): 253-8. doi:10.4161/derm.21923

I won’t promise that hyaluronic acid will eliminate all wrinkles or make your skin look years younger in two weeks. These sorts of promises, while common in the beauty industry, are more marketing hype than anything we can really deliver on. But what I will say is that I’ve found hyaluronic acid to be an incredible ally for your skin’s overall health. 

Check the Weather Report

“Hyaluronic acid is considered to be a hydrator, not a moisturizer. In dry climates, it can actually pull moisture from within the skin, when not given a water source. It can only pull moisture from the environment at 70% humidity. Therefore it’s best used in tandem with a product that can deliver and lock in moisture for your skin, such as any face cream, hydrosol/toner, or face oil.” Melanie Blum, cosmetic chemist at Botnia 

There are a few nuances to highlight about using hyaluronic acid properly. It isn’t as simple as just applying your serum and BAM you’re hydrated! The use of hyaluronic acid depends on the climate you live in. And if you misuse HA, you can even end up dehydrated, yikes! Firstly this is a large molecule, and so for drier skin type and those living in drier climates (hello southwestern friends), be sure to use plenty of moisturizer over your hyaluronic acid since this water-grabbing molecule will deplete your moisture barrier of its natural hydration. Hyaluronic acid cross-links with your body’s natural hyaluronic, and if there isn’t enough produced in your skin already or if the surface of your skin is dry and the air is dry, then the HA will draw from other sources. So if this sounds like you, here’s your skincare routine: to freshly cleansed skin, apply your toner/hydrosol (leaving the skin damp from this step), then apply serum, and layer a moisturizer on top and finish with an oil, if desired. This way your skin has plenty of water and nutrients to pull from so you’ll be fully able to see and experience the benefits of this potent ingredient.

A Key Ingredient

In Botnia’s skincare lineup, you’ll find the biggest dose of hyaluronic acid in our Hydrating Serum, which we like to think of as a big drink of water for your skin. This serum is pure hyaluronic acid.  It’s great for most skin types since it’s lightweight and gentle enough for sensitive skin—in fact, it’s so versatile that it’s our bestselling product for four years running! We also incorporate hyaluronic acid into both our toner formulas, and it’s the major reason our Restorative Face Cream and Eye Cream are so richly hydrating—the base of these two creams is jojoba oil blended with hyaluronic acid (in lieu of water).  

Hyaluronic acid is a key part of Botnia because over years of working in the treatment room with clients’ skin, noticing what actually delivers healthy, vibrant, radiant skin, I’ve seen time and time again that this particular ingredient delivers results. What’s even more exciting for me is that we’re able to equally uphold the quality of our plant-based hyaluronic acid with the quality of the other organic ingredients we use, making sure that your skin only receives ingredients that work toward its ultimate health. The truth is not all hyaluronic acids on the market are equal. So as a consumer, knowing the sourcing and the molecular weight of this ingredient is important, and exactly why I make skincare, so I can ensure only the best ingredients are incorporated into the skin I treat. I encourage you to inspect ingredient lists and ask questions of the companies you’re entrusting your skin to, including Botnia! I believe in hyaluronic acid. Year after year, seeing that it’s our top seller is better proof than any study I could present to you that hyaluronic acid is a much-loved and trusted part of a home care ritual. More than all this though, when I zoom way out and look at our deep philosophy for the skincare and the products we make, my hope is that you feel comforted knowing that we are taking in all the facts about all our ingredients, and applying that knowledge in the real world, watching and taking note of actual experience, and not only reading the scientific studies. That both science and skin health are weighted equally here at Botnia. And hopefully you now feel more confident about hyaluronic acid and its amazing benefits for your skin. Use in good health!



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