There's no shortage of "miracle" compounds that supposedly help to create beautiful, supple skin, no matter how much havoc you've wreaked on it in the past — and hyaluronic acid just might be one of them. The name, however, is a bit of a misnomer, at least when it comes to what people usually think of an acid. Rather than burning or sloughing off cells, hyaluronic acid, also known as hyaluronan, holds moisture and improves lubrication because it naturally holds up to 1,000 times its own weight in water.
Your body naturally produces this clear substance, and at any given time, you have about 15 grams of it within. Hyaluronic acid acts a lubricant in a number of places, including around your joints and nerves and in your muscles. Unfortunately, the body's natural production naturally decreases as you grow older.
For those who want a boost of hyaluronic acid, it's most commonly found in topical beauty products. In fact, it's probably in a number of skin creams that you're already using. However, you can also boost your body's stores of hyaluronic acid from the inside out by including it in your diet through eating more animal products or by taking hyaluronic acid supplements.
Hyaluronic acid, which benefits the skin's appearance, helps to heal wounds and can play a role in osteoarthritis pain management, occurs naturally in all vertebrates, including the bodies of fish and cartilaginous tissue of beef, pork and poultry. It can also be consumed via fermented soybeans.
The Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid has been touted as a "fountain of youth," though research is still ongoing in how it can benefit your skin's appearance. It's said to work through decreasing the formation of wrinkles, keeping the skin looking supple and promoting wound healing. Hyaluronic acid can also decrease joint pain caused by osteoarthritis.
- Supple skin: A study published in 2014 in Nutrition Journal concluded that consuming hyaluronic acid boosts skin's moisture and helps fight against dry skin.
- Fewer wrinkles: Taking in 120 milligrams a day inhibited wrinkle formation, according to a 2017 study published in Clinical Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology.
- Wound healing: Hyaluronic acid is a key player in decreasing inflammation and healing wounds, according to research published in 2016 in Wounds.
- Less pain: Both oral and injectable hyaluronic acid therapy improves the pain caused by osteoarthritis, noted a review of studies published in 2018 in Clinical and Translational Medicine. It does so by improving joint lubrication.
Foods High in Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid occurs naturally not only in the human body but also in all vertebrates. Research published in 2016 in the International Journal of Aging and Clinical Research noted that foods containing hyaluronic acid include the whole bodies or heads of fish, including mackerel, sea bream, and eel, as well as the cartilaginous tissues of beef, pork and poultry. According to the research, the highest concentration of hyaluronic acid is found in the eyes and joints of the animals.
Luckily for vegetarians, there are plant-based sources of hyaluronic acid as well. According to that same 2016 study, the compound can be consumed through fermented soybeans. The dermatologists at the Skin Associates of South Florida also say that foods such as leafy greens, bell peppers, carrots, potatoes, avocados and nuts contain hyaluronic acid.
Collagen and Hyaluronic Acid
Collagen is the most plentiful protein in your body, according to the Cleveland Clinic, but your body's levels naturally decrease as you age. When that occurs, you can experience a wealth of issues, including more wrinkles and skin with the texture of crepe paper.
Hyaluronic acid and collagen complement each other when it comes to creating a diet for optimal skin. While collagen firms the skin, the hyaluronic acid hydrates and retains that collagen by holding onto water. However, if your skin doesn't have an ample supply of collagen, there's not as much for the hyaluronic acid to keep moist and supple.
Read more: Will Eating Collagen Help Your Skin?
Foods Rich in Collagen
While you can take collagen supplements or add collagen protein to smoothies, there are also a number of ways to increase your collagen consumption via protein-rich foods. This includes beef, chicken, beans, fish, dairy and eggs.
Bone broth is particularly rich in collagen, whether it's made from beef, chicken or fish bones. You can make it at home by cooking a bevy of bones, such as the carcass of a roasted chicken, marrow beef bones or ham hocks, for 12 to 24 hours in a slow cooker or pressure cooker or on a stovetop. The process draws the collagen out of the bones, leaving a flavorful broth which you can sip or use to make soup.
Vitamin C also helps the body produce both collagen and hyaluronic acid. Eat a diet rich in citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruit and lemons, to help produce these necessary compounds.
Hyaluronic Acid Supplements
If the idea of eating beef, chicken and fish eyes or joints doesn't appeal to you and you're not sure that you can get enough from leafy greens and other vegetables, consider hyaluronic acid supplements instead. Luckily, there are studies that show that the supplements can be beneficial for both joint pain and skin care.
For example, a study published in 2017 in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology that focused on oral hyaluronic acid consumption determined the supplements have a positive effect on wrinkle formation. Another piece of research, published in 2016 in Nutrition Journal, concluded that hyaluronic acid dietary supplements are a potential treatment for knee pain in people who suffer from osteoarthritis.
However, people who have a history of cancer should talk to their doctors before taking hyaluronic acid supplements. Research published in 2015 in the journal Clinical Drug Investigation notes that hyaluronic acid injections can be a valuable therapeutic tool, but oral consumption may promote cancer cell proliferation. In fact, everyone who's considering starting a new supplement should have a brief discussion with their doctor, as even natural supplements can cause interactions or have side effects.
Read more: About Topical Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic Acid Products
While it's always a good idea to attempt to get healthful ingredients such as hyaluronic acid from your diet, this particular compound is also available as a topical agent in beauty products.
If you check the ingredient label of your favorite beauty products, you might find that you're already using creams or serums that contain hyaluronic acid. It's a popular humectant, which refers to ingredients that retain moisture.
Hyaluronic acid is also an ingredient in injectable dermal fillers, which increase the volume of the dermal layer of skin. And because hyaluronic acid is naturally made in the body, you don't have to worry about its safety.
- Nutrition Journal: Ingested Hyaluronan Moisturizes Dry Skin
- Clinical Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology: Oral Hyaluronan Relieves Wrinkles: A Double-Blinded, Placebo-Controlled Study Over a 12-Week Period
- Wounds: Hyaluronic Acid in Inflammation and Tissue Regeneration
- International Journal of Aging and Clinical Research: Food Containing Hyaluronic Acid and Chondroitin Is Essential for AntiAging
- Clinique: Ingredient to Know: Hyaluronic Acid
- R&D Systems: Hyaluronan (HA) and HA-Binding Proteins
- Skn Holistic Rejuvenation Clinic: Ask the Expert: Supplementing Hyaluronic Acid & Collagen
- Cleveland Clinic: The Best Way You Can Get More Collagen
- Clinical Drug Investigation: Caution Should Be Used in Long-Term Treatment With Oral Compounds of Hyaluronic Acid in Patients With a History of Cancer
- Nutrition Journal: Oral Hyaluronan Relieves Knee Pain: A Review
- Dermalogica: What Is Hyaluronic Acid?
- Harper's Bazaar: Everything You Need to Know About Hyaluronic Acid
- Skin Associates of South Florida: Hyaluronic Acid – A Healthy Sugar for Your Skin