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Why hyaluronic acid could be your ticket to better skin

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

Is hyaluronic acid a skin care miracle or total scam?

Want to have younger-looking skin? Well then, have I got a farm animal for you! It turns out that roosters have anti-aging properties. And really, when was the last time you saw an old-looking rooster? (Or a rooster at all?)

Hyaluronic acid is a liquid substance naturally present in the body. In humans it's found at its highest concentration in our joints and the liquid inside our eyeballs but we lose it steadily as we age, which is where the roosters come in. Rooster combs are an abundant source of HA and when mixed into creams and serums can provide some skin care benefits.

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"The skin starts losing natural hyaluronic acid as young as 18, so it’s important to replenish it," says Brian Zelickson, M.D., a dermatologist and founder of MD Complete Skincare. He explains that many moisturizing and anti-aging skin care products use it as a base because of its plumping properties.

"Hyaluronic acid is a powerful moisture-binding ingredient, which in turn helps keep skin plump and firm," he says. "It attracts and binds water to prevent moisture loss."

One good way to naturally boost your hyaluronic acid levels is to eat it. Bone broth, when made from the joints, skin, connective tissues and bones of chicken or beef, contains a high amount of hyaluronic acid. (Yet another reason to try bone broth if you haven't jumped on the latest superfood trend yet!) The body can also synthesize HA from magnesium, which is found in leafy greens, root vegetables and soy.

But perhaps the most popular way to up your daily dose is to use it in skin creams, serums or even injectables (it's the base for facial fillers like Juvederm and Restylane). When injected it provides immediate semi-permanent results. However, when used as a topical application on your skin it may take longer to see the effects, Zelickson says.

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"When you use products with hyaluronic acid, the skin looks younger, fresher and more supple. It is an effective ingredients for smoothing wrinkles and fine lines over time," he explains.

And unlike other skin care ingredients, there does seem to be some scientific evidence for the claims. According to a study published in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, women using a "nano-hyaluronic acid" (it has smaller particles to better penetrate the skin) for eight weeks showed a significant decrease in the depth of their wrinkles (up to 40 percent), and an increase in their skin hydration (up to 96 percent). In addition, skin firmness and elasticity were improved (up to 55 percent).

It is not, however, a miracle worker. "Hyaluronic acid can improve fine lines over time, as long as the product is reaching deep layers of the skin," Zelickson cautions. He adds it's important to find a quality product and while HA works well on its own, he says it's even more effective when combined with retinol and peptides. (He recommends the Deep Wrinkle Remover from his own line).

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And despite the word "acid" in the name, it's actually quite gentle and most people have no side effects from it, he says.

Bottom line? It's a simple and non-invasive way that seems to provide some modest benefits to skin as it ages. So if you have the money, patience and realistic expectations, it might be worth a try!

Is hyaluronic acid a skin care miracle or total scam?
Image: Tiffany Egbert/SheKnows

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