Humectant. It’s a rather odd sounding word, but it denotes one of the best things for your skin. Humectants are compounds that bind to water, and if water is bound to it, it can’t evaporate nearly as easily. Not surprisingly, these are among the best things out there for skin care, particularly anti-aging products.
The time-tested veteran here is glycerin. Glycerin has a smooth feel to it. It isn’t what I would call silky, but it does create a nice, smooth barrier on the surface of the skin. Glycerin is an effective humectant, with the ability to hold its own weight in water. For every ounce of water applied to the skin, one ounce of glycerin will hold it on. It isn’t the best humectant, but it is extremely versatile. This post by Debshikha Banerjee shows just how flexible glycerin can be. Glycerin is usually created as a by product of biofuel or meat processing. Most glycerin is based on vegetable oil, and if you want to be sure, look for vegan and kosher certified glycerin.
Hyaluronic acid sounds like some bizarre synthetic chemical, but it is a naturally occurring polysaccharide that is in human skin between the cells. It provides moisture, plumpness, firmness and suppleness to the skin. It’s also present in the eyes and in the joint spaces, where it acts as a lubricant and “shock absorber.” When you’re very young, you have a lot of hyaluronic acid in your skin, which why young skin is so soft and supple. As you age, the amount of hyaluronic acid decreases, which leads to worn-out looking skin and wrinkles. Hyaluronic acid has an amazing ability to bind to water, able to trap 1,000 times its weight in water. It’s not surprising, then, that an astonishing number of premium anti-aging products feature hyaluronic acid.
Hyaluronic acid (HA), even thought is often referred to in the singular, comes in different molecular weights; molecular weight is measured in Daltons. Higher weights penetrate less deeply than lower weights. As a result, higher weights are better for barrier protection, while lower weights penetrate deeper into areas between cells. There is debate over the therapeutic value of low molecular weight (LMW) HA versus high molecular weight (HMW) HA. Is low molecular weight (LMW) HA is truly healing, or just inflammatory? When HMW HA gets broken down by stresses, it is broken into smaller, LMW fragments.
Hyaluronic acid can be administered via injection or topically. It requires a dermatologist to have the injections safely done. Topical application involves some sort of serum or cream, and there are several options out there on the market. There are a variety of different concoctions out there featuring all kinds of ingredients. Water, glyercin, and/or aloe vera are frequently used to create a base. Vitamin C, Vitamin E, ferulic acid, argireline, Matrixyl and Matrixyl 3000 are among the most common actives combined with hyaluronic acid. We’ll get more into those later, but suffice it to say it can be almost bewildering trying to chose between different choices. Personal beliefs and finances seem to be the only limitations to what is available.
When it comes down to choices, hyaluronic acid is the better humectant. Glyercin, however, is more versatile and equated by some as being higher end. Ironically, hyaluronic acid is frequently blended with bases that contain glycerin, giving people both of the big two humectants in one dose. There are also other compounds out there that are humectants, but those two are the key players and play a large role in the skin care world.