Hyaluronic Acid (HA) - The latest Craze In "Natural" Skin Care
Posted Jan 26 2009 4:04pm
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is making news. Once again the skin care industry is promoting the latest and greatest anti-aging ingredient - Hyaluronic Acid as the anti-aging ingredient to reverse the aging clock.
So what is Hyaluronic acid? How does it work? Does it work as an anti-aging product for your skin? If so, is hyaluronic acid safe to use or are there site effects? What forms of hyaluronic acid are being promoted to consumers of 'natural' skin care products?
Let's start out by looking at what hyaluronic acid actually is.
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a naturally occurring biopolymer, which serves important biological functions in bacteria and higher animals including humans. Naturally occurring, hyaluronic acid may be found in the tissue of higher animals, in particular as intercellular space filler. HA is found in greatest concentrations in the vitreous humour of the eye and in the synovial fluid of articular joints, but is also found in the skin, connective tissue and elsewhere in the body.
For the biochemists amongst the readers of this article, hyaluronic acid is comprised of linear, unbranching, polyanionic disaccharide units consisting of glucuronic acid (GlcUA) an N-acetyl glucosamine (GlcNAc) joined alternately by beta 1-3 and beta 1-4 glycosidic bonds.
Hyaluronic acid was made 'famous' by an ABC News report in which Connie Chung visited a Japanese village by the name of Yuzurihara. She found that the people there were living longer, looked younger, and were more flexible and active than their US counterparts. These Japanese villagers, in their 80s and 90s, have smooth wrinkle-less skin, a full head of hair and there was apparently no need for them to ware glasses.
So what is it, that allows these Japanese to be so much more youthful, lead active, productive lives at their advanced age, where as in the Australia and other western countries most people in their 80s and beyond are in old-age homes?
The conclusion drawn in the ABC report was that these people ate 'sticky vegetables' and that this factor was the secret to their apparent youth. In addition, the oestrogen-like molecules in their diet, fermented forms of soy in miso paste and tofu, seem to play an important role. These molecules, along with natural oestrogen, send a signal for fibroblast cells to make more hyaluronic acid. But is this the whole answer? - I don't think so, but I'll get to this a little later.
Next, let's look at what Hyaluronic acid does.
According to scientific research by a variety of Universities and researchers, hyaluronic acid is used in the human body to cushion and lubricate joints, eyes, skin and heart valves (see http://www.ctds.info/hyaluronic_acid.html for an in-depth look at all the different diseases, syndromes and conditions). Some treatments, which involve the use of hyaluronic acid include: osteoarthritis and other joint problems, as well as a range of eye disorders, retinal detachment, and some cardiovascular disorders.
However, it is in the anti-aging effect on the skin that we are focusing on in this article and the effect hyaluronic acid seems to have on the skin is at the level of promoting the formation of collagen. These are the fibres that firm the skin. Now, hyaluronidase, an enzyme that breaks down collagen fibres, is produced by free radicals and UV radiation.
This breaks down fibres of collagen can cause premature wrinkles and sagging of the skin. It would seem reasonable therefore, that reducing the free radicals is a major key to reducing the hyaluronidase enzyme and secondly to promote normal levels of hyaluronic acid in the skin.
Plant substances known as bioflavonoids, contained in foods such as grape seed extract, blueberry, cranberry, citrus bioflavonoids and milk thistle, etc., inhibit the production of hyaluronidase, which helps to achieve the first aim of reducing the free radicals. In addition, reducing processed foods from our diet, increasing the level of exercise and living a more balanced life style will help in promoting natural levels of hyaluronic acid in our system, not just in the skin.
When considering injecting hyaluronic acid into the skin to treat fine lines and wrinkles, we are once again loosing sight of the holistic approach to treating our bodies and run a serious risk of introducing factors, which may lead to side effects or other health problems. Further, we also run the risk of creating an imbalance in the chemical composition of the skin and who knows what possible problems await us as a result.
Some known side effects of hyaluronic acid injection therapy for aging skin include:
unknown risks when used in combination with collagen
These side effects are serious enough to reconsider using injection therapy of hyaluronic acid as an anti-aging treatment for the skin.
Remember too, that the people in the Japanese village do not use injection therapy... They life an holistic life style incorporating unprocessed foods and physical activity together with a balanced mind-set and life style.
So where can you get a holistic source of hyaluronic acid from?
There are a couple of ways. The first is from "starchy root vegetables" such as the ones mentioned by the village doctor in the ABC report which include: Satsumaimo, a type of sweet potato; Satoimo, a sticky white potato; Konyaku, a gelatinous root vegetable concoction; and Imoji, a potato root.
These vegetables help the cells of the body to thrive and retain moisture. Further, they keep joints lubricated, protect the retina of the eye and keep the skin smooth and elastic by promoting collagen.
Another source of hyaluronic acid, for non-vegetarians, is to eat animal parts known to contain a lot of hyaluronic acid. You could make a broth from fish bones. That is, once you've taken off the fillets, boil the rest of the fish, including their head and make a fish stock. Similarly, you can make a meat broth using animal joints, sinews and tendons, then adding a few root and other vegetables to create a healthy, nourishing soup.
In conclusion, at Wildcrafted Herbal Products we do not believe that adding isolated ingredients in elevated concentrations to our natural skin care products is a preferred option. Rather, using a holistically natural approach to skin care and for that matter health care is a far more preferable option.
Skin care is as much about taking care of your skin as it is taking responsibility and care of your overall health and wellbeing. Your skin is not an isolated part of your body and should not be treated as such.
Again I would like to remind you of the Japanese villagers - they do not inject themselves with hyaluronic acid, they do not use hyaluronic acid in isolation, they do however life a healthy, active and mostly balanced life style.
Danny Siegenthaler is a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine and together with his wife Susan, a medical herbalist and Aromatherapist, they have created Natural Skin Care Products by Wildcrafted Herbal Products to share their 40 years of combined expertise with you.