Podcast: Episode 5, hyaluronic acid

Special ingredient audio episode, hyaluronic acid


Hyaluronic Acid:

  • 1. skin benefits differ according to their molecular weight
  • 2. Origin: it is made by biotechnology (bacterial fermentation)
  • 3. Chemical Structure: it is composed of a variable number of sugar units
  • 4. High Molecular Weight: it does not penetrate the skin, it forms a film on the surface of the skin and thus prevents transepidermal water loss
  • 5. Average Molecular Weight: it penetrates the skin and is recognized for its restorative capacities
  • 6. Low Molecular Weight: it penetrates the skin deeply and will prevent the signs of aging by stimulating the production of collagen, decreasing the roughness of the skin and improving the barrier function of the skin
  • 7. PEARL: Find it on your labels under the names hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate, hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid

Episode Notes

Don't hesitate to listen to the previous episode on cosmetic development as well as the following on prohibited and regulated ingredients.


Hello, you are listening to episode 5 of the underside of cosmetics, the Podcast which reveals and explains to you with clarity and sincerity the world of cosmetics. I am Julie Magand Castel, chemical biologist and cosmetologist specialized in natural cosmetics and today we are going to talk about a cosmetic active ingredient. Every 5 episodes, we will discover a star ingredient. Today, to start this series, we are going to discover a key ingredient for hydrating the skin and filling in wrinkles: hyaluronic acid.

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Hyaluronic acid is a well-known active ingredient in the world of cosmetics, particularly for its moisturizing properties because it has the incredible ability to retain up to 1000 times its weight in water. So it can retain your skin water and avoid skin dehydration. Hyaluronic acid is a molecule naturally present in our body at a rate of 70g for a 70kg person. It is in other in the skin, the eye and the cartilages.

On an industrial scale, it is produced by biotechnology, ie by fermenting a particular bacterium. Much less glamorous and ethical, although I'm not sure bacterial fermentation is glamorous, hyaluronic acid can also be produced by extracting rooster combs - which has long been a preferred source for obtaining this active ingredient. Personally, I have never seen manufacturers of active ingredients for cosmetics who used this technique. So no worries. Hyaluronic acid comes in the form of a white powder and as soon as it is mixed with water, it slightly gels the latter.

At the price level it is an asset that is expensive, the price depends on its quality, and especially on the quantity that we order. But to give an idea it can go from 1000 EUR to 1600 EUR per kilo. For a small comparison, you can have either 10 kg of hyaluronic acid or a new Peugeot 108. This is one of the reasons hyaluronic acid injections are expensive. Indeed, it is also used in cosmetic surgery for local injections into the skin to redraw the face by bringing volume to strategic places.

Once again it is its ability to retain 1000 times its weight in water that is used.

To understand a little more about how it works in the skin, I need to briefly explain its chemical structure. Hyaluronic acid is several units of sugars linked to each other, we call it a polymer. Don't imagine white sugar or brown sugar, I'm talking about the chemical structure of sugar.

Hyaluronic acid can therefore contain a variable number of sugar units - between 10,000 and 50,000 units. This is why we speak of molecular weight for hyaluronic acid because there are low molecular weight or high molecular weight. The lightest hyaluronic acid molecules, therefore with low molecular weight, are those which contain the fewest sugar units and conversely, the hyaluronic acids have high molecular weight and are heavier molecules which contain more sugar groups. Depending on the number of sugar molecules, the effects and behavior of hyaluronic acid will be a little different.

The high molecular weight hyaluronic acid are too large to be fully absorbed by the skin, it will stay on the surface of the skin and form a small film which will prevent the skin from losing water. Thus it has a strong ability to keep the skin hydrated, even 24 hours after application. In addition to this, it has anti-inflammatory effects and therefore it has a calming effect. It is usually this type of hyaluronic acid that you find in moisturizing products.

Then the medium molecular weight hyaluronic acid which penetrates the skin but does not go deep, is a perfect ally for damaged skin because it helps healing. You will therefore find it in repair products.

And finally the low molecular weight hyaluronic acid penetrates the skin deeply and stimulates the cohesion of the skin cells. That is to say, it ensures that the cells are well united. You can imagine the skin cells as bricks, and the fact that it has good cohesion reduces the space between each brick and therefore also reduces potential water loss. Because the water cannot evaporate between the bricks. And double benefit, the barrier function of the skin is improved.

The primary function of the skin is to create a barrier between our body and environmental aggressions. Lightweight hyaluronic acid also stimulates the production of pro-collagen. Collagen is a skin protein that supports tissues. By increasing the amount of collagen in the skin, low molecular weight hyaluronic acid prevents signs of aging and reduces skin roughness. You will therefore find it in anti-aging products.

Thus, depending on the specific needs of your skin, a weight of hyaluronic acids may be particularly recommended. The different molecular weights therefore have 3 different very distinct uses: the low molecular weight is more for the prevention of signs of aging, the medium molecular weight for healing and the high molecular weight for hydration. It may also be interesting to combine hyaluronic acids of different molecular weights to combine their different skin benefits. Due to their excellent tolerance, these molecules are recommended for all skin types.

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To recap, hyaluronic acid is made up of sugars, it is naturally present in the skin, it is produced industrially by a biotechnology process, ie bacterial fermentation. Depending on the number of sugars it contains, it can hydrate more or add volume and fill in wrinkles. It is a flagship active ingredient in cosmetics because it has incredible moisturizing power by being able to retain up to a thousand times its weight in water. It is very well tolerated by the skin with exceptional risks of allergies.

This is why it is an asset that I like and that I recommend. Look at your labels and look for, hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate or hydrolized hyaluronic acid

I hope you enjoyed this episode and taught you how to develop a new product. A new episode will be released next Saturday and you can find the ratings for these episodes on mastelcosmetics.com in the underside of cosmetics section. Mastel is written MASTEL and is the contraction of my two surnames Magand Castel.

Do not hesitate to react in the comments, to ask your questions or to indicate what you would like to hear next. You can subscribe to the Podcast Les sous de la beauté today on various Podcast platforms including Spotify and follow its news on Instagram and Twitter with the username mastelcosmetics.

Also and of course feel free to share this podcast with your friends if you think they might enjoy it - thank you. I wish you a great week and look forward to seeing you next Saturday for an episode on regulations.


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A chemist in the cosmetics industry for more than 5 years and a graduate of the Natural Raw Materials in Cosmetics Master's degree from ISIPCA, Julie is an expert in the development of natural cosmetic products.