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From Neutrogena to Neocutis: What Makes an Effective HA

Hyaluronic acid (HA) seems to be in everything. You can get body lotion at Target with HA in it. Serums and creams are available everywhere, from $10 to over $100. But are the same quality? Will a Neutrogena HA work the same as a Neocutis HA? The short answer is probably not.

At least with injectables, you know your HA filler will be effective – no worries about the product not making it through the skin. But with skincare products, it’s more difficult to get the product to penetrate the skin barrier.

Here’s the lowdown on how HA can be effective in topical form, and the difference between over the counter and physician-dispensed product lines.

  • Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance in your body (it’s a polysaccharide, or carbohydrate). We have it around our joints, our eyes and in the spaces between our skin cells. As far as our skin, HA provides moisture, plumpness, and suppleness to the skin…it’s like fluff in your pillow.

  • Hyaluronic acid is a powerful moisture binding ingredient and binds to 1,000 times its weight in water.

  • Our ability to produce HA decreases with age (because of course it does...eye roll).

So as we run out of our own HA we see our skin appear more crepey, more lined, less supple. This is when we start searching for something to bring back that fuller, more hydrated look.

In topical form, for HA to be effective, it must be modified so it can penetrate the skin. In its pure form, the molecule is too large to pass through the skin. One way to remedy this is to extract its sodium salt to get sodium hyaluronate – if you look at the ingredients in your skincare that’s likely what you’ll see on the label. Sodium hyaluronate has a lower molecular weight (smaller sized molecule) than pure HA so it’s more easily absorbed into pores. It has the ability to penetrate into deeper layers of the skin to attract and bind with water.

So if you see sodium hyaluronate on your ingredient label, does that mean the product will be effective? Not necessarily. Here are a few things that separate drugstore HAs from their more expensive or physician-dispensed counterparts:

  • Molecule size

  • Supporting ingredients

  • Clinical studies

  • Product concentration

Many drugstore-type HA products have high or medium molecular weights (larger size molecule) and as mentioned, this makes it harder to pass through the skin, and thus less effective.

Efficacy also depends not just on the ingredient but the concentration of it. Many brands do not show HA concentration. 1% or higher is best.

Physician-dispensed products, like we carry at Body Tonic, have gone through clinical testing, and publish study results: the product’s efficacy is tested by a third party and measurements of change are taken over time to show actual efficacy.

Also, better quality products have other ingredients in them that work synergistically with HA to provide superior results, like amino acids, peptides and even vitamin C.

Products we carry that have quality and effective HA in them:

  • Neocutis Hyalis +

  • Skin Better: Solo, Lines, Trio, Hydration Boosting Cream

  • Skin Ceuticals: HA Intensifier (also helps to stop the degredation of your own HA), Hydrating B5 Gel, and Hydrating B5 mask, Phyto Corrective Gel, Phyto Corrective Mask, Antioxidant Lip Repair

Source: The Zoe Report, Wikipedia,


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