Hyaluronic acid (HA) is more than a buzzword ingredient touted by skincare brands. The "workhorse" capabilities of this biopolymer, which is present in most mammalian tissues, have fascinated scientists for decades.
A new cover story in Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, details HA's complex chemistry and ever-expanding uses.
HA was first isolated from bovine tissue, and large-scale manufacturing began with extracting the compound from rooster combs, writes Associate Editor Craig Bettenhausen. However, current trends toward cruelty-free and vegan products have led to the majority of HA being made with fermentation-based processes.
Most HA on the market is used in cosmetic applications: Depending on the molecular weight of the polymer, it can create a moisturizing barrier or bring water deeper into the skin. It is used as a dermal filler by plastic surgeons, a lubricant during eye surgery and an injectable treatment for osteoarthritis.
HA also has the advantage of being extensively studied by researchers, making it a rare ingredient that is trusted by consumers and that performs as advertised.
While the global market for hyaluronic acid is already quite saturated, experts think there is still room to grow. The body produces HA naturally in the wound-healing process, leading companies to experiment with creating HA-based wound dressings and expanding injectable treatments for nerve and muscle pain.
Edible HA is also on the horizon, with manufacturers innovating jelly-like supplements for joint pain in dogs, horses and humans. The cosmetics industry is expanding HA product offerings, combining it with other proven ingredients to make optimized products that provide tangible results. Researchers have even recently published findings about using HA as a cancer therapeutic.
Manufacturers are hopeful that leveraging its well-established reputation with scientific innovation will help ensure HA stays relevant for years to come.
Bettenhausen, C., (2021) Hyaluronic acid is just getting started. Chemical & Engineering News.