In the words of every Game of Thrones character: Winter is coming. Which means we’ll soon be focused on saving our skin from the moisture-suck of cold weather. Add to that indoor heating, hot showers and various stages of aging, and every square millimetre of our body’s largest organ will no doubt be gasping for hydration. Star dryness-combatting ingredient hyaluronic acid (also known as sodium hyaluronate) is probably already fighting the good fight for you in your serum or moisturizer, but now beauty companies are bringing it to your makeup bag too. “Hyaluronic acid is a water-loving substance that attracts moisture to the skin and can help with the appearance of fine lines and give skin a nice, smooth texture,” says Dr. Paul Cohen, a dermatologist at Toronto’s Rosedale Dermatology Centre. “It’s also great for dehydrated younger skin since it adds moisture, not oil, to the skin and won’t cause breakouts.”
Hyaluronic acid also adds another protective layer to our winter arsenal. “It works on the surface of the skin and is good in makeup because it pulls water towards it, causing a plumping effect,” explains Dr. Lisa Kellett, dermatologist at Toronto’s DLK on Avenue. But don’t fist-bump in celebration just yet: Kellett cautions that hyaluronic acids used in makeup are not all created equal. “There are various qualities of cosmetic-grade hyaluronic acid, so it’s difficult to measure and quantify its effectiveness,” she says. “Hyaluronic acid is actually a big molecule, so you can’t just put it on the skin and have it immediately be absorbed.”
This is where hyaluronic microspheres come in. “They’re dehydrated into small spheres for better skin penetration,” says Rikke Skaarup Hansen, R&D manager at Gosh Cosmetics, who has used them in the brand’s Velvet Touch Matt Lipstick. “As soon as it comes into contact with moisture in the skin it swells up, filling in wrinkles.” In foundation, such as Too Faced’s Born This Way base, these microspheres also enhance the uniformity and evenness of the coverage.
But Kellett insists that it’s not just size that counts. “A higher-quality hyaluronic acid could be equivalent to one that’s in a microsphere delivery system,” she says, adding that either way, topically applied hyaluronic acid will have only temporary effects. “Remember, skin is actually a barrier: You can put things on top of it to make it look better, but it’s not going to last long or treat the deep dermis of the skin.” That’s where the magic happens: melanin and oil production, cell turnover—everything that affects skin’s texture, tone and firmness—and where it makes its own hyaluronic-acid supply. You’d need to see a dermatologist for an injectable hyaluronic acid filler for serious wrinkle-reducing or plumping results.
The truth is, wearing any kind of makeup may protect skin and lips from the elements because it can act as a barrier to UV rays, cigarette smoke and pollution. (Kellett cites research that suggests men have a higher risk of skin cancer on their lips than women because women wear lipstick.) And when it’s boosted with hyaluronic acid, you can add arid, cold weather to that list. “It will have some protective effect,” Kellett says, “which, at the end of the day, is better than nothing.” And really, when winter hits us full-force, we’ll need all the help we can get.
DLK on Avenue is a state-of-the-art skin care facility, delivering the highest standard of clinically effective, medically directed skin care treatments. Located in Yorkville, Toronto and specializing in non-surgical and cosmetic treatments including laser hair removal, mole removal, tattoo removal, acne and acne scar treatment.