Hyaluronic acid is a naturally-occurring substance in the body, where it’s found in fluid around the eyes and in connective tissue around the joints. It’s used as medicine for a variety of health disorders, including osteoarthritis. Hyaluronic acid is also used as a filler in cosmetic surgery, applied topically as a skin moisturizer and used to help conceal skin wounds and burns. Health experts say it’s a safe substance for the majority of people when administered by a qualified health-care provider, though certain restrictions apply.

woman looking in the mirror

Treating Skin Aging With Hyaluronic Acid

Research indicates that hyaluronic acid can help reduce signs of aging and improve the skin’s contour when it’s injected as a filler into smile lines and other deep wrinkles. It can also be used to create fuller-looking lips. The FDA has approved commercial hyaluronic acid products like Juvederm and Restylane as safe temporary fillers with effects that can last up to one year.

Using Hyaluronic Acid on Wounds

When used as a filler, hyaluronic acid can also be used to reduce skin depressions caused by wounds, acne scars and burns. Because it's a minimally-invasive natural substance found in the body, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons recommends it as a dermal filler that offers potentially dramatic temporary improvement for all types of scars and skin imperfections.

Moisturizing Skin With Hyaluronic Acid

Loss of moisture is one of the main reasons for skin to take on an aged appearance. Due to its natural hydrating properties, you may see hyaluronic acid, or the abbreviation HA, among the ingredients in many skin serums and moisturizing products. When applied topically, hyaluronic acid softens and plumps the skin. Because it's natural, it can be used on any skin type, even skin prone to breakouts. Despite its name, hyaluronic acid does not burn or exfoliate skin, but instead provides gentle hydration.

Possible Hyaluronic Acid Side Effects

In general, hyaluronic acid is safe when used as directed for medical and cosmetic purposes. When used for beauty treatments, it’s created in a laboratory or safely extracted from natural sources like the combs of chickens. Some individuals may experience an allergic reaction to hyaluronic acid with side effects that include redness, bruising, pain and injection-site swelling, but WebMD reports that these cases are rare. However, not enough is known about the safety of using hyaluronic acid in any form while pregnant, so it’s recommended that pregnant women avoid it. The same is true of women who are breastfeeding.