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By your forties, you've lost half of your skin's hyaluronic acid. What can you do about it?

Hyaluronic acid has made quite a name for itself in recent years. The plumping ingredient has captured the hearts (and beauty cabinets) of beauty enthusiasts worldwide. In the skin care industry, it's often only referred to as a humectant that shows up in serums, face masks, lip balms, body products, and so much more.

But here's a lesser-known fact: your body naturally produces hyaluronic acid, which can be found in a variety of tissues, from your eyes to your joints to, yes, your skin

What to do when hyaluronic acid depletes over time

"Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring type of sugar that is produced by the body and is found in the highest concentrations in our skin, connective tissue, and eyes," says Jennifer Chwalek, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist. "It functions to retain water, keep our tissues lubricated, and our skin looking firm and youthful—it can also increase collagen production, which is another way it can help our skin as we age."

In terms of the skin, it's a crucial molecule that keeps your skin moisturized, plump, and supple. It works by attracting water and retaining it in the various layers of the dermis, preventing it from evaporating into the surrounding air (a process known as transepidermal water loss). It also works in conjunction with other important components of the skin barrier, such as collagen, ceramides, elastin, and so on.

All of this sounds fantastic, doesn't it? As with most things related to the skin, you begin to lose it as you age: Your hyaluronic acid levels, like your collagen and elastin levels, begin to decline over time. In fact, they could plummet by as much as 50%. According to naturopathic doctor Nigma Talib, N.D., our body's natural reserve of HA depletes rapidly over time. She claims that by the time we reach our 40s, we have only half the hyaluronic acid reserve we had when we were younger. A 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology confirms that this decline begins in our twenties and peaks in our forties. Because of this drop, many people notice physical signs of aging in their 40s, such as an increase in fine lines and wrinkles for some and increasingly dry and dull skin for others.

To compensate for these changes, many people will turn to richer topicals, more hydrating serums, and hydration treatments. All admirable endeavors, I might add. I'm no stranger to slathering balms, tinctures, and tonics all over my face and body.

However, you should also consider how you can boost your natural hyaluronic acid levels. To begin, protect it as much as possible from environmental aggressors such as UV rays and pollution. However, you can supplement with hyaluronic acid to help with the percentage that you naturally lose. Oral hyaluronic acid has also been shown to help with skin hydration and appearance. According to the available evidence, oral hyaluronic acid supplements are absorbed in the digestive tract and then migrate to the connective tissues that require the most hyaluronic acid.

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