Hyaluronic Acid vs Collagen: Anti Aging Ingredient Showdown
by Heather Smith on Feb 26, 2022
Time for an ingredient showdown, and it's collagen vs hyaluronic acid!
If you're looking for the best active ingredients for anti-aging, you may be wondering whether hyaluronic acid or collagen is the better choice. Both chemicals are critical to keeping your skin looking healthy and youthful, but they work in different ways. For example, hyaluronic acid helps to plump up the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. In contrast, collagen helps to rebuild and strengthen the skin's connective tissues from within.
Both ingredients have become a mainstay in cosmetics and skincare - supplements, injectables, and topical.
So which ingredient is better? Read on to find out!
Hyaluronic acid is very effective topically. Although it's all one chemical, hyaluronic acid can be separated into solutions with different molecular sizes. Similarly, the sodium salt (called sodium hyaluronate) has a smaller molecule size, but functions pretty much the same. Ultra-low molecular weight hyaluronic acid is small and can penetrate deeper into the skin layers. Higher molecular weight hyaluronic acid is more likely to sit on top and provide a hydrating cushion that helps fill in the appearance of wrinkles.
Hyaluronic acid is found in high concentrations in the skin, where it helps to keep the tissues hydrated and plump. When applied to the skin topically, hyaluronic acid helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by increasing the skin's hydration levels. Improved skin moisture and prevention of water loss requires emollients to help lock in the hydration from this humectant.
Many wrinkle creams, or just creams in general, are packed full of hyaluronic acid due to its lack of side effects and visible effects on the signs of aging. Be sure to hydrate and moisturize properly to get the most out of your products, especially if you're in a dry climate.
Hyaluronic acid is (usually) a vegan ingredient because it is produced using biofermentation, so it's a great choice if you're looking for natural skincare products. With that said, brands do need to double-check with their suppliers because some animal versions of hyaluronic acid exist, with snail mucin as a good example. However, they tend to be reserved for medically injectable products.
Unlike hyaluronic acid, collagen is a very large molecule, so it doesn't penetrate the skin layers when used topically. It won't penetrate the cell-matrix and do what collagen is supposed to do - namely, act as mechanical scaffolding to create structure, elasticity, and firmness.
Collagen is a protein that occurs naturally in the human body. It's a vital component of the skin's connective tissues, and it helps keep the skin firm and elastic.
Collagen is not a vegan ingredient, so it's not a good choice if you're looking for plant-based skincare products. In general, people usually choose to consume collagen as dietary supplements to provide the essential precursors for the body to manufacture more. It's been associated with effects like improved joint pain and helping wounds heal, but the jury is out on the science supporting that. There is ongoing work and innovation to develop plant-based biosynthetic collagen sources for people who do not want to consume animal tissues.
Many skincare products that aim to reduce age-related skin changes are targeted at improving collagen production. For example, Vitamin C, peptides, retinoids, and bakuchiol are all marketed as ingredients that will stimulate collagen production and quality as a significant effect. More invasive options, like micro-needling (also called collagen induction therapy) can be very effective.
Hyaluronic Acid vs Collagen: Is There a Winner?
So which is the better anti-aging ingredient? Hyaluronic acid or collagen? Ultimately, it depends on what's important to you.
Hyaluronic acid is vegan and can help plump up the skin when applied topically. Along with other humectants like glycerine, hyaluronic acid is a critical component of millions of hydrating skincare products.
Collagen needs to be produced from within. Topical collagen doesn't do that much, if anything. Instead, to focus on stimulating collagen production, you'll need to use other ingredients (vitamin C, bakuchiol, retinol, peptides) or have a procedure like micro-needling.
For topical products, hyaluronic acid is the clear winner. Building collagen takes time and other methods, but it will give you the most long-term and visible results to prevent wrinkles and improve skin elasticity and strength overall.