Which is better, hyaluronic acid or collagen for our skin? One is not more significant than the other as they are both elemental building structures of the skin, the body’s largest organ. The extracellular matrix molecules of the skin form a highly organized structure, comprising mainly of hyaluronic acid as the predominant component, followed by proteoglycans, growth factors and structural proteins such as collagens1. One of the main functions of the skin is protection. Skin performs as a waterproof, shielding barrier, defending the body against extremes of moisture and temperature, damaging sunlight with UV rays, and toxic chemical substances. Human skin aging is a complex biological process that is not yet fully understood to date. It is however well established that the gradual decrease in production of sex hormones starting in the mid-twenties that consequences the collagen degradation, dryness, loss of elasticity, epidermal atrophy, and skin wrinkling2.
Radiant and youthful looking skin is governed highly by how moisturized and elastic the skin is. Hyaluronic acid is an essential component of the skin because of its ability to promote collagen synthesis. Collagen firms the skin to promote elasticity and prevents wrinkling of the skin while hyaluronic acid nourishes and hydrates the collagen. This article will review further on the functions of hyaluronic acid in promoting skin moisture, and collagen in supporting skin elasticity, in slowing down the aging signs of our skin.
Hyaluronic acid (HA), a clear gooey substance, is found most abundantly in the skin, accounting for 50% of the total body HA3, followed by connective tissues and eyes. The key molecule involved in skin moisture is hyaluronan or hyaluronic acid (HA), a glycosaminoglycan with a special capacity to bind and lock-in water molecules4, acting like a magnet for skin moisture. In aging skin, the HA content of the skin decreases with a diminished ability to bind water and keep the skin hydrated5.
It was found in a clinical study conducted in Japan, that ingested high dose HA (120 to 240mg daily) over at least one month increased skin moisture and improved treatment outcomes for patients with clinically diagnosed dry skin6. Ingested HA contributes to the increased production of HA and promotes cell proliferation in fibroblasts6, thereby increasing collagen production and strengthening the skin extracellular matrix structure.
Collagen is the most abundant protein form found in the body. It exists in the tendons, fat, and ligaments, among other places. Its key function is to help tissues resist stretching, preventing the formation of wrinkles, and sagging skin. As we age, the collagen matrix becomes fragmented and more loosely distributed, and simultaneously less new collagen is produced as the fibroblast function becomes impaired7. Existing collagen breaks down at a higher rate and new collagen regenerates slower than in a young person’s skin.
Recently, a meta-analysis systematic review of 19 scientific studies that included a total of 1,125 participants (95% women) between the ages of 20 and 70 observed that taking hydrolyzed collagen improved skin hydration, elasticity, and wrinkles compared with placebo treatments8.
Collagen and hyaluronic acid work like two best friends serving to fight skin aging - collagen gives support and structure to the skin, while HA acts as humectant keeping the skin supple and hydrated. Together they work miracles synergistically to augment the skin’s resistance against signs of aging.
- Papakonstantinou E, Roth M, Karakiulakis G. Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012 Jul 1; 4(3): 253–258. doi: 10.4161/derm.21923.
- Brincat MP. Hormone replacement therapy and the skin. Maturitas 2000; 35:107–117. 9 Makrantonaki E, Zouboulis CC. Androgens and aging of the skin. Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2009;16:240–5.
- Juhlin L. Hyaluronan in skin. J Intern Med. 1997;242:61–6. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2796.1997.00175.x.
- Baumann L. Skin ageing and its treatment. J Pathol. 2007;211:241–51. doi: 10.1002/path.2098.
- Simpson RML, Meran S, Thomas D, Stephens P, Bowen T, Steadman R, Phillips A. Age-related changes in pericellular hyaluronan organization leads to impaired dermal fibroblast to myofibroblast differentiation. Am J Pathol. 2009 Nov;175(5):1915-28. doi: 10.2353/ajpath.2009.090045. Epub 2009 Oct 1.
- Kawada C, Yoshida T, Yoshida H, Matsuoka R, Sakamoto W, Odanaka W, Sato T, Yamasaki T, Kanemitsu T, Masuda Y, Urushibata O. Ingested hyaluronan moisturizes dry skin. Nutr J. 2014 Jul 11;13:70. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-13-70.
- Wu M, Cronin K, Crane JS. Biochemistry, Collagen Synthesis. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507709/
- Miranda RB, Weimer P, Rossi RC. Effects of hydrolyzed collagen supplementation on skin aging: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Dermatol. 2021 Dec;60(12):1449-1461. doi: 10.1111/ijd.15518. Epub 2021 Mar 20.