Hyaluronic acid (and Sodium hyaluronate) is one of the latest trendy skincare ingredients (in the West) — everybody seems to be talking about it and how it’s good for hydrating and plumping up skin. In Japan, however, it was a trend from 2 decades ago that has since then, became mainstream. Most Japanese women know about hyaluronic acid. If you check popular Japanese beauty products, you will probably find hyaluronic acid lurking about in there somewhere.
(‘Hyaluronic acid’ and ‘Sodium hyaluronate’ are often used interchangeably, but they’re technically not the same thing. The former attracts moisture from the environment and it sits on top of the skin to keep skin hydrated as it cannot be absorbed due to its large molecular size. Sodium hyaluronate, on the other hand, has a smaller molecular size so it can penetrate deep into the skin and it also holds more water, making it more hydrating.)
I’ve mentioned Japanese toners, or lotions, a few times before; they serve a completely different purpose than Western counterparts — they are hydrators, a moisturising step (I wrote more about it here). Hada-Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Lotion is one of my longtime favourites. The texture is lovely and it contains not one, but three types of hyaluronic acids: Sodium hyaluronate, Sodium acetyl hyaluronate (which hold double the amount of water compared to the non-acetylated one), and Nano hyaluronic acid.
It’s alcohol-free, and it gives long-lasting hydration that isn’t too rich and certainly isn’t sticky. I pat on a quarter-sized amount after immediately cleansing when skin is still slightly damp. It gives normal skin enough moisture on its own, and it also sits well beneath serum and moisturiser, giving skin a welcome boost of hydration without feeling weighed down. The lotion is also available in a light, watery-fresh formula (called Light), which good for oilier skin or hot and humid summer.
One tip: Hyaluronic acid should be applied in a humid (damp) environment, otherwise it can actually be drying. It works by drawing water from the atmosphere to skin, but if your skin has more moisture than the environment, it may draw water from your skin to the environment — having the complete opposite effect (remember the idea osmosis from high school science?)! If you live in a place with low humidity and you have drier skin, it’s important to follow your hyaluronic acid lotion or serum with a moisture-sealing moisturiser to prevent moisture loss, otherwise, skin can become drier over time.