What Are Hyaluronic Acid Supplements?

This daily supplement may improve joint function and reduce wrinkles

Hyaluronic acid supplements are made using artificial forms of a substance that naturally occurs in the body. Hyaluronic acid is a polysaccharide (a type of carbohydrate) that occurs in high amounts in the skin, joints, and eyes, providing lubrication and keeping tissues hydrated.

Hyaluronic acid levels decrease as you get older. So, as you age, hyaluronic acid supplements may help treat or prevent aging-related health conditions.

This article explains how hyaluronic acid supplements are used, their side effects, and their dosage.

Conditions That Hyaluronic Acid Supplements May Help
Verywell / Nusha Ashjaee

Uses for Hyaluronic Acid Supplements

One of the most common uses of hyaluronic acid is in treating and managing osteoarthritis, also known as wear-and-tear arthritis.

Some alternative medicine practitioners contend that hyaluronic acid supplements can also prevent or treat an array of other health concerns, including:

In addition to oral supplements, hyaluronic acid comes in other forms. These include:

Some believe the oral supplement offers the same benefits as these other forms. Research supports some of these claims better than others.

Osteoarthritis

Hyaluronic acid is a fluid that, among other things, helps moisten the joints. An injectable form of hyaluronic acid, called hyaluronan, can offer short-term relief from pain and stiffness in people with severe knee osteoarthritis.

Although it is sometimes used for symptom management, injectable hyaluronic acid is not considered a first-line treatment for knee osteoarthritis.

In addition, the American College of Rheumatology, the Arthritis Foundation, and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons do not recommend hyaluronic acid injections for knee arthritis.

The benefits of oral hyaluronic acid are less certain. That said, several small studies have shown promise.

A 2015 study published in Rheumatology International reported that a three-month course of an oral hyaluronic supplement called Oralvisc offered relief to adults with obesity and knee osteoarthritis. Among those given Oralvisc, researchers found:

  • A steep reduction in inflammatory proteins called cytokines
  • An increased concentration of hyaluronic acid in joint fluids

In addition, a 2017 study in the Journal of Medical Food reported that an oral formulation of hyaluronan had similar effects. Among the 72 adults with knee arthritis who completed the study, those given oral hyaluronans had:

  • Lower pain scores
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Significant reduction in the use of pain medications compared to those provided a placebo

Skin Wrinkles

There is evidence that oral hyaluronic acid has anti-aging properties that improve skin tone and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

According to a 2017 study in Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, after 12 weeks of treatment with oral hyaluronan, 60 people with crow's feet experienced a reduction in wrinkle depth and volume. They also had improved skin luster and suppleness.

Two different concentrations of hyaluronan were used in the study, each dosed at 120 milligrams (mg) per day. Interestingly, those provided the higher concentration experienced similar results to those given the lower concentration, but in a shorter period of time.

A 2017 study in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine similarly reported promising outcomes with hyaluronic acid supplements containing biotin, vitamin C, copper, and zinc. Specifically, the study found that after 40 days, 20 women, ages 45 to 60, had:

  • Improved skin elasticity
  • Improved texture
  • Reduction in wrinkle depth
  • 24% increase in skin hydration

Possible Side Effects

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the long-term safety of hyaluronic acid supplements. However, a 2016 review of studies in Nutrition Journal found that, in the 13 trials of oral hyaluronan supplements reviewed, researchers reported no notable side effects in any of the participants.

These results shouldn't suggest that hyaluronic acid is entirely free of side effects, though. When injected, hyaluronic acid may cause:

  • Pain
  • Bruising
  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Tingling
  • Swelling

The same side effects could theoretically occur with oral hyaluronic acid. However, the symptoms would likely be milder due to the lower dose.

When to Avoid

Hyaluronic acid is not for everyone. Certain people at high risk for allergies, health conditions, and adverse reactions should avoid the supplement. These include:

  • People with allergies: Since some forms of hyaluronic acid are obtained from a rooster's comb, people allergic to chicken feathers, protein, or eggs should use the supplement with caution. (Other forms of hyaluronic acid are made from bacteria.)
  • People who have had cancer: You should avoid oral hyaluronic supplementation if you have a history of cancer. That's because, according to a 2015 study in Clinical Drug Investigation, hyaluronic acid can promote cell growth and theoretically increase the risk of cancer recurrence.
  • Kids and pregnant or breastfeeding people: The safety of hyaluronic supplements in children and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding has not been established. It is also unknown if hyaluronic acid can interact with other drugs or supplements.

Dosage and Preparation

Oral hyaluronic acid supplements can be found online and in drugstores, health food stores, and shops specializing in nutritional supplements. Unlike injectable hyaluronic acid, you do not need a prescription to purchase them.

Hyaluronic acid supplements are available in tablet, capsule, or softgel form. In addition, there are some flavored and unflavored liquid formulations. Some over-the-counter arthritis remedies also contain a combination of hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate.

There are no universal guidelines for the appropriate use of oral hyaluronic acid. Some manufacturers recommend a daily 200 mg dose, while others suggest 1,000 mg per day.

Despite claims to the contrary, there is no evidence that higher doses of hyaluronic acid provide better results. Most clinical studies have limited the daily intake of hyaluronic acid to no more than 240 mg.

What to Look For

Dietary supplements are not strictly regulated in the United States, making it difficult to know which brands are reliable and which are not.

One sign of quality is a stamp of approval from the U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or ConsumerLab. These independent certifying bodies ensure that the ingredients listed on a product label are correct and pure. Only supplements voluntarily submitted for testing are eligible for certification.

Read the Label

Always read ingredient labels to check for ingredients you may be sensitive to, including gluten and other common allergens. If you don't recognize something listed, ask your pharmacist about it.

If you are allergic to poultry or eggs, opt for brands marked "vegan" or "vegan-friendly." You will also want to check that softgels are made with a vegetable-based gelatin.

Hyaluronic acid supplements can be stored in the refrigerator or in a cool, dry room. Discard any product that has expired or shows signs of moisture damage or deterioration.

Summary

Some people use hyaluronic acid supplements to treat osteoarthritis and skin wrinkles. While doctors use injectable hyaluronic acid for short-term arthritis pain relief, the benefits of oral preparations are less understood. However, some small studies have shown promising results.

A Word From Verywell

If you are thinking about trying hyaluronic acid supplements, you may be wondering if they are safe and effective for your condition. Keep in mind that the chemical is sometimes sourced from roosters, so if you have a chicken, egg, or protein allergy, this might not be the best choice for you. Carefully read the labels of the supplements you are considering to be sure it doesn't contain any allergens.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is hyaluronic acid safe?

    In general, yes, but you should avoid taking the supplements if:

    • You have an allergic reaction to chicken feathers, poultry, or eggs. Some forms of hyaluronic acid can come from a rooster's comb.
    • You have a history of cancer. Hyaluronic acid promotes cell growth and could theoretically cause cancer to reappear.
    • You are younger than 18, pregnant, or breastfeeding. The safety of hyaluronic acid supplements hasn't been proven for these groups.
  • What does hyaluronic acid do?

    Hyaluronic acid is a polysaccharide that keeps body tissues hydrated and lubricated. It's a naturally occurring compound that can be found in high amounts within the skin, joints, and eyes. As we age, our hyaluronic acid levels decrease.

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11 Sources
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