Hyaluronic acid in skincare: everything you need to know about the “gold standard” ingredient for hydration
July 30th 2019
August 21st 2018 / 0 comment
Popular in Europe and lesser known in the UK, mesotherapy can be used to address everything from dehydration, fine lines, cellulite and hair loss. Here’s your need to know on the subtle non-surgical technique from France
Anything involving a succession of needles to the face/ body/ scalp/ you name it shouldn’t be considered lightly- as the recent news that Superdrug will be launching Botox and dermal filler services in store emphasises. Injectables are medical procedures rather than simple beauty treatments, with potential short term side-effects, long-term health risks and limitations, and the same goes for mesotherapy. Despite the skin injection technique being available in high street salons and other potentially questionable locales, you don’t want any Tom Dick or Harry coming at you with an unlicensed cocktail in their syringe. Mesotherapy should be performed by a licensed aesthetic doctor or nurse at a reputable clinic (check reviews and consult the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners or the Society of Mesotherapy UK). Safety first part over, here’s what mesotherapy can do for skin, hair and scalp, and why it’s more of a subtle slow burner than an instantly transformative treatment (no bad thing).
Mesotherapy was pioneered by French doctor Michel Pistor back in the fifties and so called as it it involves a series of small injections to the ‘mesoderm’- the middle layer of the skin (‘meso’ means middle in Greek). It was originally invented as a means of injecting pain relief locally, but its uses has evolved quite a bit since then, as founder of Woodford Medical Dr Mervyn Patterson explains:
“Mesotherapy solutions can stimulate the fibroblast cell in the skin to produce more collagen to combat the signs of ageing. Amongst the list of skin-friendly ingredients injected are growth factors, peptides, antioxidants and trace elements that provide the ideal environment for healthy skin that copes with the ageing process better.
“It has gradually gained momentum here in the UK with a combination of better understanding of the correct solutions to inject alongside advances in injection technique and devices that have improved the delivery of the ingredients into the skin. Put simply the treatment is introducing into the skin molecules that encourage the skin cells to function at an optimum level.”
The formula injected into the skin makes all the difference as to the results you’ll achieve, but a small amount of plumping, moisturising hyaluronic acid is a common inclusion to replace the skin’s natural stores, and vitamins and amino acids you’ll be familiar with from your skincare labels are also often delivered via mesotherapy. A typical mesotherapy blend might contain 50 ingredients to nourish, repair and rejuvenate skin, delivered via tiny needles or a mesotherapy ‘gun’, which sounds terrifying but is apparently painless during treatment, although a numbing cream may be applied beforehand to minimise discomfort.
Bespoke mesotherapy blends can target skin issues more specifically too- Dr Patterson notes that sunspots are another motivation for mesotherapy:
“Some mesotherapy ‘cocktails’ are formulated with ingredients that help to reduce unwanted pigmentation by controlling the rate of pigment production by the melanocyte in the skin. This can be an effective treatment for certain forms of sunspots and melasma.”
Mesotherapy can also be used to fade acne marks and scars over time, particularly if your skin surface is pitted, as hyaluronic acid with the solution helps to create volume in the skin, while other antioxidants and amino acids have an anti-inflammatory effect that encourages healing.
It’s a fairly novel idea, but it could help to if hair loss is an issue:
“A relatively new area of mesotherapy is the treatment of hair loss where microinjections into the scalp improve hair production from the follicle. By stimulating blood flow and providing essential nutrients, the hair follicle is encouraged to produce stronger, denser hair growth.”
Multiple sessions are required to get to the hair growth stage, however, and it’s normally an ongoing treatment- you’ll generally require follow-up maintenance appointments, so it’s not a cheap and easy fix by any means. That said, the fact that it’s non-invasive and requires no down time is a plus.
Some promote mesotherapy as a fat melting jab, and while it can help to reduce excess fat and tighten loose skin, it’s no magic bullet (and almost every woman on the planet has cellulite- let’s not all inject it away in a quest for perfection). Dr Patterson lays out the theory:
“Fat deposits in cellulite and localised areas such as the chin and jowl can be successfully treated by enzymes that breakdown the fat cell. The fat dissolving enzymes disrupt the wall of the fat cell, releasing the fat and allowing it to be reabsorbed by the lymphatic system and excreted by the body.”
SPF, a vitamin rich skincare routine, a balanced diet, regular exercise and stress reduction techniques remain the backbone of maintaining healthy skin- mesotherapy can make a real difference, but Dr Patterson encourages keeping your expectations in check and playing the long game:
“Mesotherapy is definitely not a one treatment wonder and should always be considered as a course with a subsequent maintenance requirement. From the mid twenties onwards the skin’s collagen levels begin to lower, and this process continues as you age, so any anti-ageing therapy has to be ongoing to be effective. Typical initial mesotherapy courses are weekly for the first month, twice weekly for the second month and then monthly. Maintenance treatments can then be continued every three months months, or more frequently depending on the skin’s response.”
The more understated effects are likely to be far more appealing if you live in fear of a ‘frozen face’ look, and consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Hextall highlights that it’s a more sustainable alternative to having Botox at a young age:
“I frequently have to point out that certain lines represent normal anatomy and to correct them would leave the individual looking odd. Remember we are adept at seeing very small changes in faces, so less is always more.
“If somebody wanted to have a treatment such as mesotherapy in their twenties and early thirties, I would see this as an excellent way to maintain young healthy skin and far more appropriate. Using a protective serum with vitamin C, E and other antioxidants that will protect against UV and pollution can never be started too early, the same goes for broad spectrum sunscreen.”
The mesotherapy ‘glow’ itself could be enough to convince you not to seek out more intensive options- Dr Patterson has seen patients skin look healthier from the get-go, mainly owing to the hydration element of the treatment:
“In some indications the results are evident very quickly. Even after one mesotherapy treatment on the face, there may well be visible improvements. If the mesotherapy solution contains hyaluronic acid, this attracts water and has an almost immediate hydration effect, making the skin look visibly smoother.”
The flexible nature of mesotherapy treatments does mean, however, that ‘add ons’ are increasingly common- the likes of MesoTox combine hyaluronic acid based mesotherapy with small amount of Botox for a more pronounced and long lasting lifting and tightening effect. Dual treatments aren’t the only mesotherapy tweaks to have evolved in the cosmetic skincare arena either…
Mesotherapy techniques have come on since the 50s- don’t be alarmed if you’re faced with a sci-fi gizmo. Dr Patterson details a few of the gadgets you might come across:
“Improved penetration of topical solutions is increased if small punctures are made in the skin, which can be done by using hand held microneedling rollers and automated microneedling devices such as the Collagen PIN. The DermaFrac device goes one step further by combining microneedling under vacuum with simultaneous infusion of topical skincare ingredients which encourages even greater penetration of beneficial ingredients.
“Some operators use a freehand technique where a syringe and needle is rapidly injected over the area, but this has its drawbacks as there will be inevitable variability in depth and quantity injected. The Vital Injector is the latest device in the mesotherapy world and looks like a sci-fi gun. When placed on the skin it sucks the skin up while at the same time inserting the needles. The suction is a key component to the treatment as it holds the skin firmly in place to ensure accurate depth delivery of the skincare solution, but at the same time it distracts the nerve endings, meaning that the needle penetration is made much more comfortable for the patient. The operator also has very precise control over the quantity of solution injected and the depth at which it enters skin, so you can achieve a very reliable distribution of the ingredients to the correct target layer.”
Treatments are relatively quick, but as always, consultations should be approached on a case by case basis. Dr Patterson walks us through what a mesotherapy session involves, suitability and potential side effects:
“Treatment sessions can take anything from 20 to 40 minutes depending on the size of the area being injected. You should allow an additional 30 minutes for the topical numbing cream to work too.
“There are very few contraindications to mesotherapy and it is suitable for all skin types. Typically clients start having treatments from their mid thirties and there is no upper limit.
“Mesotherapy is not licensed for use in children and, as with most treatments is not permitted in pregnancy and when breast feeding. A known allergic response to one of the ingredients would of course also exclude you from having the treatment.
“Side effects are usually very limited and in most cases coverable with mineral makeup. Tiny purple dots will appear at some of the injection sites, but these disappear quickly. Larger bruises can occur but are uncommon. Slight swelling under the eye is not uncommon, particularly if the patient is prone to under eye swelling in the first place.
“There is a little more swelling with the injections into areas under the chin and jowls, so when treating these areas we recommend scheduling treatments on a Friday with a return to work the following Monday. Scalp treatments are usually well tolerated and don’t affect your normal routine.”
Non-injectable mesotherapy may seem like a contradiction in terms, but the rise of low frequency electric devices that improve product penetration have led to the marketing of ‘no needle meso’ treatments. The new Seed to Skin Vitamin Infusion Treatment, £185 for 60 minutes at Liberty London, uses a handheld ‘electroporation’ wand that emits an electronic field to make the skin cell wall more permeable, encouraging active ingredients to reach deeper into the dermis. As with traditional mesotherapy, and any good facial, solutions can be tailored to suit your skin type and needs, with different serums and actives applied to different areas of the face to combat congestion, dehydration and other skin issues. Given that a single mesotherapy treatment can cost around £300 alone (for Mesotox you’re looking at £500 a pop), this “natural” alternative seems more economical on the face of it, but Dr Patterson is doubtful that it’s as effective as the real deal:
“There are several different forms of mesotherapy including devices that do not puncture the skin, so called ‘no needle’ meso. Attractive as ‘no needle’ might seem the problem is that the penetration of the active ingredient will be more limited.”
For the needle-averse, however, going electric could prove a gentler alternative, although current research is thin on the ground. I’m booking in to try the treatment for my ‘back to school’ skin fix so I shall report back…
Make at appointment at Woodford Medical
February 13th 2019