MARCH 31, 2022

Written by Kristen McNary

Everyone has heard of hyaluronic acid and knows that it lends an undeniable glow, but do you know what it is?

Hyaluronic acid belongs to a family of molecules known as glycosaminoglycans or GAGs for short. These are are complex, long-chain polysaccharide compounds  (mucopolysaccharides) with important roles in cell growth, differentiation, morphogenesis, cell migration and bacterial/viral infections. These naturally occurring moisture binding gel-like molecules also provide support for collagen and elastin proteins in the papillary layer of the dermis as a part of your extracellular matrix. 

Along with HA, other molecules in this family include heparan sulfate (HS), chondroitin sulfate (CS), and dermatan sulfate (DS). These GAG chains are composed of alternating units of an amino sugar, either N-acetyl-D-glucosamine (GlcNAc) or N-acetyl-D-galactosamine (GalNAc) and a hexuronic acid (HexA), either glucuronic acid (GlcA) or iduronic acid (IdoA) (1). 

So, what does this all mean?

In our recent TEWL blog we discussed transepidermal water loss and the importance of hydration and moisture in your skin for it’s optimal function and health. One of the mechanisms of your skin that you can thank for wound healing, hydration, and support is this family of glycosaminoglycans. 

Key functions of GAGs:

  • Cell signaling
  • Wound healing
  • Shock absorption
  • Support collagen and elastin proteins
  • Cell growth and differentiation

How can we get these gorgeous GAGs?

While HA has been widely utilized in skincare in various forms and molecular weights, thanks to Senté LabsHeparan Sulfate, Dermatan Sulfate, and Chrondoitin Sulfate are available in skincare as well. 

One of my all time favorite moisturizers is Senté’s Dermal Repair Cream which utilizes HSA. Along with being an excellent skin hydrator, heparan sulfate orchestrates our skin’s immune response to inflammation and enables the repair process of skin cells. With age, the amount of heparan sulfate in your body decreases which leads to chronic skin inflammation (2). This inflammation is responsible for facial redness, and visible signs of aging among other skin concerns.

Senté has successfully designed a low molecular weight version of heparan sulfate, which allows it to be readily absorbed. Their patented Heparan Sulfate Analog (HSA) molecule mimics the effects of heparan sulfate, providing a natural boost to your skin’s immune response to inflammation and promoting repair from within (3).

HSA has been proven to:

  • Reduce visible redness
  • Promote deep hydration
  • Strengthen barrier function
  • Decrease the appearance of uneven skin tone
  • Improve appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Strengthen the skin barrier and improve tolerability when paired with prescription retinoids or retinol products
  • Prevent inflammation induced pigmentation

Clearly these miracle working molecules are necessary in skincare for optimal function, health, and hydration. Wanna know how to get your hands on some?

Book a facial or product consultation here to chat about which product is the best fit for you.

Talk soon!




(1) Yamada S, Sugahara K, Ozbek S. Evolution of glycosaminoglycans: Comparative biochemical study. Commun Integr Biol. 2011;4(2):150-158. doi:10.4161/cib.4.2.14547

(2) Poulsen JH, Cramers MK. Determination of hyaluronic acid, dermatan sulphate, heparan sulphate and chondroitin 4/6 sulphate in human dermis, and a material of reference. Scand J Clin Lab Invest. 1982 Nov;42(7):545-9. PMID: 6218602.


Li JP, Kusche-Gullberg M. Heparan Sulfate: Biosynthesis, Structure, and Function. Int Rev Cell Mol Biol. 2016;325:215-73. doi: 10.1016/bs.ircmb.2016.02.009. Epub 2016 Apr 13. PMID: 27241222.

Lee DH, Oh JH, Chung JH. Glycosaminoglycan and proteoglycan in skin aging. J Dermatol Sci. 2016 Sep;83(3):174-81. doi: 10.1016/j.jdermsci.2016.05.016. Epub 2016 May 27. PMID: 27378089.

Oh JH, Kim YK, Jung JY, Shin JE, Chung JH. Changes in glycosaminoglycans and related proteoglycans in intrinsically aged human skin in vivo. Exp Dermatol. 2011 May;20(5):454-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0625.2011.01258.x. Epub 2011 Mar 23. PMID: 21426414.

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