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Hyaluronic acid is renowned for its ability to hydrate the skin. But if you don’t use it properly, you could end up with even drier skin than before.

Here’s everything you need to know about adding hyaluronic acid to your daily skin care routine.

Whether it’s a proven skin care regimen, how often you wash your hair, or the cosmetics you care about, beauty is personal.

That’s why we rely on a diverse group of writers, educators, and other experts to share their advice on everything from how product application varies to the best sheet mask for your individual needs.

We only recommend something we really like, so if you see a store link to a specific product or brand, please know that it has been thoroughly researched by our team.

Hyaluronic acid is a large molecule produced naturally by your body.

“Almost half of the body’s hyaluronic acid is found in the skin,” says a certified dermatologist. Fayne Frey, MD.

But it can also be found in bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and lips.

It can “contain 1000 times its weight in water”, explains cosmetic chemist Vanessa thomas, adding that it binds to water molecules to retain moisture in the skin and joints.

As humans age, their natural levels of hyaluronic acid begin to deplete. So people are turning to skin care products that contain acid for an extra boost.

“Hyaluronic acid acts as a cushion for our joints, nerves and skin,” says Thomas.

But it is best known for its benefits on the skin.

“In skin care products, hyaluronic acid is used as a humectant – a substance that helps the skin retain water,” says Frey.

Frey adds that it “helps hydrate the outer layers of the skin, thereby improving the appearance of the skin.” Hydrated skin is touted as more radiant and younger looking.

But hyaluronic acid cannot turn back the clock permanently. Frey says claims that it is “the key to the fountain of youth” are “hype.”

“Science has yet to find a single ingredient, molecule or product that can reverse or slow down the aging process,” says Frey.

In addition to improving the look and feel of the skin, hyaluronic acid has a number of other uses.

It helps in the healing and repairing process of the skin and can act as an antioxidant to protect the skin from harmful molecules called free radicals.

The word “acid” may scare some people off, but there is no need to worry about this skin care ingredient.

Since hyaluronic acid is a normal part of the skin, Frey says it’s very rare to have an allergic reaction.

If you experience side effects, these may be the result of other ingredients in the products you use or how often you apply them. Or it could be the result of using too high a concentration of hyaluronic acid.

It is recommended to avoid anything over 2% to avoid irritation or dryness.

And you should test any new product before smearing it all over your face.

If you get any side effects, contact a dermatologist or other healthcare professional for advice.

Hyaluronic acid is suitable for all skin types, even sensitive or rash-prone skin.

It is also safe to apply the acid to your skin if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Dermatologists can provide personalized advice and product recommendations for your skin type or problem.

Look around the current skin care scene, and you’ll find hyaluronic acid in everything from serums and moisturizers to oral and injectable supplements.

But not all products contain the same amount of hyaluronic acid, nor do they produce the same effects.

Some present acid – or its sodium salt, sodium hyaluronate – as the star ingredient. They contain a higher acid concentration because their main purpose is to provide hydrating or anti-aging benefits.

Others contain a smaller amount that acts as a humectant to help with another goal, whether it’s fighting acne breakouts or evening skin tone.

You may also notice various molecular weights on the labels of serums and creams.

“Hyaluronic acid is available in different sizes,” says certified dermatologist Rina allawh, MD, who practices in Philadelphia.

“Each molecule is assigned a molecular weight, which is inversely related to the depth to which the molecule can penetrate the skin,” explains Allawh. The lower the molecular weight, the deeper the molecules can go.

“High molecular weight hyaluronic acid is more likely to create a film on the surface of the skin rather than penetrating deeper into the skin,” Allawh adds.

It is therefore less likely to have a lasting effect compared to a lower molecular weight acid. And, as Thomas points out, “substances with larger molecules often have a hard time showing results.”

A small scale study, published in 2011, confirms this.

After testing multiple weights of hyaluronic acid, the researchers found that the low molecular weight formulations were “associated with a significant reduction in wrinkle depth, which may be due to better penetrating abilities.”

But Frey notes that the methods to prove the deep penetration of hyaluronic acid don’t exist to support the claims of skin care manufacturers that their formula contains low molecular weight acid.

Instead, hyaluronic acid is often injected into the skin to improve deeper signs of aging.

These fillers produce more effective anti-aging results than topical products, but they do come with possible side effects, like bruising and swelling.

When looking for a good hyaluronic acid product, there are a few things to remember.

First, says Thomas, that hyaluronic acid is best used in any product that aims to hydrate.

Keep in mind that it may be listed as sodium hyaluronate – a version that tends to be cheaper but has a smaller molecule size.

Second, you should avoid anything that has harsh ingredients like alcohol and perfume or anything that has a high concentration of acid.

“The majority of over-the-counter (OTC) cosmetic creams, lotions and serums are water-based and contain less than 2% hyaluronic acid,” says Frey.

“Moisturizers with too high humectant levels can actually lead to increased water loss from the skin,” says Frey. “Here’s a perfect example where ‘more isn’t always better. “”

And third, any decent moisturizer should be able to keep water from leaving the skin and evaporating into the air. As Frey says, “the most effective moisturizers also contain ingredients called occlusive” that do just that.

Butters like shea and cocoa, oils like avocado and beeswax are all examples of occlusive ingredients.

Also look for complementary ingredients in your hyaluronic acid products.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can help fight dryness and protect the skin from environmental damage.

Vitamin B5, on the other hand, is used to further soften and smooth the skin.

While most hyaluronic acid products are suitable for all skin types, some are formulated with specific concerns in mind.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Serum is a good option for oily or acne prone skin.

Allawh recommends it, claiming that it “boosts skin hydration, improves elasticity and cohesion of the skin barrier”. Above all, it does not leave “an unwanted greasy or oily residue”.

If your skin is particularly dry, look for Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5. According to the brand, it contains low, medium and high molecular weight hyaluronic acid as well as vitamin B5 for intense hydration.

And people with combination skin should try Cetaphil Daily Hydration Lotion with Hyaluronic Acid. A lightweight formula, this moisturizer will work to relieve dry areas without adding extra oil to the skin.

SkinCeuticals Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier is a popular serum that aims to improve the texture of the skin, while Ordinary lactic acid 5% + HA gently exfoliate the skin to help reduce hyperpigmentation.

There are also many products that work to reduce the appearance of fine lines.

To try L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum Where Paula’s Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster for firmer, plumped skin.

Well, it depends on what kind of product you are using.

Moisturizers and serums are two of the most common forms of hyaluronic acid. Use a moisturizer infused with hyaluronic acid when you usually hydrate.

Ideally, this would be twice a day and always after cleansing, exfoliating, or applying serums. But if you use a hyaluronic acid serum, your routine will be a little different.

After cleansing and while your skin is still damp, apply a few drops to your face with the palms of your hands. Remember to apply a moisturizer immediately afterwards to seal in all that hydration.

Fortunately, hyaluronic acid works well with just about all skin care products, including retinol, vitamin C, alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), and beta hydroxy acids (BHA).

So you don’t have to worry about reworking the rest of your routine.

It is always best to follow specific product directions and start slowly.

As a general rule, however, hyaluronic acid can be used safely in the morning and evening.

All products are formulated differently, so lead times may vary.

Since topical hyaluronic acid products tend to produce temporary effects, you should be able to notice plumper, more hydrated skin within minutes.

But if you’re looking to reduce the appearance of fine lines and other signs of aging, you may have to wait a few months to see a difference.

To keep your skin looking its best, you need to hydrate it. And hyaluronic acid is one of the easiest ways to do it.

Easy to use, low risk of side effects, and available in a range of product formats – it truly is a skin care ingredient that is suitable for everyone.


Lauren Sharkey is a UK-based journalist and author specializing in women’s issues. When she’s not trying to figure out a way to banish migraines, she can be found discovering the answers to your health questions that lurk in your face. She has also written a book featuring young activists around the world and is building a community of these resistance fighters. Catch her Twitter.



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