Hyaluronic acid isn’t exactly the easiest ingredient to say, but it is easy on the skin. Sometimes referred to as HA for short, it’s one of the most hydrating compounds you can introduce into your beauty routine for a few reasons. First and foremost, it can hold up to a thousand times its weight in water, acting like a magnet and drawing H20 deep down into the lower layers of skin where moisture retention is the most beneficial.
But what is it really? And why are we only just learning of the amazing benefits of hyaluronic acid? We tapped Gretchen Frieling, M.D., a triple board-certified dermatopathologist, to answer all of our pressing questions. Let’s start with the basics.
So, what does hyaluronic acid do?
“Hyaluronic acid is a type of sugar that naturally occurs in the skin’s connective tissue. Because its main function is to retain water, it helps seal in moisture, which keeps skin hydrated and healthy,” Dr. Frieling explains. “Our natural supply of HA depletes as we age and we need to supplement its production, which explains why the substance is so popular in skincare products.”
Is it safe for everyone?
“One of the great things about hyaluronic acid is that it can improve any type of skin. It works well if you have ultra-sensitive, dry, combination or oily skin,” says Dr. Frieling. “Research has also found that hyaluronic acid helps increase the speed with which our skin heals and repairs itself.”
What are hyaluronic acid’s benefits for skin?
“Patients who have dry skin or who are seeing early signs of aging may find a helpful ally in hyaluronic acid because it helps address fine lines and wrinkles and reduces redness and inflammation,” says Dr. Frieling. “For patients who are acne-prone, hyaluronic acid is often included in their treatment for its noncomedogenic (which means it won’t clog pores)hydrating power as well as its antibacterial properties. It typically cannot clear acne on its own, but it can be part of a comprehensive treatment.”
To sum it up, this simple hydrating component—which is already found within our own bodies—isn’t just a one-trick pony. We’re more than intrigued, so we looked into the three main ways hyaluronic acid benefits different types of skin, below.
1. Hyaluronic Acid for Dry Skin
While hyaluronic acid is found everywhere in the body (between muscle fibers and joints), it’s most heavily concentrated in the skin. When applied topically, it acts as a humectant (or a water magnet), holding as much as six liters of water per one gram of HA, according to a scientific study. In layman’s terms, that’s a hell of a lot of hydration. If your skin is extremely dry, it’s beneficial to use HA in addition to moisturizer, which can help further lock in hydration. But if your skin is on the oily or combination side, using an HA serum alone will offer the same benefits without any potentially blemish-causing greasy residue.
2. Hyaluronic Acid for Acne-Prone Skin
As Dr. Frieling mentioned, HA is extremely beneficial to those with acneic skin, because it helps to replenish the moisture often lost with use of antibacterial products and clarifying acids (like AHAs and BHAs) while still allowing the skin to breathe. HA has also been proved to help speed the healing process of skin wounds, including those from acne lesions and scarring left behind from old blemishes.
3. Hyaluronic Acid for Aging Skin
Now for the main event: anti-aging. While daily application of topical hyaluronic acid will make the skin appear dewier and younger—thanks to its elasticity-boosting benefits—the real results come from injecting it under the skin. Injectables like Juvéderm and Restylane use a gel form of hyaluronic acid, which draws in water to create volume to visibly improve aging concerns like sunken areas, fine lines and under-eye bags—plus it wears off gradually over the course of one year. Topical HA is also a perfect addition to any anti-aging routine, as it plays nice with peels, retinol and vitamins C and E.
Interested? Here are eight of our favorite HA-infused products to shop and reap all the hydrating benefits.
1. Versed Skin Hydration Station Booster with HA
If you’re looking for a versatile product, this hyaluronic acid booster is just the thing. Use it solo or mix it into another serum, moisturizer or even face makeup to hydrate at the skin’s surface and deep down within the lower layers. It has the consistency of water, so it absorbs super quickly sans any sticky feeling.
2. SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator
When you need to really up your moisture levels, reach for this eight-hour hydrating serum. Five different forms of HA will replenish your skin’s hyaluronic acid levels to smooth and soften rough texture, fine lines and wrinkles by drawing moisture from the air to the areas that need it most.
3. Kosasport Lipfuel
It’s winter, so everyone’s lips could use a little TLC. This minty balm features hyaluronic acid anchored in konjac root to help seal in moisture and protect delicate skin from environmental damage. If you feel like ChapStick just makes your lips more chapped, give this one a try and it will literally retrain your lips to absorb hydration.
4. The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
You just can’t beat The Ordinary’s prices, and this $7 skincare staple is proof. Made with three different molecular weights of ultra-pure vegan hyaluronic acid and B5 (which enhances surface hydration), it focuses on moisture at every level, from the surface to deep down into the dermis.
5. SkinCeuticals Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier
We love the cult-favorite SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic as much as the next beauty obsessive, but this HA intensifier comes in at a very close second. It gets its slightly violet color from purple rice, which works together with hyaluronic acid, pro-xylane and licorice root to boost HA levels and help smooth parched skin.
6. CeraVe Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum
This dermatologist-developed product is a must if you have dry, itchy skin. Instead of a serum, it comes in a gel-cream formula that allows for maximum absorption of HA into skin. Coupled with three essential ceramides and vitamin B5, it also helps restore the skin barrier and improve the appearance of dryness and fine lines. You’ll notice instantly smoother, softer skin with just one use. Whoa.
7. Paula’s Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster
While the Versed HA booster has a watery consistency, this one is a thicker gel-like treatment that works beautifully as a makeup primer, sealing in moisture before you apply foundation. It’s meant to be mixed in with your moisturizer of choice to add a little extra anti-aging oomph by helping to fill in fine lines and wrinkles while plumping skin on contact. Its unique formula also actually prevents moisture loss, rather than just remedying it after the fact, thanks to its ability to reinforce the skin’s barrier function.
8. COSRX Hyaluronic Acid Intensive Cream
Prefer your HA as part of your moisturizer? This cream formula fits the bill to a T. It includes copious amounts of hyaluronic acid combined with skin-brightening niacinamide to reveal a plumper, more hydrated and more radiant complexion. Say hello to your new everyday go-to.
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