Education, Wellness / Self-Care

The hydrating powers of Hyaluronic Acid explained

And 3 of our favorite products.

words by: Adam Hurly
May 13, 2022

Commit this to memory: Hyaluronic acid is the super hydrator. It is one of those universally good skincare ingredients. There is no person who would suffer from adding it to their regimen, and most people who do use hyaluronic acid would also experience visibly noticeable benefits.


If your skin is ever dry—seasonally, momentarily, or perpetually—or if you prioritize firmness and anti-aging, then your regimen practically demands hyaluronic acid.


So, what does this skincare superhero do for your complexion, and what is the easiest ways to get your daily fix? Read on for more insight on hyaluronic acid.


What is hyaluronic acid?

Hyaluronic acid is naturally produced by your own body, existing primarily in the eyes and joints (where it helps keep the eyes lubricated and aids joint cartilage and bone production). Of course, we’re not extracting our own for these skincare products. Instead, it is typically made through a microbial fermentation process, and this form of hyaluronic acid delivers significant benefits to the skin.


What does hyaluronic acid do for skin?

When absorbed into the skin, it has incredible humectant properties. It summons moisture from the environment, attracting up to 1,000 times its own mass in moisture. So for example, a few drops of hyaluronic acid serum, applied uniformly to the face, can pull in moisture from the air to plump and hydrate skin.


So, in the short-term, it boosts moisture (almost instantly, no less), and in the long-term, continued use ensures that the skin stays plump and firm—and perpetually hydrated—the benefits of which keep your complexion clearer, softer, and smoother for much longer.


Gone are rough patches, and the onset of fine lines and wrinkles takes a significant blow. It also helps speed up wound healing, and its antimicrobial properties can neutralize bacteria in those wounds.


As we age, our skin’s resilience wanes as production of collagen, elasticity, and moisture decreases. This is why adding hyaluronic acid to your regimen early can get ahead of the most significant signs of aging, and why it is increasingly imperative to add to one’s regimen over time.


How to add hyaluronic acid to your regimen

Luckily, this is a gentle ingredient and pairs nicely with most other skincare ingredients. So it doesn’t come with any significant warnings, aside from one: Make sure not to apply to dry skin in a significantly dry environment, without proper preparations. In other words, if there is no moisture in the air around you, then the ingredient starts to attract the moisture from even deeper within the skin. In that way, it can dehydrate the skin even worse than before.


It’s easily remedied, though: Apply the ingredient in a steamy bathroom after a shower, where there is lots of moisture in the air. And then, after a couple minutes, seal it off with an occlusive product (a moisturizer or balm) to trap the ingredient inside the layers of the skin.


You can apply the ingredient any time of day. If worn overnight, it can help counter the drying effects of a heated or air conditioned room—assuming you followed the above advice of applying it properly. Secondly, it’s advised to sleep with a humidifier in the room, and not just for the hyaluronic acid’s benefit. (Your hair, throat, and skin will thank you for the added hydration.) We digress: An overnight wear can have you waking with more visibly firm, alert complexion. Daytime wear, on the other hand, provides those immediate plumping, radiating benefits.


The easiest way to get hyaluronic acid around the clock is a serum, applied under your favorite daytime moisturizer or night cream. These serums are likelier to have the proper “micronized” molecules that seep into the skin, as opposed to being too large to penetrate the skin (which kind of renders the ingredient useless, and only risks dehydrating the skin). Secondly, you might see the ingredient listed as “sodium hyaluronate”, which is essentially the same thing in a smaller molecule, and which more easily penetrates the layers of the skin.


Our favorite hyaluronic acid products

Our best advice: Treat it like you’re shopping for a bottle of nice wine, to impress your friends at a dinner party. In other words, don’t buy the cheapest one you see, and don’t worry about buying the most expensive ones either (as wonderful as they may be). There are a lot of terrific mid-range hyaluronic acid products that will effectively hydrate and firm the skin, our favorites are below.


Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum

A gel-like serum that uses sodium hyaluronate (the smaller molecular form of hyaluronic acid), alongside panthenol and ceramides, for firmness and skin-deep moisture.


Buy it now from Drunk Elephant for $48.


Nécessaire The Body Serum

5 different molecular forms of hyaluronic acid are packed into this hydrating powerhouse, and they each seep to different depths of the skin to deliver resounding moisture and smoothness.


Buy it now from Nécessaire for $45.


Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Acid Moisturizer

This gel moisturizer contains a whopping 30% hyaluronic acid complex, which delivers the namesake “water drench” to the face. Together with pentavitin and hydrolyzed silk, it provides ceramide-enriched firmness and moisture for up to 72 hours post-application.


Buy it now from Peter Thomas Roth for $52.


Like we said earlier, all skin types can benefit from hyaluronic acid.


Photos via Brands