Hyaluronic acid is the hero hydrating ingredient all dermatologists love—and this is how it works

Dry skin is one of our biggest beauty foes. It can be caused by the weather, harsh skincare products, excessive UVA/UVB exposure, and unhealthy lifestyle habits, like smoking. Dry skin can make you breakout and look dull, and even cause itchiness. Thankfully though, there are so many skincare products and ingredients that can help you maintain a healthy (and moisturized!)  skin barrier, like hyaluronic acid.

Hyaluronic acid is a popular ingredient you’ve probably noticed pop up in a ton of moisturizing skincare products, like face creams and serums. It’s an ingredient naturally found in our skin, and it’s known for its ability to hold up to 1000x its weight in water, which then helps with moisture retention. Studies show that hyaluronic acid helps fight signs of aging by plumping fine lines, helps small wounds heal faster, and works to give skin a healthy glow. To better understand what hyaluronic is and how it works on our skin, we tapped a top-notch dermatologist and a celebrity-loved facialist to answer our most pressing questions.

What does hyaluronic acid do to your skin?

Basically, it helps replenish the skin of its moisture levels and gives it a boost of hydration. “I refer to hyaluronic acid as a big drink of water for the skin,” says celebrity facialist Candace Marino. “Its lightweight formula is instantly absorbed by the skin to quench parched, dull complexions—your skin literally drinks it up.”

Does hyaluronic acid really work?

Yes! Shari Sperling, D.O., a board-certified dermatologist, says that it takes a few weeks to see real results, which is how long skin takes to start responding to an ingredient due to the life cycle of skin cells.

What is hyaluronic acid made of?

“It can be animal-derived, plant-derived, or synthesized in a lab by fermenting bacteria,” explains Marino. “When it’s animal-derived, it usually comes from the connective tissues and joints of cows. Plant-derived hyaluronic acid comes from wheat or botanical sources.”

Who will best benefit from hyaluronic acid?

All skin types can benefit from it. The hyaluronic acid we naturally produce in our bodies declines with age, so if you start to notice fine lines and wish to tackle them, that could be a good indicator of when to start incorporating it more into a regular skincare routine—especially since it works well with retinol. Marino also calls it a hero ingredient for those with oily or acne-prone skin: “When it comes to breakouts, generally people think to dry out their skin using harsh toners, drying masks and spot treatments, but the problem with this is that when stripped of its hydration and moisture levels, the skin will send a signal to the brain that it’s not protected and from there it will produce even more oil. Not only is hyaluronic acid important to address the hydration content of the skin, but it’s essential for holding on to moisture—it’s like a balancing act for the skin.”

Below, some of our favorite hyaluronic acid skincare products:

Best eye cream with hyaluronic acid: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Eye Cream

Courtesy of Neutrogena

The skin around our eyes is a lot thinner than the rest of our facial skin, which is why it’s so important to pay special attention to it. This eye cream comes in a gel-like formula and absorbs quickly into the skin, which makes it perfect for layering under makeup.

Best facial cream with hyaluronic acid: Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hydrating Moisturizer

Courtesy of Peter Thomas Roth

This refreshing face cream feels like splashing a cool glass of water on your face. It contains 30% concentrated hyaluronic acid, with three different molecular sizes that help target different skin layers for deeper impact and longer-lasting effect. Trust us, your skin will thank you.

Best serum with hyaluronic acid: Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Serum

Courtesy of Drunk Elephant

Give your skin a drink of water with this quench-gripping serum. Its lightweight formula is infused with hyaluronic acid, pro vitamin B5 to help retain moisture, pineapple ceramides to boost radiance, and barberry extract plant which works as an antibacterial ingredient.

Best toner with hyaluronic acid: Dickinson’s Hydrating Toner

Courtesy of Dickinson’s

This alcohol-free toner uses the brand’s iconic witch hazel and combines it with hyaluronic acid and vitamin E. The result is a soothing, moisturizing, and effective toning experience.

Best face mist with hyaluronic acid: Biossance Squalane + Hyaluronic Toning Mist

Courtesy of Biossance

Give your skin a pick-me-up with a few spritzes of this moisture-packed mist. It’s packed with plant-derived squalane (a major skincare hero) and hyaluronic acid, and it works well with all skin types. Keep it at your desk, in your purse, or in your car to have it at hand when your skin needs it the most.

Best face mask with hyaluronic acid: Vichy Aqualia Thermal Thermal Night Spa Cream and Mask

Courtesy of Vichy

If you’re looking to double-up on your moisturizing efforts, try an overnight face mask. This one has a velvety texture and is packed with hyaluronic acid other moisturizing ingredients, like squalane and glycerin. Beauty sleep? Check.

Best body lotion with hyaluronic acid: CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion

Courtesy of CeraVe

Remember to give your body some love, too. This drugstore body lotion combines hyaluronic acid with moisturizing ceramides and has the seal of acceptance from the Eczema Association.

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