One ingredient that has become ever more popular in skincare in recent years is hyaluronic acid – and it has developed a loyal fan base of the likes of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Khloe Kardashian, and Scarlett Johansson.
Why? Well, that’s easy. The benefits of hyaluronic acid for the skin are pretty extraordinary. It’s known as the ultimate “plumping” ingredient and helps give your skin a bouncy, youthful, firmer texture.
We’ll go more in-depth into all the other added benefits later in the article, and we’ll also share the absolute BEST hyaluronic acid serums on the market (including our thoughts on the famously cheap—and famously popular—The Ordinary HA serum).
But first, let’s start by addressing the most basic question: how do you use hyaluronic acid?
See below for the full skincare scoop.
HOW TO USE HYALURONIC ACID SERUM
Step 1: Wash your face using your favorite cleanser.
Step 2: Apply a toner or facial mist and DO NOT PAT DRY. If you prefer not to use a toner, spritz your face with some water.
Step 3: Gently apply your HA serum onto your DAMP face (more on this below).
Step 4: Apply your moisturizer to help seal in the moisture, but also to provide moisture for the HA to absorb.
Step 5: Follow with your preferred eye cream.
Step 6: Apply a sunscreen and allow to dry.
Step 7: You’re ready to start applying your makeup!
The most important thing to remember in this process is that hyaluronic acid should be applied to damp skin, not dry.
If not, it could actually have the reverse effect. Remember that HA is a magnet for moisture and if your skin is dry, it will grasp any moisture it can find from the deeper layers of the skin to hydrate the surface.
If HA comes into contact with water first, this will not happen.
Instead you’ll be left with skin that is hydrated, smoothed and plumped!
When to Use Hyaluronic Acid:
- It can be used both in the morning (to give additional moisture throughout the day) and in the evening (to replenish the moisture lost during the day).
Who Is It Best For?
- It is suitable for all skin types, not just for dry skin!
Can You Use an HA Serum with Other Serums?
- Hyaluronic acid gets along fine with most other ingredients and can be layered with other serums, creams, peels or acids but…
- …do not use HA with acids that have low pH levels like glycolic acid (for those AHA users). This may make the HA ineffective.
- As always, stick to the golden rule: whatever the skincare, it should be applied from ‘thinnest’ to ‘thickest’ consistency.
Note: as with any other new skin care product, always be sure to try a small patch test before putting it all over your face, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Can You Use Hyaluronic Acid When Pregnant?
- Yes, it is generally safe to use throughout pregnancy. Double check with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
How To Use Hyaluronic Acid and Vitamin C Serum
One of the most common questions we get is whether you can use hyaluronic acid and Vitamin C serum together. The answer is yes, they can be used together!
In fact, incorporating both into your skin care routine will yield better anti-aging results than if using just the one.
Vitamin C serums can sometimes have a slightly drying effect, whilst the HA will help to restore that moisture. You may even find some products that include BOTH, combined in one single product.
But would I use them in one product? No. Because if you are investing in your skincare, you’re going to want to make sure you get the maximum benefits from the products you’ve just spent your hard-earned money on.
The ideal pH levels of vitamin C and hyaluronic acid do not overlap and this can lead to one (or both) ingredients being less effective. Two separate serums is the way to go!
When applying both serums, be sure to apply a few drops of Vitamin C serum first (as it is the thinner of the 2) and follow with the HA serum. Allow one or two minutes in between.
Follow on with your moisturizer, eye cream and sunscreen.
How To Use Hyaluronic Acid and Retinol
Most dermatologists will tell you that Vitamin C, HA and retinol are the trifecta-extraordinaire for anti-aging and for achieving fresh, glowing and youthful skin. So if you’re wondering whether you can use retinol and hyaluronic acid together, the answer is yes – absolutely!
While your morning routine should be all about your vitamin C and hyaluronic acid, your nighttime routine is for retinol and hyaluronic acid. (Also: don’t forget that you should be exfoliating 2-3x week. Read our Ultimate Guide to Exfoliation for more info!)
In the same format as you applied the Vitamin C, apply your retinol product in the evening instead. If possible, wait for 10 minutes before applying HA.
Remember that retinol can be extremely drying, so using HA afterwards is the perfect complement. After waiting 10 minutes for the retinol to be absorbed, spritz your face lightly with a facial mist or water and apply your HA.
HYALURONIC ACID BENEFITS
It’s those powerful water retention properties mentioned earlier that make hyaluronic very hydrating for the skin, and when used in serums and creams, HA brings moisture to the surface of the skin.
It is so powerful in fact, that HA is able to hold 1,000 times its weight in water and you likely don’t need to use it in more than one product in your routine.
An easy comparison is to imagine your skin as a Beauty Blender sponge – the more moisture held in the sponge, the plumper, fuller and smoother it becomes. This is the effect of HA – or more technically, it is what is known as a humectant.
Less visible fine lines and wrinkles:
A result of the retention of water to the skin is that fine lines and wrinkles become less visible. Interestingly, there is also evidence that HA works as an anti-aging treatment if taken orally.
Increased firmness, elasticity and resilience:
Aside from improving firmness and elasticity, our skin’s resilience is also improved through the use of HA. Our skin protects the inside of our body from harmful external factors such as UV rays and pollution, amongst others. Our epidermis drew the short straw and is the first layer to have to combat these issues. HA fortifies the skin’s natural barricades to lock in moisture, therefore improving resilience.
Combine HA with a facial roller for an extra smoothing effect.
Fun fact: HA isn’t only beneficial for your skin. There are also a number of benefits that come with using hyaluronic acid for hair. HA is available in hair products and works wonders for both your scalp and in achieving thicker and longer hair. It can also help fight frizz.
Despite claims from some brands, there are certain things that topical HA cannot do:
- Treat acne: no scientific evidence is available for this
- Heal scars or provide filler-like results: this may be true of injectable dermal fillers, but there is no scientific evidence to date that topical HA works as a scar treatment or as a non-invasive filler
- Protect from the sun: there is only minimal scientific evidence to suggest it offers sun protection benefits
- Prevent Aging: it will improve wrinkles, but like with every other skin care product, nothing will stop the natural aging process!
Would it surprise you to learn that HA, that it was actually discovered in the same decade that facial serums were first sold? Despite that, it’s only in the last decade that hyaluronic acid was introduced to the cosmetics and skin care world!
What is Hyaluronic Acid?
Now that you’re well-versed in how to use hyaluronic acid, you should probably understand what it is, exactly.
Quite simply, hyaluronic acid (or HA) is a type of sugar our bodies produce. 50% of that hyaluronic acid can be found in our skin, and the remainder can be found in tissues such as the joints, eyes and cartilage. Its most lovable quality is that it has incredible water retention properties.
HA helps to attract moisture to these tissues which enhances volume and helps to keep the skin nicely hydrated and plump – this is its main function. It binds with collagen and elastin fibers, giving the skin its structure, and in addition, aids with wound healing, inflammation and repair.
The HA within our bodies is naturally and continually renewed, but alas, it is not immune to age. Just like all the good stuff that keeps us looking radiant and fresh-faced in our younger years, this HA renewal process gradually decreases with age and external aggressions. Luckily for us though, you can now give it a helping hand through your skin care regime.
This didn’t happen overnight though. At first, synthetic hyaluronic acid molecules were found to be too large to be absorbed into the skin topically. In fact, it was initially introduced to the beauty world in the form of a dermal filler and quickly replaced collagen.
HA lasts longer, looks more refined and is less likely to cause reactions than collagen fillers. The body will gradually absorb it within three to 12 months and it can be dissolved through the use of the enzyme hyaluronidase.
Fortunately, we no longer need to look to injectables if we want to reap the benefits of HA. Chemists have now discovered a way to decrease the size of the HA molecules so that they can penetrate the epidermis.
The result? A substance with a lower molecular weight called Sodium Hyaluronate – and you’ll see this listed in the ingredients on any hyaluronic acid products you buy today.
Are There Any Side Effects to Using HA?
WebMD confirms HA is likely safe when used appropriately, although avoid use if pregnant or nursing. As mentioned previously though, ALWAYS try a patch test first. It may produce adverse side effects or allergic reactions in some and none of us want that.
Side effects of swelling, bruising, redness or itching are more likely to occur if using injectables and these are probably the results of the injection itself rather than the HA.
6 Best Hyaluronic Acid Serums
It’s a little hard to believe, but the first facial serums were introduced to the market in the 1930s. It’s no surprise then, that in the 90+ years that followed, more and more ingredients have been introduced to skincare products and marketed to anyone wanting to look and feel their best.
This is all wonderful for the modern-day woman, but admittedly, it can sometimes feel incredibly overwhelming. With so many different options available to us, you may be wondering ‘what do I actually need for my skin?!’
Well, we did the research so you don’t have to! Here are five of the absolute best HA serums on the market.
- Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Serum (check out our full review of the best and worst Drunk Elephant products)
Do you use an HA serum as part of your routine? Share your experience in the comments!
Sarah Barthet is a travel, luxury and lifestyle blogger who gave up the world of high finance to follow her passions. She hopes to share her love of luxury travel, fashion, beauty and the odd piece of career advice to fellow successful women who like to enjoy the finer things in life, over on her blog Dukes Avenue.
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KaveeFebruary 13, 2021 at 6:01 pm
I use Plum toner sometimes… It’s drying and has glycolic acid. After dried up… I put vitamin c serum which is also drying…. But then there is no moisture left to put HA serum… Should I spritz my face with water after applying vitamin c serum to have damp skin for HA serum application… It’s confusing.. Please let me know
AnaJanuary 27, 2022 at 10:39 pm
I also have that question!
Do I have to spritz the face after Vitamin C and before HA?
Lindsay SilbermanJanuary 29, 2022 at 9:45 pm
Yes! I would wait until the Vitamin C is dried down, then spritz, then HA!
LauraApril 26, 2021 at 5:36 am
I love the skinceuticals C and HA for day paired with retinol at night. Will have to add HA pm. Before I had really bad retinization. Took a break from it. Used HA and C then started up with a different retinol and my skin looks and feels so much better. Retinol alone aged me 5 years and the combo gave me a much more youthful appearance (38 yo).