Hyaluronic acid sounds a little scary. Like something that might burn your skin if you're not careful, right? But while that’s true of some acids used in skincare (lactic, retinoic) when used to excess, hyaluronic acid feels great, agrees with just about everyone, and is extremely beneficial for the texture and resilience of your skin. It’s a great first step into caring about the specific ingredients that go into a skincare routine, once you’ve got the basics like cleanser and moisturizer down.
People ask me about the ingredient a lot, though I have heard far fewer questions since that late-2018 L’Oreal commercial starring Eva Longoria. Just like the ad says, hyaluronic acid plumps your skin and reduces wrinkles. It does this by preserving skin hydration far better than pretty much anything else. If you commit, you’ll see significant improvements to your skin’s tautness, radiance, and resilience in the long term. (Yes, you should plan on using it indefinitely.)
Here’s the real rundown on how hyaluronic acid works, as well as my favorite products that contain it.
What does hyaluronic acid do for the skin?
Hyaluronic acid, in short, binds to water molecules and is very insistent on maintaining that bond—it can retain over 1,000 times its own weight in water. Your body naturally produces hyaluronic acid, and uses it in the skin, eyes, and joints. In the case of skin, hyaluronic acid helps strengthen and fortify the skin’s hydrolipidic barrier—that’s what keeps moisture locked inside the skin, and keeps bacteria out. (If you’ve ever heard people talk about the skin’s “barrier function”, this is what they are referring to.)
As you age, however, you may notice that your skin is less firm and more dull, it could be due to issues with moisture retention, and a weakening of this skin barrier. Not only do you need to commit to a good moisturizer and maybe even a retinol-anchored anti-aging regimen, but you should also consider a deep-penetrating serum—and one loaded with hyaluronic acid—as a pre-moisturizer step. (You can also find some moisturizers with hyaluronic acid mixed in, too.) But even young people will notice significant improvements to their skin’s brightness by using the ingredient daily.