Raise your hand if you want hydrated, dewy skin. Raises hand. It's probably safe to assume that anyone who sets foot in Sephora is in search of a holy-grail skincare product that delivers exactly these results. Enter: hyaluronic acid. The miracle worker that's in such high demand Sephora can't keep a $7 hyaluronic acid serum in stock.
To learn more about this extremely popular skincare ingredient, we asked one of our most trusted experts, Jennifer Herrmann, MD, FAAD, of Moy, Fincher, Chipps Dermatology, to explain everything we need to know about hyaluronic acid. After reading her recommendations, you'll be ready to stroll down the aisles of Sephora (or Target) with all the confidence of an experienced esthetician.
Ahead, a dermatologist shares the best hyaluronic acid serums for youthful, dewy skin, including an $18 drugstore find that delivers serious results.
What is hyaluronic acid?
Given that acids are extremely potent skincare ingredients, you'll want to know exactly what hyaluronic acid is before adding it to your top shelf. "Hyaluronic acid is a sugar molecule naturally found in the skin," explains Herrmann. "Its native function is to bind, and [it can hold] up to 1000 [times] its weight in water to give our skin its plump, dewy look," she adds.
Why should you incorporate it into your skincare routine?
Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, meaning that it binds water, so it's an excellent skin hydrator, says Herrmann. "It binds water from the environment and keeps skin looking fresher and plumper. It's also exceptionally light (often found as a serum or light cream), so it can be combined with other products or even [reapplied over] makeup to provide hydration multiple times daily." And it's perfect for those who like to see results quickly. She notes that "because HA immediately binds water, the effects of hydration and increased dewy, plump skin are almost instant."
Who should use it? (And who should avoid it?)
As anyone who's ever been disappointed with a skincare purchase can attest, not every product is designed for every skin type and skin concern. But "anyone wishing for increased hydration can use a product with HA," assures Herrmann. "If you have a skin condition like eczema or rosacea, a humectant alone may not provide enough moisture to help repair your damaged skin barrier," she cautions. "For these conditions, combining HA with a heavier cream can offer more benefits."
Which hyaluronic acid product is right for me?
If you're interested in plumper-looking skin, hyaluronic acid is a great alternative to injectable fillers. "HAs are the mainstay ingredient of many injectable fillers," explains Herrmann. "When placed beneath the skin, they can naturally plump skin, re-create definition, and smooth folds and fine lines."
The most important thing to do when shopping for a hyaluronic acid serum is "to look at the product you're using," advises Herrman. "Other ingredients, including the vehicle (cream, ointment, serum, gel) may be more appropriate for certain skin types," she says. "Oily skin, for example, would do better with serum or gel products, while very dry skin would do better with heavier creams," she explains.
Below, shop Herrmann's recommendations for topical skincare products containing hyaluronic acid, ranging from a $98 splurge-worthy serum to an $18 drugstore find that actually delivers serious results.
"In addition to containing hydrating HA, it also includes ingredients to help boost native collagen and internal HA production," Herrmann says of SkinCeuticals H.A. Intensifier. "While most HA creams just provide external hydration, this one helps boost production from the inside out too!"
"This is excellent for under-eye skin to help smooth fine lines and crinkly skin," says Herrmann. "In addition to containing hydrating HA, it also has DNA repair enzymes and growth factors that help repair damaged skin, increase collagen synthesis, and enhance skin firmness and smoothness."
"Neutrogena Hydroboost comes in a light cream as well as lip balm for continuous hydration," says Herrmann. "It's inexpensive and easy to find at major drug stores."
"This option is good for acne-prone skin," Herrmann says of this drugstore find. "Its light formulation won't clog pores but will offer hydration and keep shine minimized."