Raise your hand if you want hydrated, dewy skin. Enter hyaluronic acid (HA): the miracle worker that's in such high demand.
To learn more about this extremely popular ingredient, we asked one of our most trusted skincare 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 aesthetician.
Meet the Expert
Jennifer Hermann is a board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon based in Beverly Hills, California. Dr. Herrmann graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University and earned her medical degree from Harvard University.
Hyaluronic Acid Defined
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.
What Is Hyaluronic Acid?
Hyaluronic acid is known for its skin hydrating benefits. It is also known to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles as well as speed up wound healing.
"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 1,000 [times] its weight in water to give our skin its plump, dewy look."
Incorporating Hyaluronic Acid Into Your Skincare Routine
Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, meaning that it binds water, so it's excellent for hydrating skin. "It's 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," Herrmann says.
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."
Here's Who Should Use It (and 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 says. "For these conditions, combining HA with a heavier cream can offer more benefits."
Find the Hyaluronic Acid Product That's Right for You
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. Oily skin, for example, would do better with serum or gel products, while very dry skin would do better with heavier creams."
Shop Herrmann's recommendations for topical skincare products containing hyaluronic acid, ranging from a $98 splurge-worthy serum to a $15 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," she notes. "In addition to containing hydrating HA, it also has DNA repair enzymes and growth factors that help repair damaged skin, increases collagen synthesis, and enhance skin firmness and smoothness. "
"Neutrogena Hydroboost comes in a light cream as well as a lip balm for continuous hydration," Herrmann says. "It's inexpensive and easy to find at major drug stores. This option is good for acne-prone skin. Its light formulation won't clog pores but will offer hydration and keep shine minimized."