What Is Hyaluronic Acid? Here's What the Experts Say About Its Skin Care Benefits

Plus, discover the best products to feature in your day-to-day beauty routine.

woman applying face serum from dropper
Photo: Youngoldman / Getty Images

Our beauty products usually vary based on our skin care needs. As for one buzzy essential that's taking over the industry? Hyaluronic acid. According to Dr. Lara Devgan MD, MPH, FACS, a board-certified New York City plastic surgeon and the founder and CEO of Dr. Devgan Scientific Beauty, the must-have ingredient is gaining traction for a few reasons: "Firstly, hyaluronic acid does not have any known reactions to other skin care ingredients, so it is very easy to incorporate into an already existing routine," she says. "Secondly, it functions as a lightweight hydrator and can benefit most skin types, making it a core skin care product and a must in a minimalist routine."

Ahead, find out even more about hyaluronic acid and how to incorporate it into your everyday skin care regimen.

Hyaluronic acid is actually a molecule in our skin.

According to Dr. Devgan, hyaluronic acid hydrates skin. Another benefit? It moisturizes, too. Dr. Tiffany Libby, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and MOHS surgeon, explains that hyaluronic acid is actually a naturally occurring sugar molecule in our skin that attracts and binds water to retain moisture and hydration. "It is a humectant, also known as a moisture binder, and has the ability to hold 1000 times its weight in water," she says.

It's also found in topical form.

While it's a major component of our bodies' collagen production, you can also find hyaluronic acid in topical form to coat your skin—specifically in the form of serums. Dr. Devgan notes that its lightweight consistency in this type of product penetrates the dermis (the thick inner layer of your skin) with each use. Thanks to serums (and even moisturizers and hair care products), you can easily reapply hyaluronic acid-based essentials and layer them with your other beauty must-haves. "Because it is naturally occurring in the body, hyaluronic acid is a key ingredient used in injectable fillers," Dr. Devgan notes. Dr. Libby adds that this essentially volumizes skin through hydration.

Pick the right product for your skin.

"Hyaluronic acid is best known for helping dry skin, but every type of skin can benefit from it," Dr. Devgan says. "Oftentimes, 'oily' skin is actually just dry or dehydrated skin that is overcompensating for its lack of moisture by overproducing sebum. This makes it so essential to add some sort of moisturizer into your routine." She explains that moisturizing and hydrating with hyaluronic serum is a worthy replacement for heavy creams people with oily skin might regularly use.

But do still keep an eye on what type of hyaluronic acid products you're buying. "Higher percentages of sodium hyaluronate (salt form of hyaluronic acid present in many HA products) can actually have the opposite effect on your skin by drawing moisture away from the skin and drying it out," Dr. Libby explains. "Look for a product that contains different molecular weights of hyaluronic acid, as low- and medium-weight molecules will penetrate deeper, whereas high-weight molecules will deliver more surface-level hydration for instant smoothing appearance."

Apply it before you use a moisturizer.

Both experts explain that you should apply hyaluronic serum after any treatments, like cleansing your face, and then right before applying a moisturizer to your skin. When you decide to apply the serum is really up to your personal preference. You can apply it either when you wake up or before bed, but it can help soothe drier skin more if it's applied during a nighttime routine, Dr. Devgan says, also suggesting her own Serum Superheroes Collection ($690, drlaradevgan.com) for an edited approach to your skin care regimen.

Editor's Picks

For even more options to choose from, we've gathered a selection of top hyaluronic acid-based products to meet your skin care needs.

Dr. Lara Devgan Scientific Beauty Hyaluronic Serum
Courtesy of Sephora

Dr. Lara Devgan Scientific Beauty Hyaluronic Serum

Dr. Devgan points to her own hyaluronic serum for a lightweight option that also firms skin and supports its natural elasticity. Plus, it's perfect for all skin types: normal, dry, combination, and oily.

Shop Now: Dr. Lara Devgan Scientific Beauty Hyaluronic Serum, $245, sephora.com.

CETAPHIL Deep Hydration 48 Hour Activation Serum
Courtesy of Amazon

Cetaphil Deep Hydration 48-Hour Activation Serum

Looking for another lightweight option that's also fast absorbing? Try this pick, courtesy of Dr. Libby. "The hyaluronic acid instantly smooths and hydrates my skin, perfectly priming it for the next skin care step," she explains.

Shop Now: Cetaphil Deep Hydration 48-Hour Activation Serum, $16, amazon.com.

Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Serum
Courtesy of Sephora

Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Serum

If dryness is your biggest skin concern, consider this serum. It has a blend between low- and high-weight molecules, so your skin will feel as supple as ever and highly replenished with moisture and hydration.

Shop Now: Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Serum, $300, sephora.com.

CETAPHIL Rich Hydrating Cream for Face With Hyaluronic
Courtesy of Amazon

Cetaphil Rich Hydrating Cream

"At night, I love using the Cetaphil Rich Hydrating Cream—it soothes and keeps my skin moisturized overnight and is hypoallergenic and fragrance-free," Dr. Libby notes.

Shop Now: Cetaphil Rich Hydrating Cream, $14.86, amazon.com.

Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum
Courtesy of Sephora

Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum

This product is described as a "cool drink of water for thirsty skin." Shop this essential to give your face a hydrating glow and even your skin's texture and tone.

Shop Now: Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum, $48, sephora.com.

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