Why hyaluronic acid is the skin care staple you need (2024)

If you suffer from chronically dry skin, odds are you’re intimately familiar with hyaluronic acid. The popular substance absorbs moisture and draws it into the skin in order to hydrate it, experts told us. Though it’s especially useful for dry skin, it’s “a great hydrator for pretty much all skin types,” says Dr. Mary Stevenson, assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Health. “We don’t have a lot of products like that,” she adds.

SKIP AHEAD What is hyaluronic acid? | How we picked the best hyaluronic acid products | The best hyaluronic acid products in 2024 | How to shop for hyaluronic acid products

We spoke to dermatologists about what to look for and how to use it. We also got their specific recommendations for the best creams and serums to buy. Based on their advice, we rounded up top-rated products.

Selected.Our top picks

What is hyaluronic acid?

Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring chemical your body produces that cushions and moisturizes the skin — it’s found in our skin, eyes, joints and connective tissue, Stevenson said. It acts as a humectant, which means that it “draws in water like a sponge [and] can really help in hydrating our skin,” she said.

Despite its name, hyaluronic acid should work for virtually all skin types since it isn’t actually an acid. “It’s not like salicylic acid or some of the other acids that can be more exfoliating or abrasive on our skin,” says Stevenson.

How we picked the best hyaluronic acid products

Hyaluronic acid is generally well-tolerated by most skin types and choosing one comes down to personal preference, according to our experts. They recommended looking at the following factors to determine the best products:

  • Consistency: You’ll typically find hyaluronic acid in lightweight serums, but you’ll also see it in face creams, gels and lotions.
  • Hydrating ingredients: Hyaluronic acid works well with other moisturizing ingredients like ceramides, vitamin E and aloe that offset any dryness or irritation that can come from using harsher ingredients like retinol.
  • Molecular weights: Hyaluronic acid is usually present in products at different molecular weights, which affects how it penetrates the skin. Experts told us to look for a combination of low and medium molecular weights to help it penetrate both the skin's surface and lower levels.
  • Uses: You can use it morning and night and/or alongside retinol as needed, according to our experts.

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The best hyaluronic acid products in 2024

Below, we rounded up highly rated, dermatologist-recommended products and a few highly rated NBC Select staff picks and options from notable brands.

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Hydrating Serum

For a lightweight hyaluronic acid serum, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Barry Goldman likes this serum from The Ordinary. According to the brand, it’s fragrance-free, alcohol-free and oil-free, which is beneficial for those with sensitive skin. It also has hyaluronic acid with different molecular weights, which allows the formula to hydrate more skin layers, according to The Ordinary.

Selfmade Corrective Experience Comfort Cream

This fragrance-free moisturizer is an NBC Select Wellness Awards winner and a favorite among NBC Select staff. It’s formulated with niacinamide and works as an occlusive to lock in moisture, according to the brand. NBC Select associate updates editor Zoe Malin says the moisturizer’s gel-like consistency is very lightweight on skin, and NBC Select updates editor Mili Godio appreciates how long-lasting the hydration feels after applying.

Skinceuticals Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier

NBC Select editorial director Lauren Swanson has used this serum for years. "I became obsessed with Skinceuticals back during my beauty editor days," says Swanson. "This serum is great on its own or in additional to other hydrators." She still uses it and says it helped keep her skin moisturized while on Accutane.

Dermalogica Skin Hydrating Booster

This serum was recommended to Ashley Morris, NBC Select associate SEO reporter, by her esthetician. She says it’s especially effective during winter when her skin feels drier than normal. In addition to hyaluronic acid, this Dermalogica booster also contains ingredients that reduce the appearance of dehydration lines like panthenol, glycolipids and algae extract, according to the brand. Dermalogica recommends using the serum before moisturizer or adding a few drops into your moisturizer and applying them together.

Vichy Mineral 89 Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum

Goldman recommends this Vichy serum because it also contains mineral water to help hydrate the skin. This oil- and fragrance-free serum is non-comedogenic and offers a non-greasy and non-sticky formula that you can wear comfortably on its own or underneath your favorite moisturizer, according to the brand. It has the National Eczema Association seal of approval too, so it’s suitable for sensitive skin.

Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Mask Hydrating Gel

NBC Select editorial projects manager Rebecca Rodriguez uses this gel mask twice a day and says it works wonders on her skin. According to the brand, it contains a hyaluronic acid complex and Pentavitin (a plant extract) to moisturize, plus vitamin E and aloe to revitalize dry skin. Rodriguez recommends storing the gel in the fridge “for an added cooling effect.”

(If you prefer a serum, Peter Thomas Roth makes one.)

Cosrx Hyaluronic Acid Hydra Power Essence

Cosrx’s Snail Mucin line is arguably its most popular, but if Morris could only use one hydrating product from the brand, it would be this essence, which she’s been using for years. It’s made from a highly-concentrated natural hyaluronic acid, according to the brand, and is hydrating enough to work in both summer and winter. Morris likes massaging it into her skin twice daily — it has a lightweight feel that absorbs quickly, and it blends well with her other products.

Tatcha The Dewy Skin Cream

This Tatcha cream “couples antioxidant ingredients with deep moisture in an elegant, non-greasy formula” says Dr. Annie Chiu, a board-certified cosmetic and general dermatologist. The non-comedogenic product uses a mixture of Okinawa algae blend and hyaluronic acid to capture water and hydrate the skin, according to the brand.

Glossier Super Bounce

This popular serum from Glossier contains three molecular weights of hyaluronic acid and is formulated with pro-vitamin B5 for added hydration, according to the brand. It also has a non-sticky formula to wear underneath makeup, according to Glossier.

CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion

This daily moisturizer is formulated with broad-spectrum SPF to protect skin from sun damage, says CeraVe. The non-comedogenic product also contains ceramides to help restore the skin’s barrier, and niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3 that can calm irritated skin, according to the brand. It’s also a bestseller, and has a 4.5-star average rating from 83,284 reviews on Amazon.

Glow Recipe Plum Plump Hyaluronic Serum

Korean skin care brand Glow Recipe, which makes one of our favorite blackhead treatments, also makes a highly rated hyaluronic acid serum. It uses five molecular weights of hyaluronic acid to hydrate each layer of the skin. Plus, it’s formulated with three different antioxidant-rich plums that hydrate and rejuvenate the skin, according to Glow Recipe, and has a 4.6-star average rating from 1,177 reviews on Amazon.

Bubble Water Slide Hydration Boosting Serum

NBC Select SEO editor Nikki Brown recommends this hydrating serum for people who want a short yet effective skin care routine. “What I love most about this serum is that it absorbs crazy fast — I just hate making the process longer than it needs to be,“ she says. Lately, she’s been using this serum to combat the dryness of New York winters and although she hasn’t been using it for very long, she says she “can already tell it’s helping to boost the effectiveness of [her] moisturizer because [my] skin feels normal again, and it looks moisturized too.”

La Roche-Posay Hyaluronic Acid Serum

Several dermatologists have previously recommended La Roche-Posay as a great drugstore skin care brand. This serum contains glycerin and vitamin B5 for added moisture in addition to hyaluronic acid, according to the brand. It’s also highly rated, with a 4.6-star average rating from 22,887 reviews on Amazon.

Ilia The Base Face Milk

Ilia’s vegan face moisturizer is designed to be lightweight and calming, according to the brand. Formulated with lipids, fatty acids and antioxidant extracts, it also addresses uneven texture and redness, according to Ilia, and can be used both day and night. It also has a 4.7-star rating from 303 reviews on Ilia.

Dewytree Hyaluronic Acid Sheet Mask

NBC Page Hannah Fuechtman loves sheet masks, and recommends this option as a quick and easy hydration treatment. It’s formulated with amino acids, and is designed to be both moisturizing and calming, making it safe for irritated or sensitive skin, according to the brand.

For best results, Dewytree recommends removing the mask with tweezers (to avoid getting any bacteria on the mask and/or your face), and applying it for 10-20 minutes for maximum absorption.

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How to shop for hyaluronic acid products

Hyaluronic acid is most often found as a serum or a cream. While water-based serums typically have a higher concentration of the active ingredient and are therefore a better option, creams can be great for those who don’t have time to wait for their skin to absorb a serum, according to our experts.

“I think you get the best bang for your buck with a serum just because you’re getting the most concentrated hyaluronic acid with water and it’s going straight into your skin,” Stevenson says. “[But] sometimes you need a one and done deal [and] for those patients, I think a cream is just fine.”

Serums will often advertise what percentage of hyaluronic acid is in the product. According to Stevenson, anywhere from 1% to 2% is a “really reasonable concentration.” Some products are formulated with hyaluronic acids at different molecular weights — that’s because “different weights penetrate differently, so you want a combination,” according to Stevenson.

“In general, low and medium [molecular weights] penetrate deeper into the lower levels of skin while high molecular weights hydrate the top or surface of the skin,” she says.

Frequently Asked Questions

Hyaluronic acid is good for anyone who wants to plump and hydrate the skin, according to experts. It’s also great when used in conjunction with more drying ingredients like retinol . “Hyaluronic acid creams work well with retinol and vitamin C products to decrease the irritation that sometimes occurs,” explains Goldman. “Hyaluronic acid matched with a retinol is a match made in heaven.”

Though hyaluronic acid gives the skin a healthier and more hydrated appearance, Stevenson says that it isn’t a “permanent fix” for wrinkles and fine lines. “Hyaluronic acid can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles because it’s basically plumping up the cell,” she says. “It will just kind of add moisture back immediately because it’s holding on to these water molecules around your skin cells. It’s basically like blowing up a float toy.”

Stevenson suggests using hyaluronic acid first, followed by an emollient moisturizer (like First Aid Beauty’s Ultra Repair Cream , which has ingredients that bring moisture to the skin) or an occlusive moisturizer like Vaseline , which creates a physical barrier to lock hydration in. If you decide to use hyaluronic acid in conjunction with a product like retinol, Stevenson says you should sandwich the retinol in between the hyaluronic acid and a moisturizer to limit the amount of irritation.

Plus, there’s no limitation to how many times you can use hyaluronic acid in a day since it acts as a great hydrator, Stevenson tells us. Stevenson warns that some people may experience a reaction if using hyaluronic acid products in conjunction with harsh ingredients like essential oils or fragrances. “People with eczema, rosacea or extremely sensitive skin might want to apply a product either behind the ear or on their inner wrist for a few days in a row before putting it all over their face,” she says.

Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Dr. Barry Goldman is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Goldman Dermatology in New York City. He is also a clinical instructor at Cornell NY Presbyterian Hospital.
  • Dr. Mary Stevenson is a board-certified dermatologist and associate professor at NYU Langone Health’s Department of Dermatology. She is a dermatological surgeon who specializes in Mohs surgery, as well as laser and cosmetic procedures.
  • Dr. Annie Chiu is a board-certified cosmetic and general dermatologist. She is the founder of The Derm Institute in North Redondo Beach, California, and currently serves on the Dermatology staff at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Why trust NBC Select?

Morgan Greenwald is a former editor for NBC Select. Ashley Morris is an associate SEO reporter for NBC Select, covering skin care, wellness, home and kitchen and more. For this story, they spoke to board-certified dermatologists about the best hyaluronic acid products, including product recommendations and advice on how to shop for your own.

Catch up on NBC Select’s in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to stay up to date.

Morgan Greenwald

Morgan Greenwald is a senior editor for Select on NBC News.

Mili Godio

and

Ashley Morris

contributed

.

Why hyaluronic acid is the skin care staple you need (2024)

FAQs

Why hyaluronic acid is the skin care staple you need? ›

Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, which means it attracts and holds onto water molecules. When applied to the skin, it can help lock in moisture and keep your skin hydrated and plump. Plumping: By attracting water to the skin, hyaluronic acid can also help plump up fine lines and wrinkles, making them less noticeable.

Why is hyaluronic acid important in skincare? ›

Hyaluronic acid can help increase the moisture content in your skin, which can have various skin benefits, including reducing the appearance of wrinkles and improving wound healing, among others. Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a naturally occurring glycosaminoglycan found throughout the body's connective tissue.

Why is hyaluronic acid so popular now? ›

And why is it so commonly used? As the ingredient is known to “hold 1000 times its weight in water,” it's many people's go-to for dealing with our top skin concerns. From dryness to smoothing out the appearance of wrinkles, hyaluronic acid does a lot to keep our skin looking and feeling healthy.

What is the disadvantage of hyaluronic acid for skin? ›

Potential for Dehydration: Ironically, in very dry environments, hyaluronic acid may pull moisture from the skin instead of the air if there isn't enough humidity. This can lead to increased dryness rather than hydration.

What type of skin needs hyaluronic acid? ›

Hyaluronic acid can work for people with any skin type — even those who have sensitive skin or are prone to breakouts. It's also safe to apply the acid to your skin if you're pregnant or nursing. Dermatologists can provide personalized advice and product recommendations for your skin type or concern.

Do dermatologists recommend hyaluronic acid? ›

Absolutely, as this is a natural molecule it is super gentle on the delicate skin of the undereye area. This is a common ingredient of eye cream, along with peptides, caffeine, & vitamin K. Best applied at night, hyaluronic acid can refresh your eyes over night as you sleep.

What happens if you use hyaluronic acid everyday? ›

Hyaluronic acid may improve the health of your skin, eyes, hair, and joints. Depending on the treatment you're seeking, the form of hyaluronic acid may vary. For example, using an over-the-counter hyaluronic acid serum daily might improve the look of your skin.

Is hyaluronic acid just hype? ›

While it may be buzzy (and it can be great for dry, tight types) hyaluronic acid isn't the be all and end all of great skin. One thing all experts featured in this article do agree on, though, is that if you do choose to use it, you don't need to spend hundreds of dollars. Dr.

What not to mix with hyaluronic acid? ›

For instance, Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs), such as Lactic Acid and Glycolic Acid, and Synthetic Retinol are a pair that can easily cause irritation.

Is hyaluronic acid hard on the liver? ›

Is Hyaluronic Acid Bad For Your Liver? In the case of patients with liver diseases, it is advised to avoid using HA as the increased levels of HA in the bloodstream can cause thrombosis. Hence, user discretion and medical supervision are advised.

Who should avoid hyaluronic acid? ›

Allergic reaction: If you are allergic to Hyaluronic Acid, you should avoid using products that contain it. Medical conditions: If you're experiencing a medical condition, such as diabetes or a bleeding disease, or if you are pregnant or nursing, you should see a doctor before taking Hyaluronic Acid.

What's better, retinol or hyaluronic acid? ›

If you're looking for an ingredient that can help to improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone, retinol may be the better option. However, if you're looking for something that will keep your skin hydrated and plump, hyaluronic acid may be a better choice.

What is the best hyaluronic acid for mature skin? ›

Best Hyaluronic Acid Serum for Daily Use: La Roche-Posay Hyalu-B5 Serum, $40. Best Drugstore Hyaluronic Acid Serum: Avène Hydrance Boost Serum, $28. Best Hyaluronic Acid Serum for Mature Skin: Vichy Mineral 89 Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum, $32. Best Hyaluronic Acid Serum for Sensitive Skin: CeraVe Hyaluronic Acid Serum, ...

Do I need moisturizer if I use hyaluronic acid? ›

Using a moisturizer is an essential step after applying hyaluronic acid. The moisturizer will help seal hydration into the skin and help hyaluronic acid absorb correctly if the air around you is dry.

Can I use vitamin C and hyaluronic acid together? ›

While vitamin C and hyaluronic acid can be used separately for impressive outcomes, they are also a power duo when applied in tandem. In fact, vitamin C and hyaluronic acid are often mixed - either in one serum formula, or layered in a skincare regime.

What percentage of hyaluronic acid is in Cerave? ›

Humectants (sodium hyaluronate 1.40% - 2.00%, panthenol 1.20% - 1.80% and glycerin 3.70% - 5.60%).

How often should I use hyaluronic acid on my face? ›

Use a moisturizer containing hyaluronic acid twice daily to access the best effects. These products should be used after you have cleansed your skin. If your routine also includes applying serums and exfoliating, apply your moisturizer after these steps.

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