Of late, hyaluronic acid is everywhere: television ads spruik its efficacy, celebrities swear by it, and even your friends who aren’t that into skincare say they can’t live without it.
So what can this acid actually do for your skin, and why is it so popular? What's the best way to use it, and more importantly, who should be using it?
In this guide, we'll answer all the questions you may have about hyaluronic acid so you can incorporate it into your skincare routine and make the most out of its amazing benefits.
What is hyaluronic acid?
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally-occurring substance found in our bodies in small amounts. One of its many uses within the body is to lubricate and cushion our joints, acting as a kind of shock absorber.
It’s also been used clinically in eye surgery, and to treat patients who have inflammation of the joints, such as arthritis .
Most acids used in skincare — like glycolic and salicylic, for example — are exfoliating acids. They slough dead skin cells off our faces to reveal the fresh, new skin underneath. But hyaluronic acid is different: it’s a moisturising acid. It offers intense, second-to-none hydration for your skin.
The majority of hyaluronic acid used in skincare is made in laboratories, but in some cases, it can be derived from rooster combs. If you are vegan or vegetarian and this is a concern for you, make sure to always check out the packaging of your skincare product or ask the brand directly where they source their hyaluronic acid from.
How does hyaluronic acid work?
Hyaluronic acid is a humectant: a substance that draws water into itself to keep it moist. When a hyaluronic acid treatment is applied, it absorbs the moisture that’s around it and pulls it into the surface of the skin.
For this reason, we recommend applying hyaluronic acid to damp skin, so it can take the water and pull it into your skin. Otherwise, if you apply it after drying your face, it will pull water from your own skin instead, leaving it more dehydrated — and we don't want that.
What are the benefits of hyaluronic acid?
The benefits of using hyaluronic acid on your skin extend far beyond moisturising.
It regulates skin barrier function
We know by now that hyaluronic acid is the holy grail of skin hydration and it is thanks to those same moisturising properties that this ingredient helps improve and restore the outermost layer of your dermis — your skin barrier.
By helping to regenerate the lipids in this barrier, hyaluronic acid makes it easier for your skin to retain water, while also protecting it from free radicals and other environmental aggressors, and keeping damage at bay.
It minimises ageing signs
There is plenty of research demonstrating that applying hyaluronic acid to the skin's surface can improve its elasticity and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
A study in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, for example, measured how effective hyaluronic acid creams were in treating wrinkles . Patients applied the creams twice a day for 60 days, and at the end of the study, there was a ‘significant improvement’ in skin hydration and elasticity.
Creams that contained hyaluronic acid with a low molecular weight were thought to have penetrated the skin deeper, and these creams saw a ‘significant’ reduction in wrinkle depth.
Other research has measured the efficacy of a new topical nano-hyaluronic acid and found that after 8 weeks of using hyaluronic acid products, patients had seen a 40% reduction in wrinkle depth, a 96% increase in skin hydration, and a 55% increase in skin elasticity and firmness .
It smoothes out your skin texture and tone
If you have a dry, flaky complexion, your skin is often busy combating the dryness, and that can negatively impact the process of skin cell regeneration. This can then hinder the texture and tone of your skin, causing rough patches, dark spots, and skin discolouration to appear.
When you use a hyaluronic acid serum or cream, you help defend against dryness, and your skin can focus on what it needs to in order to stay radiant, soft, and glowy.
It promotes wound healing
Because it stimulates cell regeneration and minimises inflammation, hyaluronic acid accelerates the wound-healing process and is an excellent ingredient for those wanting to treat acne scars .
Is hyaluronic acid safe for all skin types?
In short, yes, hyaluronic acid is safe and suitable no matter what skin type you have.
If you have dry skin — or if you just want to keep your skin really well-hydrated — hyaluronic acid can be particularly beneficial. Its moisturising capabilities make it a go-to for anyone looking for extra hydration, and its wrinkle-reducing ability means it's perfect for anyone who wants to combat the signs of ageing.
Hyaluronic acid is usually very well-tolerated, even by those with sensitive skin, and it could be the right choice if stronger anti-wrinkle treatments aren’t right for your skin.
It might also be a treatment option for skin conditions like rosacea, although we recommend speaking with your doctor or dermatologist before using hyaluronic acid as a treatment for any pre-existing skin conditions.
As it can help with so many skincare concerns — be it ageing, pigmentation, or acne — our Software prescription treatments often include hyaluronic acid. Find out if you should incorporate this powerful ingredient in your skincare routine by filling out the text-based questionnaire, and our in-house skin experts will create a formula for you.
How to use hyaluronic acid
Hyaluronic acid comes in many different forms, from supplements to eye drops, inhalers, and even hyaluronic acid injections. However, many people choose to apply it topically, using skincare products like serums, creams, lotions, and gels.
Here are some tips on how to best incorporate hyaluronic acid into your skincare routine:
- Apply it after using a cleanser and a toner. Doing so will help the hyaluronic acid penetrate your skin deeper for better results
- Apply it to damp skin. As we mentioned before, using hyaluronic acid after drying off your face can lead to dehydrated skin, having the opposite effect of what's intended
- Follow with a moisturising cream, like Software's Ceramide Repair Balm (also supercharged with hyaluronic acid). This will help lock in the extra hydration, and it is completely fine to moisturise right after using your hyaluronic acid treatment — you don’t need to wait
- Apply it twice a day, in the morning and before bed. This will leave your skin hydrated all day long, providing it with extra moisture for when you're out and about, and replenishing lost moisture while you're sleeping
Pro tip: when shopping for a hyaluronic acid skin treatment, pay close attention to the product's label, as hyaluronic acid may be listed as sodium hyaluronate.
Is it okay to use hyaluronic acid every day?
Definitely! As long as you're using it correctly and following the tips we listed above, using a hyaluronic acid serum or cream every day, twice a day, should do wonders for your skin health.
Can you use it with other skincare ingredients?
Hyaluronic acid is quite versatile and it works well with most other skincare ingredients. A few highlights are:
- Vitamin C: Together, hyaluronic acid and vitamin C plump up and brighten up the skin to prevent and reduce pigmentation issues, as well as ageing signs
- Retinol: As a humectant, hyaluronic acid helps combat side effects that retinol can cause, like dryness, flakiness, and irritation, without interfering with its efficacy in treating acne.
- Niacinamide: Both hyaluronic acid and niacinamide are water-based treatments and complement each other perfectly for double the hydration
- Salicylic acid: This ingredient gently exfoliates the skin, and when paired with hyaluronic acid, it helps combat dullness and irritation. That's why we love using our Salicylic Acid Foaming Wash before applying a hyaluronic acid treatment
What results can I expect?
Some people think you can notice a difference almost immediately after applying hyaluronic acid to damp skin. It should feel plumper and more moisturised, and you may be able to visibly notice these changes.
As a general rule of thumb, you should give every skin treatment about 4-6 weeks before you can expect to see results. After this time, your skin should definitely feel more hydrated, as well as plumper and firmer.
You might see a decrease in fine lines and wrinkles, and you may also notice that your skin looks brighter and more radiant as well — all thanks to the moisture you're adding to your skin.