Keep your skin looking young and hydrated with hyaluronic acid

To a skincare novice it sounds like a hazardous chemical – but as anyone who’s reaped its benefits will tell you, hyaluronic acid is a miracle worker.

Having dewy and glowing skin is a popular trend on social media, but did you know it becomes more difficult to achieve as you get older?

To help your skin retain moisture and maintain its youthful appearance, you may want to try hyaluronic acid.

Here’s why it works, according to dermatologists.

What is hyaluronic acid?

Hyaluronic acid is naturally present in the human body, dermatologist Dr Antoinette Ciconte explains.

“It’s an important component of the extracellular matrix and has a role in maintaining proper structure and function of tissues by creating volume, lubricating tissues and cell proliferation, interaction and migration,” Dr Ciconte says.

“Youthful skin is hydrated because it contains large amounts of hyaluronic acid in the dermis.”

But our natural levels of hyaluronic acid are often stretched to their limits, especially as we age.

“This leads to increased dryness, fine lines, wrinkles and sagging,” Dr Ciconte notes.

What does hyaluronic acid do to the skin?

Hyaluronic acid is a popular ingredient in topical skincare products and make-up, Dr Ciconte says.

“One of its most hyped-up features is its ability to draw moisture from air, in addition to holding 1000 times its weight in water,” she explains.

“Because it (hyaluronic acid) naturally occurs in our skin, our body doesn’t register it as foreign.

“This is how we’re able to use it for volume, hydration of the dermis, or even to medically correct asymmetrical facial features.”

Does hyaluronic acid actually work?

Many skincare companies use this ingredient in different forms, including serums, hydrogels, creams and gels.

While hyaluronic acid has its benefits, further studies are needed to determine the extent of its effectiveness.

“Topically applied hyaluronic acid in anti-ageing products can help with moisture retention on the skin surface, but it cannot penetrate into the dermis,” Dr Ciconte says.

hydrated skin

What is hyaluronic acid good for?

Skin hydration and anti-ageing qualities

Skin and dermal therapist Isabella Loneragan says hyaluronic acid has the ability to retain water.

“In skincare products, it is used to hydrate and moisturise the skin, helping to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” Isabella, who runs private clinic IL Skin, says.

“This hydration aspect has made it a sought-after ingredient in anti-ageing skincare formulations.”

Plumping effect

“When applied to the skin, hyaluronic acid has a plumping effect due to its water-retaining capacity,” Isabella explains.

“This can make the skin look fuller and more youthful, contributing to its (hyaluronic acid’s) popularity in cosmetic and beauty products.”

Is hyaluronic acid good for acne?

Isabella says hyaluronic acid is a versatile ingredient that can be incorporated into various skincare formulations, allowing it to be used in different products catering to various skin types and concerns.

“It can aid those with acne-prone skin because dehydrated skin can produce excess oil, leading to clogged pores and breakouts,” she says.

“Hyaluronic acid can help reduce the likelihood of breakouts and promote healing.”

Can you use hyaluronic acid every day?

Isabella says as for any skincare ingredient, it’s crucial to follow the recommended usage guidelines for hyaluronic acid.

“Using too much of any product or product ingredient, including hyaluronic acid, can potentially lead to irritation or adverse reactions,” she warns.

“So, it’s advisable to start with a lower concentration and gradually increase if needed.”

Does hyaluronic acid have any side effects?

Side effects of hyaluronic acid are minimal and it is generally well tolerated by most skin types, Isabella says.

“Allergic reactions are rare (and) there are no well-documented long-term side effects associated with the topical use of hyaluronic acid in skincare.

“This makes it a preferred choice for individuals with sensitive skin, contributing to its widespread use in skincare products.”

Can you mix hyaluronic acid with other skincare ingredients?

What not to mix with hyaluronic acid

Isabella says hyaluronic acid is generally quite safe to mix with most skincare ingredients because it is mainly a moisturising and soothing agent.

“However, exercise caution when mixing hyaluronic acid with AHAs and BHAs if you’re also using retinol,” she says.

“AHAs and BHAs should not be used with retinol products because this can cause irritation.

“Also, hyaluronic acid may not be suitable alongside certain medications or treatments, so always check with a healthcare provider if you’re unsure.”

What you can mix with hyaluronic acid

“You can pair niacinamide with hyaluronic acid as part of your routine because both are water-based, so they work well together,” Isabella says.

“I’d suggest (using) hyaluronic acid first to hydrate and replenish the skin before applying niacinamide to help keep moisture in the skin and manage excess sebum production.”

Can you use hyaluronic acid and retinol together?

Yes, but there is a catch.

“Retinol should only be used at night and never during the day because of its potency,” Isabella says.

“Retinol products can make the skin more sensitive to the sun.”

How to get more hyaluronic acid

You can up your hyaluronic acid by eating foods that are naturally high in the substance or contain nutrients that help your body to produce it, such as bone broth, sweet potatoes and fruits rich in vitamin C.

Try using skincare products containing hyaluronic acid but, if you’re vegan, note that many topical products are not vegan friendly.

“Vegans need to be careful when selecting skincare products as the majority of hyaluronic acid is sourced from rooster combs, unless stated otherwise,” Dr Ciconte says.

More on skincare ingredients:

Originally written by Charlotte Brundrett, September 2018. Updated by Melissa Hong, April 2024.