Are you using hyaluronic acid the right way? Check out what a skin expert has to say about everyone's favourite ingredient. Image Credit: Shutterstock

A bottle of hyaluronic acid serum is usually our initiation into a ‘serious’ skincare routine. It’s moisturising, soothing, and suits everyone and anyone, making the ingredient an easy beginner’s pick. After all, hyaluronic acid is found naturally in our skin.

In the beauty industry, hyaluronic acid (HA) and moisturiser are almost synonymous. According to experts, this is somewhat misleading. Alone, our HA-based serums can backfire, which is why creams mixed with the ingredient might prove a better option for skincare rookies. When used correctly, HA can reduce the appearance of wrinkles, prolong moisture in the skin and improve our skin barrier - it's a low-effort ingredient that can boost our hydration game for the better.

Dr Shubhangi Sanjay Perkar, a specialist dermatologist, and the founder and medical director of Modern Aestheticss Dermatology & Laser Clinic in Dubai, takes us through the science behind hyaluronic acid and why our HA serums may not be working as well. Scroll below to ace your HA application.

We’ve also compiled a list of best-rated hyaluronic acid-based products that will help trim your routine down to a few steps and leave you with dewy skin. Shop with an Amazon Prime membership to get free, fast delivery.

1. Best Serum: La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum

Get your dose of pure hyaluronic acid in the popular La Roche-Posay blue bottle serum. The Hyalu B5 product is made with an anti-ageing effect in mind, drawing benefits from secondary ingredients like madecassoside, glycerin and vitamin B5 to enhance the effectiveness of HA and help it repair the skin quickly. People with fine lines, loss of elasticity and dry skin should see excellent results with just three to four drops of the serum after cleansing and before a moisturiser. You can also add it to your daily moisturiser. One qualm is that it has a light fragrance, but it's still allergy-tested and suitable for sensitive skin. Reviewers see a difference from day one, noticing no dry patches, plumper skin and smoothed-out wrinkles.

2. Best Essence: COSRX Hyaluronic Acid Hydra Power Essence

If you're used to a K-beauty routine, then add this bottle of COSRX hyaluronic acid essence after toning. Essences are thicker than toners and lighter than serums, so they work perfectly well for those who want an enhancer before their active skincare products. The Hydra Power bottle is a gel-type formula that contains 4,000 ppm high-purity sodium hyaluronate (HA) in a short ingredients list, which has a base of 84 per cent sea buckthorn water. Gently pat it in and follow up with the rest of your skincare regimen. Buyers get the coveted glow instantly after use and mention how it's healed their damaged skin barrier, too. It doesn't feature any pore-clogging ingredient or fragrance, others confirm.

3. Best Unscented Serum: Vichy Mineral 89 Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum

Vichy has been recommended time and time again by several skin experts we consult. This dermatologist-recommended brand has the Mineral 89 HA serum in its range, which does away with fragrance and other skin irritants for good. It's accepted by the US-based National Eczema Association, as well. The serum features pure hyaluronic acid with Vichy's mineral-rich volcanic water to protect the skin from pollution, in another short ingredients list. Users see an improvement in their make-up application and prefer its thick, product-rich texture that absorbs quickly without feeling heavy. All skin types, from sensitive and dry to acne-prone, vouch for the glowing results.

4. Best for All Skin Types: CeraVe Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum

A cross between a moisturiser and a serum, this CeraVe HA product boasts a gel-cream texture that can be used on its own. The product restores the humectant in our skin and binds moisture there for up to 24 hours! It doesn't do this alone - the HA is backed by vitamin B5 and three essential ceramides to lock in the hydration by creating a protective barrier. The ceramides are released slowly throughout the day, maintaining the plumpness of your skin. The cream serum is fragrance-free. Reviewers confirm that the texture is lightweight and absorbs easily despite the cream base. Many pair it with their daily moisturiser and apply it to damp skin to get the best results. Those with mature, dry skin leave five-star ratings.

5. Best for Mature Skin: Eucerin Hyaluron Filler Anti-Aging Face Day Cream

Speaking of mature skin, here's an anti-ageing day cream that targets the appearance of wrinkles. Eucerin's Hyaluron-Filler pot is fortified with SPF15+ and an advanced HA formula to plump even the deepest of wrinkles. It uses a combination of both long and short-chained hyaluronic acid for better penetration, together with bio-active glycine-saponin to stimulate the skin's own HA production. This is an excellent option for aged skin that experience bouts of dryness in the day, which in turn accentuates fine lines and wrinkles. Some reviewers have been loyal to this cream for years, while others note how healthy their skin has been looking since use. Keep in mind that there is a bit of fragrance in the formula.

6. Best for Sensitive Skin: Isdin Hyaluronic Moisture Cream

Suffer from red patches and irritation? The Isdin Hyaluronic Moisture Cream combines HA with niacinamide for the ultimate sensitive-skin formula. With 80 per cent ingredients of natural origin, the cream deeply moisturises ageing skin for up to 48 hours, soothes redness and protects the skin from pollutants. It combines medium and low molecular weight HA with pro-vitamin B5, vitamin E and niacinamide to deliver multiple benefits at once, which is why the moisturiser is more expensive than most. The texture is light and velvety, spreading easily, according to reviews. Those with rosacea are happy with their purchase, noting no irritation. Most incorporate it into their night routine for healthy, radiant skin.

7. Best for Dry Skin: numbuzin No.6 Deep Sleep Mask Serum

Our final serum recommendation is a budget-friendly sleep mask by the viral K-beauty brand numbuzin. The No.6 Deep Sleep Mask Serum also combines HA and niacinamide in a refreshing formula that contains 63 per cent Icelandic glacier water. But that's not the best part - it uses high, medium and low molecular weight forms of hyaluronic acid to target dryness across several layers of the skin. It's meant to feel as rejuvenating as wearing a sheet mask before bed, with a chockful of plant-based ingredients such as eggplant extract, aloe vera, turmeric, chinaberry flower and so many more to soothe the skin. It receives high praise for hydrating dry and sensitive skin, even from those who've been on strong acne medication. Others find their skin texture improved overnight and recommend the serum for achieving glass skin.

What does hyaluronic acid do for the skin?

We lose hyaluronic acid, one of the moisturising ingredients in our skin, naturally over time. Topical HAs can help make up for the loss and protect the skin from drying out. Image Credit: Shutterstock

The word acid evokes other ingredients familiar to us, like salicylic acid, glycolic acid and so on. In the context of HA, however, nothing about hyaluronan is abrasive or exfoliating.

Dr Perkar explained: “Hyaluronic acid is a sugar molecule called glycosaminoglycan (GAG) with an acidic pH, but it’s not an acid and doesn’t exfoliate. It’s present in the skin in high molecular weight form, which holds 1,000 times its own weight in water.”

This sugar molecule falls under the category of humectants, one of the three components of a moisturiser (the other two being emollients and occlusives). Like all humectants, HA loves water, meaning it works by drawing water from under the skin for hydration.

Correct application will reward users with “hydrated, supple, healthy and moist skin”; hyaluronic acid also facilitates the function of other skin cells, adds Dr Perkar. “It can be used by anybody at any age for different purposes. For example, those aged 35 and up can use hyaluronic acid for wrinkles, and those aged 25 and up for moisturising. It also helps with wound healing,” she said.

If you’re suffering from an unfortunate retinol aftermath, hyaluronic acid can help soothe burns and irritation.

How should we incorporate hyaluronic acid into our skincare routine?

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Always apply your HA products to damp skin and follow it up with a good moisturiser. Image Credit: Pexels/KoolShooters

Humectants cannot work alone. Once they pull water from deep within the skin, the retained hydration has to be sealed with an emollient. “If [hyaluronic acid] is not locked with emollients, it may cause dryness,” our expert cautions.

In simpler terms, you must follow up your HA serum with a good moisturiser that has emollients like ceramides, and humectants like glycerin, to trap the hydration. For daily use, Dr Perkar suggests an easy routine, if your choice of HA product is a serum: start by cleansing the face, apply your serum to damp skin, and wrap it up with a moisturiser.

Wetting the face with water is key, as the HA uses this moisture to plump the skin, instead of drawing water from deeper layers of the skin.

“Hyaluronic is a penetration enhancer, so avoid using it with strong retinoids as this can cause irritation. [Conversely,] it’s better to combine with products like a spot corrector to boost absorption and get faster results,” she advised.

Besides serums, you have cream and gel moisturisers that already feature HA in various forms, usually low molecular weight to ensure better absorption. A multi-molecular complex is going to be especially helpful for dry skin types.

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