Hyaluronic acid what is it and what does it do

What is hyaluronic acid and what does it do to your skin? We look at the best hyaluronic acid serums and creams

12th August 2021 | Author: Jenny Tai

It may seem like a recent skincare trend but in fact, hyaluronic acid and its many benefits have been sold in beauty products for almost 40 years, making its debut in Estée Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair from 1982.

The fact this serum is still an absolute classic and iconic skincare product goes to show just how groundbreaking it was, and since its release the skincare market has been overflowing with hyaluronic acid products from serums, to creams and face masks.

READ NEXT: The truth about the acids lurking in your skincare

We often cleanse, tone, serum and moisturise – and that’s just a so-called “simple” method – as part of our daily skincare routine and many of the products we’ve used or have been recommended contain hyaluronic acid.

Yet with so many products in the market, for all different stages of your routine, it can get rather confusing when trying to work out what they actually do to your skin.

To help cut through this confusion, we explain more about why hyaluronic acid is seen as such a wonder ingredient and what benefits it has. You can read more about the most common ingredients found in beauty products, and their benefits, in our guide to the acids in your skincare.

READ NEXT: What does Vitamin C do and which is the best Vitamin C serum for skin?

What is hyaluronic acid?

Despite its rather harsh sounding name – the word acid never sounds massively appealing does it? –hyaluronic acid is actually produced naturally by our bodies.

It’s a form of sugar that is found in our skin cells that holds water and is what helps keep our skin hydrated and plump.

Over time this decreases, just like collagen, and this causes the skin to become drier, which makes fine lines more apparent. It’s also not helped by our environment and this can often lead to uneven skin tone and the loss of the inner glow.

“With increasing age, the body starts to produce less hyaluronic acid and what it does produce is lower quality,” leading dermatologist Dr Sharon Wong explains in our guide to how your skin changes in every decade of your life. “This results in drier, more dehydrated skin and stiffer, creakier joints.

“To keep skin looking healthy, smooth and supple, we need to add hydration and it is important to realise that a moisturiser alone will not do that particular job.

FURTHER READING: Skincare ingredient checker: Get to grips with what’s in your skincare with our ingredients guide

What does hyaluronic acid do?

The use of the word acid is a little misleading. Hyaluronic acid doesn’t peel the skin – quite the opposite, it keeps your skin well pillowy and hydrated. This aids in keeping your moisture levels high in your skin.

When you use a beauty product that contains hyaluronic acid, it acts as a magnet for moisture and helps your skin cells to retain as much moisture. This leaves your skin feeling hydrated, plump and smooth.

READ NEXT: The science of serums: What is serum and what does serum do?

The best thing about hyaluronic acid is that it has the ability to hold 1,000 times its own weight in moisture.

Although hyaluronic acid molecules are too big to sink into our dermis – the inner layer between the two main skin layers – they sit on the surface and create a barrier to protect your skin from environmental elements while locking the moisture in.

How to use hyaluronic acid

The beauty, excuse the pun, of hyaluronic acid is that it can be used with any other products – it won’t affect the benefits of other skincare or makeup you want to use before or after.

It’s a hydrator which, as Dr Wong continues, means it’s “formulated to put moisture back into the skin, while a moisturiser is generally designed to create a barrier to slow down or prevent moisture from being lost.”

As a result, there are different ways to use hyaluronic acid serums to get the maximum benefits. We’ve listed two of these below that will guarantee plump and bouncy skin.

1. Layer hyaluronic acid serum with a moisturiser

After you’ve cleansed and toned, apply a hyaluronic acid serum and then apply your moisturiser  – alternatively, mix the two together and apply in one. This will save you time, as well.

This method makes sure that your skin is hydrated while creating a protective barrier.

2. Apply hyaluronic acid to damp skin

After cleansing, apply toner. While your skin is still damp, apply your hyaluronic acid serum. As you can read in our expert guide on the best ways to apply skincare and makeup, damp skin (and hair for that matter) are more open and receptive to products, meaning they absorb them more effectively.

READ NEXT: Why you’re probably applying your makeup and skincare wrong

The best hyaluronic acid products

If you’re new to hyaluronic acid, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite products that contain this wonder skincare ingredient from super affordable to a premium version.

♥︎ The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Hydration Support Formula

£5.90 | Buy now from Cult Beauty

Why we love it: The Ordinary is one of our favourite, go-to brands here at mamabella and its hyaluronic acid 2% + B5 Hydration Support Formula is a cheap, yet highly effective, way to introduce hyaluronic acid to your routine.

It’s is suitable for all skin types and it really does leave skin soft and smooth.

This serum isn’t sticky either, which can be a downside to some hyaluronic product, and it’s so popular, The Ordinary sells it in a larger 60ml size bottle, compared to its normal 30ml size.

READ NEXT: The best The Ordinary products for all your skincare concerns – from large pores to redness and wrinkles

Buy now from Cult Beauty

♥︎ Q+A HA Facial Serum

£6.50 | Buy now from Q+A

Q+A hyaluronic acidQ+A

Why we love it: This is the best hyaluronic acid serum if you’re looking to prevent wrinkles or your skin is on the mature side. It has anti-ageing properties while keeping skin plump, hydrated and soft.

This is due to the presence of biosaccharide gum, which reduces the appearance of fine lines, and betaine, which is found in sugar beet and is a sustainable ingredient that is great for the environment and even better for your skin.

It helps to balance moisture levels and prevents products from feeling sticky.

READ NEXT: Spotlight on Q+A Skin’s affordable, natural and highly effective skincare bundles

Buy now from Q+A

♥︎ Hada Labo Super Hydrator Lotion

£16.95 | Buy now from Amazon

Hada Labo was one of the very first companies to launch a clear, ‘watery’ hydrator lotion with multiple types of hyaluronic in Japan, and it still leads the way. The Japanese skincare brand is known as Hada Labo Tokyo in the UK and it sells a range of lotions, cleansers, day and night creams, and eye creams which all use hyaluronic to super hydrate the skin.

What’s more, they’re all fragrance-free meaning they’re great for sensitive skin types, too. Not sure what skin type you have? Check out our What skin type do I have? Discover how to know your skin type with our skin types guide.

The Hada Labo Tokyo range includes:

Shop the range at Amazon

♥︎ Vichy Minéral 89 HA Booster

£25 | Buy now from Lookfantastic

Why we love it: The older sister of the fantastic La Roche-Posay brand, Vichy delivers great skincare using mineralising water that goes through a rigorous control process to ensure all of its naturally fortifying properties remain intact.

This HA booster contains hyaluronic acid plus 89% of thermal mineralising water in each bottle, both designed to nourish and protect your natural skin’s barrier and act as a shield for pollution that comes our way.

It’s like a drink for your skin that is then locked in by the HA.

This boost absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave any residue, while delivering toning and rejuvenating benefits. This leaves your complexion with a healthy glow with the added plumpness.

Buy now from Q+A

♥︎ Pestle & Mortar Pure HA Serum

£39 | Buy now from Lookfantastic

Why we love it: If you’ve not yet had the pleasure of using Pestle & Mortar products, it’s an Irish beauty brand that launched in 2014 with the motto: “Your skin deserves to wake up looking beautiful.”

It started with eight skincare products and now the brand has grown to offer a range of 12. This may not sound like much but instead of flooding the market with multiple products and variations on ingredients, Pestle & Mortar concentrates on doing fewer things, fantastically well.

Its Pure hyaluronic serum is hydrating and within this serum is panthenol which helps diminish fine lines and wrinkles, creating firming effect. It’s great for all skin types too, as are the rest of its range.

Buy now from Q+A

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