The Beauty Breakdown: Everything you need to know about hyaluronic acid

26 July 2022
By Nicole Saunders

You know Hyaluronic acid is one of those skincare ingredients you need in your routine, but you might be wondering what it is and how to use it. We break down the common questions about hyaluronic acid so you can get the most out of this must-have.

What is hyaluronic acid?

When we hear the words acid and skincare in the same sentence, it’s pretty normal to immediately think of chemical exfoliants that gently slough away lacklustre skin cells. But don’t let the name confuse you: hyaluronic acid is not an exfoliant; it’s a humectant — a hydration-boosting molecule that doesn’t just attract moisture but locks it in too. And since it can hold 1000 times its weight in water, it is easy to understand why many skincare experts often declare hyaluronic acid as a hero ingredient we all need in our daily routines. 

What will it do for my complexion?

Healthy skin is well-hydrated skin, but for reasons often out of our control — lifestyle, genetics, and ageing — many of us suffer from a dehydrated complexion. Plus, our body’s natural hyaluronic acid and collagen stores — the stuff that keeps our skin plump and youthful — decrease as we age. As a result, our complexions can become dull, lose plumpness, and the visible signs of ageing are more apparent.

But it’s not all bad news: where hydration and overall skin health are concerned, hyaluronic acid is a game-changer. Because hyaluronic acid can attract moisture and lock it in while the molecules expand, skin quickly becomes plumper, bouncy, dewy, and well hydrated, minimising the appearance of fine lines.

Is it suitable for my skin type and how do I use it?

Unlike some skincare ingredients — retinol, we’re looking at you — hyaluronic acid is incredibly gentle on the skin. While certain ingredients can irritate skin, particularly if you suffer from sensitive skin, hyaluronic acid-based products are generally well tolerated by all skin types.

How you use it will depend on which hyaluronic acid-based skincare product you reach for: a good rule of thumb is always to follow the specific use instructions for any given product. While you’ll find hyaluronic acid in everything from cleansers to foundations — L’Oréal True Match Super-Blendable Foundation is an absolute must-have — a great serum is what you need to add to your routine immediately.

A hyaluronic acid serum can be incorporated into your skincare routine once or twice a day, depending on other serums you might use to target specific complexion concerns. To reap all of the benefits, try applying hyaluronic acid to slightly damp skin straight after cleansing or following the application of an essence. To ensure you lock in all that hydration, use your go-to moisturiser immediately after your hyaluronic acid serum.

What do I need to know when buying a hyaluronic acid serum?

Like any skincare product, not all hyaluronic acid serums are created equal. The moisture-boosting molecule comes in different sizes, which means some are better at penetrating the skin than others. Large hyaluronic acid molecules are great at binding water and boosting hydration; however, because of their large size, they’re only able to hydrate the surface layer of skin. Smaller molecules, on the other hand, cannot attract as much water but can penetrate deeper into the skin.

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While some hyaluronic acid serums will opt for a single molecule, the best formulations use more than one size to ensure different layers of the skin are well hydrated. Discover some of our personal favourites below. 

BOOST LAB 2D-Hyaluronic Hydro Boost Serum, $34.95.

Caudalie Vinosource-Hydra SOS Thirst-Quenching Serum, $73 from Sephora.

Dr. Barbara Strum Hyaluronic Serum, $486 from MECCA.

Elizabeth Arden Hyaluronic Acid Ceramide Capsules Hydra-Plumping Serum, 60 piece, $72.

La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Serum, $74.99.

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, $14.75.

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