There are multitudes of skin care ingredients on the market that sound as innocuous as they are, like honey, shea butter and aloe. Hyaluronic acid, on the other hand, isn’t one of them. Though it sounds suspiciously harsh, hyaluronic acid is basically just a sugar found naturally in the skin that holds water, according to Dr. Corey L. Hartman, founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama. “It’s a clear, thick, gel-like substance that our body produces and can be found in high concentrations in the skin, connective tissue and eyes. It helps to retain and attract water and keeps tissues hydrated and lubricated.”
In layman’s terms, it’s a hydrating ingredient that our body already produces — similar to squalene — and it’s a must-have to keep mature skin looking plump, hydrated and dewy. Even better, it plays nicely with almost every other ingredient and skin type, according to Dr. Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital’s department of dermatology. “Think of hyaluronic acid like a sponge that grabs onto water and pulls it into the outer skin layers to hydrate and plump. It can be combined with almost all other skin care ingredients without any stability issues. Plus, it can be used across all skin types, even people who are oily or those who are sensitive.”
How to use hyaluronic acid
Most derms, including both Hartman and Zeichner, recommend using hyaluronic acid in serum or moisturizer form due to its inherent hydrating properties. Hyaluronic acid serums and gel moisturizers “work well for all skin types, but especially oily skin since it provides hydration, but no heaviness or pore-clogging.” And the last thing mature skin needs is something else pulling it down.
Still, there’s one trick for application that Zeichner swears by: “My only rule when it comes to hyaluronic acid is to apply it to damp skin or with damp fingers to give it the water it is looking for. If you’re using a straight hyaluronic acid serum, layer a moisturizer on top to lock in hydration.” It’s a must-have ingredient for a dewy, youthful-looking complexion.
Ahead, the top hyaluronic acid products for mature skin.
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel ($26.49; ulta.com)
“This oil-free gel provides hyaluronic acid hydration that is light yet moisturizing,” says Hartman. “The hyaluronic acid provides a protective barrier on the skin and helps to build collagen to prevent the development of fine lines and wrinkles.”
Bliss Drench & Quench Cream-to-Water Hydrator for All-Day Moisture ($19.99; target.com)
Zeichner says this ultra-light moisturizer hydrates without weighing the skin down. “Its hero ingredient, hyaluronic acid, binds to water to plump and hydrate the skin along with a blend of botanicals to calm, soothe and even brighten.”
RoC Multi Correxion Hydrate & Plump Night Serum Capsules With Hyaluronic Acid ($24.99; target.com)
“These capsules deliver a maximum concentration of 3% hyaluronic acid in a single-use, pre-measured dose,” says Zeichner, who recommends using it at night under your moisturizer and retinol.
Rodan & Fields Active Hydration Serum ($110; rodanandfields.com)
“This serum gives a double punch with glycerin plus hyaluronic acid, two of the best humectant ingredients we have to plump the skin,” says Zeichner. “It can be layered underneath your regular moisturizer for an extra hydration boost.”
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Hydrating Serum ($6.80; sephora.com)
According to Zeichner, because hyaluronic acid is so stable naturally, it’s not usually very expensive. (When other ingredients come into play, like ceramides or other hydrating complements, the cost can go up.) This $7 serum from The Ordinary is a great pick for anyone on a budget.
Vichy Mineral 89 Daily Skin Booster Serum and Moisturizer ($29.50; dermstore.com)
Hartman calls this serum “a cool drink of water for the skin. Not only does it contain HA, but it also has 15 minerals found in Vichy’s proprietary volcanic water, which has been found to correct inflammation and dehydration caused by all of the external factors that we face every day,” he says.
Olay Regenerist Max Hydration Serum ($32.99; target.com)
“This ultralight serum delivers high-concentration hyaluronic acid in a formula enriched with niacinamide,” says Zeichner. “The combination hydrates, plumps, brightens and improves radiance.”
Paula’s Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster ($36; dermstore.com)
There’s a reason this serum is a favorite of beauty editors and derms alike: It sinks right in, never pills and is great for mature skin.
PCA Skin Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Serum ($117; dermstore.com)
A favorite of Zeichner’s, this serum contains “a blend of several forms of hyaluronic acid to provide hydration to the superficial and deeper skin layers. The serum also delivers ceramides and niacinamide to support a healthy skin barrier.”