If you suffer from chronically dry skin, odds are you’re intimately familiar with hyaluronic acid. The popular substance absorbs moisture and draws it into the skin in order to hydrate it, experts told us. Though it’s especially useful for dry skin, it is “a great hydrator for pretty much all skin types,” said Dr. Mary Stevenson, assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Health. “We don’t have a lot of products like that,” she added.
LEARN MORE How we picked the best hyaluronic acid products | How to shop for hyaluronic acid products | Hyaluronic acid benefits | How to use hyaluronic acid
We spoke to dermatologists about what to look for, and how to use it, plus we got their specific recommendations for the best creams and serums to buy. We also rounded up top-rated products based on their advice.
Our top picks
- Top hyaluronic acid serum: The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Hydrating Serum
- Top hyaluronic acid cream: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Cream
- Top hyaluronic acid lotion: Cerave AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion
What is hyaluronic acid?
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring chemical your body produces that cushions and moisturizes the skin — it’s found in our skin, eyes, joints and connective tissue, Stevenson said. It acts as a humectant, which means that it “draws in water like a sponge [and] can really help in hydrating our skin,” she said.
Despite its name, hyaluronic acid should work for virtually all skin types since it isn’t actually an acid. “It’s not like salicylic acid or some of the other acids that can be more exfoliating or abrasive on our skin,” Stevenson said.
How we picked the best hyaluronic acid products
Hyaluronic acid is generally well-tolerated by most skin types and choosing one comes down to personal preference, according to our experts. They recommended looking at the following factors to determine the best products:
- Consistency: You’ll typically find hyaluronic acid in lightweight serums, but you’ll also see it in face creams, gels and lotions.
- Hydrating ingredients: Hyaluronic acid works well with other moisturizing ingredients like ceramides, vitamin E and aloe that offset any dryness or irritation that can come from using harsher ingredients like retinol.
- Molecular weights: Hyaluronic acid is usually present in products at different molecular weights, which affects how it penetrates the skin. Experts told us to look for a combination of low and medium molecular weights to help it penetrate both the skin's surface and lower levels.
- Uses: You can use it morning and night and/or alongside retinol as needed, according to our experts.
Best hyaluronic acid products in 2023
Below, we rounded up highly rated, dermatologist-recommended products as well as a few highly rated staff picks and options from notable brands.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Hydrating Serum
For a lightweight hyaluronic acid serum, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Barry Goldman likes this serum from The Ordinary. Per the brand, it’s fragrance-free, alcohol-free and oil-free, which is beneficial for those with sensitive skin. It also has hyaluronic acid with different molecular weights, which allows the formula to hydrate more skin layers, according to The Ordinary.
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Cream
Goldman also recommended this hyaluronic acid cream from Neutrogena, which happens to be Select writer Zoe Malin’s favorite moisturizer. According to the brand, it’s non-comedogenic and fragrance-free, and is formulated with additional humectants like glycerin that draw moisture to the surface. Neutrogena also has a hyaluronic acid serum in its Hydro Boost line, which Goldman said he uses as a face serum and on his lips under an occlusive moisturizer (like Aquaphor), which creates a physical barrier on top of the skin.
Dermalogica Skin Hydrating Booster
I struggle with dry skin — especially in the wintertime — and when I notice it starting to dry out, I update my routine with this serum, recommended to me by my esthetician. In addition to hyaluronic acid, this Dermalogica booster also contains ingredients that reduce the appearance of dehydration lines like panthenol, glycolipids and algae extract, according to the brand. Dermalogica recommends using the serum before applying moisturizer or adding a few drops into your moisturizer and applying them together.
Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Mask Hydrating Gel
Select’s Rebecca Rodriguez uses this gel twice a day and says it works wonders on her skin. According to the brand, the gel mask contains a 20-percent complex of hyaluronic acid and Pentavitin (a plant extract) to moisturize, plus vitamin E and aloe to revitalize dry skin. If you prefer a serum, Peter Thomas Roth also makes one. Rodriguez recommended storing the gel in the fridge “for an added cooling effect.”
Vichy Mineral 89 Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum
Goldman recommended this Vichy serum because it also contains mineral water to help hydrate the skin. This oil- and fragrance-free serum is non-comedogenic and offers a non-greasy and non-sticky formula that you can wear comfortably on its own or underneath your favorite moisturizer, according to the brand. It has the National Eczema Association seal of approval too, so it’s suitable for sensitive skin.
Glossier Super Bounce
This popular serum from Glossier contains three molecular weights of hyaluronic acid and is formulated with pro-vitamin B5 for added hydration, according to the brand. It also has a non-sticky formula to wear underneath makeup, per Glossier.
CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion
In our guide to moisturizers for dry skin, licensed esthetician Rani Gupta said she uses this Cerave lotion on her eczema. The non-comedogenic product also contains ceramides to help restore the skin’s barrier, and niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3 that can calm irritated skin, according to the brand.
Glow Recipe Plum Plump Hyaluronic Serum
Korean skin care brand Glow Recipe, which makes one of our favorite blackhead treatments, also makes a highly rated hyaluronic acid serum. It uses five molecular weights of hyaluronic acid to hydrate each layer of the skin. Plus, it’s formulated with three different antioxidant-rich plums that hydrate and rejuvenate the skin, according to Glow Recipe.
Tatcha The Dewy Skin Cream
This Tatcha cream “couples antioxidant ingredients with deep moisture in an elegant, non-greasy formula” said Dr. Annie Chiu, a board-certified cosmetic and general dermatologist. The non-comedogenic product uses a mixture of Okinawa algae blend and hyaluronic acid to capture water and hydrate the skin, according to the brand.
La Roche-Posay Hyaluronic Acid Serum
Several dermatologists have recommended La Roche-Posay as a great drugstore skin care brand. This highly rated serum contains glycerin and vitamin B5 for added moisture in addition to hyaluronic acid, per the brand.
How to shop for hyaluronic acid products
Hyaluronic acid is most often found as a serum or a cream. While water-based serums typically have a higher concentration of the active ingredient and are therefore a better option, creams can be great for those who don’t have time to wait for their skin to absorb a serum, experts told us.
“I think you get the best bang for your buck with a serum just because you’re getting the most concentrated hyaluronic acid with water and it’s going straight into your skin,” Stevenson said. “[But] sometimes you need a one and done deal [and] for those patients, I think a cream is just fine.”
Serums will often advertise what percentage of hyaluronic acid is in the product. According to Stevenson, anywhere from 1% to 2% is a “really reasonable concentration.” Some products are formulated with hyaluronic acids at different molecular weights — that’s because “different weights penetrate differently, so you want a combination,” according to Stevenson.
“In general, low and medium [molecular weights] penetrate deeper into the lower levels of skin while high molecular weights hydrate the top or surface of the skin,” she said.
What are the benefits of hyaluronic acid?
Hyaluronic acid is good for anyone who wants to plump and hydrate the skin, experts told us. It’s also great when used in conjunction with more drying ingredients like retinol. “Hyaluronic acid creams work well with retinol and vitamin C products to decrease the irritation that sometimes occurs,” Goldman explained. “Hyaluronic acid matched with a retinol is a match made in heaven.”
Though hyaluronic acid gives the skin a healthier and more hydrated appearance, Stevenson emphasized that it isn’t a “permanent fix” for wrinkles and fine lines. “Hyaluronic acid can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles because it’s basically plumping up the cell,” she said. “It will just kind of add moisture back immediately because it’s holding on to these water molecules around your skin cells. It’s basically like blowing up a float toy.”
How to use hyaluronic acid
Stevenson suggested using hyaluronic acid first, followed by an emollient moisturizer (like First Aid Beauty’s Ultra Repair Cream, which has ingredients that bring moisture to the skin) or an occlusive moisturizer like Vaseline, which creates a physical barrier to lock hydration in. If you decide to use hyaluronic acid in conjunction with a product like retinol, Stevenson said you should sandwich the retinol in between the hyaluronic acid and a moisturizer to limit the amount of irritation.
Plus, there’s no limitation to how many times you can use hyaluronic acid in a day since it acts as a great hydrator, Stevenson told us.
Stevenson warned that some people may experience a reaction if using hyaluronic acid products in conjunction with harsh ingredients like essential oils or fragrances. “People with eczema, rosacea or extremely sensitive skin might want to apply a product either behind the ear or on their inner wrist for a few days in a row before putting it all over their face,” she said.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Dr. Barry Goldman is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Goldman Dermatology in New York City. He is also a clinical instructor at Cornell NY Presbyterian Hospital.
- Dr. Mary Stevenson is a board-certified dermatologist and associate professor at NYU Langone Health’s Department of Dermatology. She is a dermatological surgeon who specializes in Mohs surgery, as well as laser and cosmetic procedures.
- Dr. Annie Chiu is a board-certified cosmetic and general dermatologist. She is the founder of The Derm Institute in North Redondo Beach, California, and currently serves on the Dermatology staff at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
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