Skincare Starter Guide: What Is Hyaluronic Acid?

Hyaluronic acid is an ingredient we hear about a lot when it comes to skincare. But it’s name is something of a misnomer – it’s not *really* an acid and it has very different properties and benefits to other acids used in skincare.

Here we break down everything you need to know about hyaluronic acid, why it’s so great for skin and how to get it into your skincare routine.


What is hyaluronic acid?

Hyaluronic acid sounds more scary than it is. It’s best not to think of it as an acid at all. In fact, it’s a sugar molecule, naturally found in the make-up of our skin. It attracts water molecules – holding up to 10,000 times its own molecular weight in moisture – which makes it essential for keeping your skin hydrated, and a key component in bouncy, youthful skin.

However, the bad news is our skin’s innate ability to produce it decreases with age. The dehydration and increased lines and wrinkles we experience as we get older is partly down to lower levels of HA in our skin, which is why it’s such a powerful skincare ingredient.

Getting hyaluronic acid into your skincare

The most effective way to really restore the HA levels beneath the skin’s surface is with dermal fillers – a cosmetic procedure that involves injecting a hyaluronic acid-based substance into targeted areas to re-plump the skin and smooth out wrinkles from beneath.

However, that doesn’t mean you need to have injectables to get it into your skincare routine.

Applying hyaluronic acid topically won’t remove wrinkles in the same way a dermal filler will – the molecules are too large to penetrate the skin’s barrier, so they sit on top of it. But despite this, it still has a host of skincare benefits in a moisturiser or serum. It acts as a powerful hydrator when applied topically. As it’s a humectant (meaning that it that attracts water molecules) it keeps maintaining that hydration after it’s been applied to help keep your skin supple and glowing throughout the day.

How to use hyaluronic acid?

Getting HA into your skincare routine is pretty simple. As it’s such a popular ingredient, there is a host of products on the market that use it to boost hydration levels – from cleansers to eye creams to body mists.

We think the best way to get more HA into your daily skincare routine is with a serum, to be applied to skin after cleansing morning and evening.

Greenwoods Elemis treatment

A mask is also a good idea if you tend to experience dryness or dehydration in your complexion – or just even at the end of a long, stressful week – to give your skin a super-charged shot of moisture. Treat your skin to a hyaluronic acid-infused sheet mask once or twice a week, depending on the condition of your skin and the time of year (your skin is likely to be drier in the colder months).

To really boost your skin’s hydration, book yourself in with the professionals for a spa facial

Which skin types does it work best on?

As a naturally occurring molecule, hyaluronic acid has amazing benefits for any type of skin. Almost all of us could do with the extra boost of hydration that HA will give you. And even for those with oilier or acne-prone skin types, it’s a great ingredient for providing moisture without causing breakouts.

Lady Face MassageL

Hyaluronic acid skincare: best spa buys

Elemis Hydra-Boost Serum, £46

Elemis’s serum contains hyaluronic acid as well as host of other moisture boosting ingredients, plus anti-oxidant rich myrtle to help give your skin a daily dose of essential moisture.

Thalgo Hyaluronic Filler, £43.50

Don’t worry: despite its misleading name, this is a skincare product and not an actual dermal filler. It’s designed to target the eyes where the skin is a little thinner, which means the area is often more dehydrated and usually the first place to show lines and wrinkles.

Decléor Hydra-Floral Moisturising & Plumping Mask, £33

It’s not a sheet mask, but this creamy, 10-minute treatment from spa brand Decléor is packed with natural extracts and hyaluronic acid to give skin a little boost of hydration once or twice a week.

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