Here’s why hyaluronic acid might be drying out your skin

Posted by
Lucy Partington

It can hold 1000 times its own weight in moisture, but if you’re not using it properly hyaluronic acid can actually dry out your skin. Here’s what you need to know…

Hyaluronic acid is something of a saviour in skincare. It’s a staple in just about everybody’s routine and is consistently raved about by experts and dermatologists for its hydrating properties. 

Found in a whole load of products, its primary function is restoring and retaining moisture in the skin – but it also won’t clog pores or cause breakouts if you’ve got acne-prone skin. 

But despite being a miracle-worker, hyaluronic acid could end up drying out your skin if you’re not careful. Here’s the low-down on the most effective way to use it…

What is hyaluronic acid and how does it work?

As Dr Sam Bunting, Harley Street dermatologist and founder of Dr Sam Skincare Club, explains: “It’s a water-holding gel with the ability to hold 1000 times its own weight in moisture. When it’s applied topically, skin acts as a highly-effective barrier and those hyaluronic acid molecules are too big to squeeze through the dermis (the layer of skin beneath the epidermis), which is where it needs to be to help plump lines and wrinkles.”

So instead, it sits on the skin’s surface and acts as a moisturiser through its humectant (water-attracting) properties.

“That means it draws water into skin to keep it hydrated, supple and makes sure it keeps it functioning effectively as a barrier,” says Dr Bunting.


Why could it be drying me out?

If you’re applying hyaluronic acid to a very dry face, it can actually end up drawing moisture from the deeper levels of your skin, which in turn will cause more harm than good and leave your complexion feeling tight and uncomfortable.

It’s a problem that usually occurs when humidity levels are extremely low – meaning there’s a lack of moisture in the air. 

 So what’s the best way to use it?

To counteract that issue, Sonia Deasy, founder of skincare brand Pestle & Mortar, always recommends layering hyaluronic acid serum with a moisturiser.

“It helps seal it into your skin and provides a barrier against moisture loss,” she explains.

Deasy also advises applying serum to damp – not completely dry – skin for better results. 

The hyaluronic acids to try 

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

This serum delivers intense, long lasting moisture to thirsty cells, visibly plumping and smoothing the skin.


La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Serum

Thanks to the B5 and hyaluronic acid, La Roche-Posay’s gel-serum restores suppleness and elasticity. It repairs the skin’s barrier so moisture is kept on lock-down for longer.


Pestle & Mortar Pure Hyaluronic Serum

This multi-tasking concentrate targets fine lines, dullness and dehydration. The formula is lightweight, not sticky, and can double up as a make-up primer for a velvety-smooth base.


Medik8 Hydr8 B5 Serum

Combining skin-softening vitamin B5 with hyaluronic acid, this hydrates, soothes and reduces inflammation. Bye-bye, redness.


Niod Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex II

This mixes a blend of 15 forms of hyaluronic compounds to make the skin’s surface pillowy and bouncy. It also supports water retention and banishes tightness.


Paula’s Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster

Paula's Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster

The gel-like texture mixes seamlessly into your existing moisturiser, with pollution-fighting ceramides to help retain moisture.


Main image: Getty


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Lucy Partington

Lucy Partington is Stylist’s beauty editor. She’s obsessed with all things skincare, collecting eyeshadow palettes that she’ll probably never use, and is constantly on the hunt for the ultimate glowy foundation.

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