What Is It, How It Works And What Are Its Benefits?

Hyaluronic acid. To the less beauty savvy, it may sound like something you don’t want to put anywhere near your face (we all took chemistry lessons at school, just sayin…).

But, what if we told you that hyaluronic acid actually holds the key to smooth, flawless and hydrated skin?

In fact, our own skin cells actually produce hyaluronic acid naturally in a bid to maintain moisture levels. But, thanks to pesky ageing and environmental aggressors, to name just a few things flung at our faces on a daily basis, those levels tend to take a bit of a dip.

Cue sensitivity, dullness, fine lines and uneven tone and texture. Need we go on?


‘HA (hyaluronic acid) is critical in maintaining skin hydration,’ says Aesthetic Doctor, Dr. Maryam Zamani, ‘although it can be degraded by free radical mechanisms caused by things like UV exposure. Topically applied, it helps to hydrate the skin and maintain this hydration as a humectant.’

ELLE Glossary: Humectant (hyoo/meck/tant): a substance used to reduce the loss of moisture.

Sounds pretty great, right? Well, here’s everything you need to know about the hero skincare ingredient that is hyaluronic acid and exactly why you should be slotting it into your regular beautifying routine. That is, if you haven’t already.

hyaluronic acid

Filippo Fortis

What Is Hyaluronic Acid?

‘Hyaluronic Acid (which you might find hiding on the labels of some of your skincare products as HA), is naturally occurring in the human body,’ says Dimitra Davidson of Indeed Labratories. The substance works as a magnet for moisture, helping your cells retain as much of it as possible so that your skin feels and appears hydrated, plump and healthy.

Now for the science-y bit. Just a single gram of hyaluronic acid has the impressive ability to hold up to six (yep, six) litres of water. Add to that, a super smart ability to regulate that moisture within the cells, so as not to drown them and you’ve got one genius ingredient.

hyaluronic acid

Filippo Fortis

As ELLE Beaty Director Katy Young puts it: ‘Hyaluronic isn’t the stripping stuff we associate with “acids”, but a bouncy fluid that occurs naturally in our body to lubricate joints, as well as holding onto moisture in our skin matrix.

‘Like all naturally occurring, skin-boosting wonders, it starts to decline as we age, which is why your supply of the man-made stuff should not.’

What Does Hyaluronic Acid Do To Your Skin?

If your skin isn’t already lapping up the benefits of hyaluronic acid, this is why it should be:

1. If skin is sufficiently hydrated, it feels super-soft, plump and pillowy and looks so much more radiant. See ya, Insta-filter.

2. When skin is hydrated, lines and wrinkles (even the deeper ones) appear diminished, so it is a great ingredient for those with ageing skin who are desperate to cling on to their youthful perkiness.

3. It works wonders on everyone. ‘Hyaluronic acid works for any skin type, says Dimitra Davidson ‘even sensitive or breakout-prone skin, as well as those with an oily complexion.’

4. Recent research suggests that hyaluronic acid also has antioxidant properties, which means it can act like a shield against free radicals we aren’t in control of, like pollution and other aggressors.

coconut oil benefits

Matteo Valle

Is Hyaluronic Acid Safe? Can You Use Hyaluronic Acid Everyday?


Don’t be put off by the name, because, unlike some acids, hyaluronic acid doesn’t strip the skin or cause any downtime when applied topically.

‘It is different than other acids which are used to exfoliate,’ mentions Dr. Zamani. A natural and powerful moisture-binding substance, it delivers gentle hydration to where your skin needs it the most.

‘Everyone would do well to use it (trust me, you sensitive skin types),’ explains Young. ‘Particularly any face going through a dehydrated patch (not to be confused with dry skin: a type, rather than a condition, caused by a lack of lipids in the skin barrier, not lack of water). Even oilier people like me can get on board, as it leaves skin succulent sans grease. I double dose on the stuff frequently.’

How Do I Know If My Skin Needs More Hyaluronic Acid?

You can use hyaluronic acid if you’re worried about ageing:

As we age, the amount of hyaluronic acid our skin cells produce begins to lessen and cell turnover can become sluggish – this is is when lines, wrinkles and rough texture tend to make their debut.

So, if you want to maintain your youthful glow, incorporating hyaluronic acid into your anti-ageing skincare routine is definitely a good idea.

‘Skin moisture can drop significantly as we age, says Indeed Laboratories’ Dia, something which Dr. Zamani seconds. ‘This makes the skin lose elasticity and expose the signs of ageing on the skin. But hyaluronic acid acts as the ultimate drink for your skin,’ Dia says.

You can use hyaluronic acid if your skin is dehydrated:

Different to dry skin, dehydrated skin can be peppered with lines and wrinkles and has the tendency to look dull. It also often feels rough, tight and sensitive which is where hyaluronic acid comes in.

‘It is exceptional as it has the ability to hold up to 1000 times its weight in water,’ mentions Dr. Zamani, so it keeps moisture on lock-down, quenching parched patches instantly and cumulatively throughout the day.

hyaluronic acid

Filippo Fortis

When Should I Use Hyaluronic Acid In My Skincare Routine?

Unlike other potent serums or active ingredients that need to be applied specifically in the morning or at night, hyaluronic acid is the flexible hydrator that’s happy to go on at any time.

‘Completely benign, hyaluronic acid won’t interfere with other potent skincare,’ Young assures us. ‘So it can join in with the pick ’n’ mix layering system you’ve got going on day or night. I love to apply it first, directly onto fresh, damp skin so it can really show off its water-carrying capabilities. And if your skin is dry, put your moisturiser on top to lock it all in.’

Which Hyaluronic Acid Product Should I Use?

Between serums and sprays, mists and moisturisers, there’s a million different hyaluronic acid skincare products out there. But which one to choose?

‘For me it’s in a serum that it really comes into its own,’ says Young. ‘As the most revered of the big five skincare ingredients(the others being SPF, antioxidants, and vitamins C and A – aka retinol), most of the beauty big guns are spending a lot of money getting their hyaluronic acid just right for our thirsty little faces.

hyaluronic acid

Filippo Fortis

‘This humble molecule is now available in dozens of different weights, with ‘lighter’ products able to sink more quickly into our skin to plump it up and out again. A blend of big and mini molecules to hydrate both the top layer of skin instantly and lower epidermis over time is best. Knowing the difference can be tricky, but those brands with a healthy mix should tell you so on their website.

‘As with most good serums, the secret to success is shopping around for the smell, texture and result that keeps you happy – because that’s the one you’ll stick with, and good skincare starts with consistency.’

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