- Hyaluronic acid is in just about everything these days, from moisturizer to lip balm to SPF, but the best way to get a concentrated dose of the hydrating and skin-plumping benefits is with a serum.
- SkinCeuticals Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier combines 1.3% hyaluronic acid with nourishing botanical extracts for a potent cocktail of ingredients.
Hyaluronic acid is one of those skincare ingredients that’s actually worth the hype. Its presence in countless serums, moisturizers, and even cosmetics these days doesn’t make it a gimmick – hyaluronic acid is plumping, hydrating, and soothing, and the results can be nearly instantaneous.
What is hyaluronic acid?
We spoke with Dr. Dendy Engelman, board-certified dermatologic surgeon and celebrity dermatologist, to help us better understand what hyaluronic acid really is. At a technical level, “hyaluronic acid is a carbohydrate naturally occurring throughout the body,” she says. “Hyaluronic acid is found in all bones, connective tissue, cartilage and hair follicles. It cushions joints absorbing shock, keeping friction low and joints healthy.”
Hyaluronic acid is praised for its moisturizing capabilities and for good reason – it can hold 1,000 times its weight in water, meaning it does wonders for hydration.
While there are multiple ways to add hyaluronic acid into your skincare routine, Dr. Dendy recommends going for a serum as it can penetrate into the skin deeply, which is great if you’re looking for topical hydration.
How to find the right hyaluronic acid product for you
Hyaluronic acid is safe to use every day and can be mixed with anything. It does not cause any irritations and has no side effects, Dr. Dendy tells us. The ingredient pairs well with other ingredients and works for just about every skin type.
Dr. Dendy suggests pairing your hyaluronic acid serum with products that include Vitamin C, ceramides, peptides, and antioxidants.
Unlike with other active ingredients like the acids in chemical exfoliants or retinoids, it’s harder to overdo hyaluronic acid. You can more easily layer multiple products that contain the ingredient without causing irritation. Think of it as a lightweight yet powerful moisturizer. Whether in makeup or skincare products, hyaluronic acid also helps base products like foundation and concealer glide on and gives them a more natural finish. No cake-face here!
In the winter, I love to apply a hyaluronic acid serum as part of my morning and evening routine to boost the overall hydration of my complexion. In the summer, I replace heavy-duty creams with hyaluronic-based gel moisturizers or even skip moisturizer altogether and rely on serum alone to keep my skin supple.
Most skin types can benefit from the addition of hyaluronic acid – if you’re dry, it can add the extra boost your skin needs to stop flaking, and if you’re oily or acne-prone, it can actually hydrate without clogging your pores.
Here are the best hyaluronic acid serums in 2020:
- Best hyaluronic acid serum overall: SkinCeuticals Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier
- Best hyaluronic acid serum under $10: The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
- Best hyaluronic acid serum for beginners: Glossier Super Bounce
- Best clean hyaluronic acid serum: Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum
- Best hyaluronic acid serum for super dry skin: Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Serum
Updated 2/21/2020 by Remi Rosmarin: Updated the intro after speaking with dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman. We are currently testing and researching other new options for consideration.
Keep scrolling to check out our top picks.
The best overall
SkinCeuticals Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier is one of the most powerful hyaluronic serums on the market and it promises big results within a few weeks of use.
SkinCeuticals Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier is rich in pure hyaluronic acid, which means it’s more potent than many similar products. In fact, it claims to “[amplify] skin’s hyaluronic acid levels by 30%.” The serum is a great pick for mature skin because it combats already visible signs of aging using a combination of hyaluronic acid, firming proxylane, and licorice root and purple rice extracts.
If it sounds too good to be true, check out the results of the clinical trial reported by the brand: Participants saw a 23% improvement in skin plumpness, 18% improvement in texture, and 11% more firmness after 12 weeks of regular use.
This is one of the most highly recommended hyaluronic acid serums on the market, with mentions in Women’s Health, Allure, Vogue, Rank and Style, Byrdie, and Elle UK, all of which praise the product for its potency and fast results. Dermstore shoppers rate 5/5 stars based on 392 reviews. Plus, “[the] serum is proven to reduce the look of smile lines,” writes Women’s Health beauty editor Maddie Aberman.
One shopper writes, “I use this product every morning before I put on moisturizer and sunscreen. It takes a few minutes to absorb, but it definitely does absorb and doesn’t leave any sticky residue like some HA serums. This has helped improve redness in my cheeks and makes my skin look much healthier overall. Pricey, but worth the cost.”
Pros: Pure hyaluronic acid, improves texture and elasticity over time, paraben- and dye-free
The best under $10
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 is cheaper-than-drugstore affordable but just as effective as many of its pricier counterparts.
Affordable skincare is often very, very good. It all depends on what you’re looking for – cheaper formulas often have more pared-down formulas, which can even be a plus sometimes, depending on your skin’s needs. The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 isn’t super fancy, but it does the job – for $6.80.
It’s made with what the brand calls “Next-generation Hyaluronic Acid Crosspolymer,” a super-effective form of pure hyaluronic acid “that enhances the delivery of HA actives and helps to support water density.” In layman’s terms, it’s super freaking hydrating. But the moisturizing effects aren’t surface-level; the serum is designed to increase the moisture levels of your skin over time.
“I’m prone to eczema on my face and this product has worked wonders for me. I’ve been using it morning and night for the last month now, and my face has never been this hydrated. I’ve had almost no issues with my eczema since using this product and would recommend it to anyone else that suffers from extreme dryness,” writes one Sephora shopper. Overall, the serum has a 4.2 rating at the retailer, based on 476 reviews.
Pros: Very affordable, vegan, cruelty-free, no silicones
Cons: some reviewers note sticky texture
The best for beginners
Glossier Super Bounce is a lightweight serum with a simple, yet effective formula ideal for those who are new to skincare or have sensitive skin.
If you’re just starting to build a skincare routine or have really sensitive skin, I recommend the Glossier Super serums, which are simple, yet effective and pretty affordable to boot. Super Bounce contains a 2% hyaluronic acid complex and pro-vitamin B5 to hydrate, plump, and improve skin elasticity.
This formula is extremely gentle and free of fragrance and parabens. It’s hypoallergenic and dermatologist-tested to be safe to use on sensitive skin. Though I’ve tried an endless stream of fancy, expensive serums, I find myself going back to this one again and again. The texture is lightweight but instantly plumping and soothing. Just a few drops are enough to coat your entire face, though dry skin types might prefer to use a little more.
The only downside is that the thick texture means you’ll use this up pretty quickly, though Glossier recently increased the size of the bottle to 1 ounce while keeping the price the same, so it’s a better deal than it was before. Super Bounce has a 4.6 out of 5 rating on the Glossier website, based on 65 reviews, and has been featured by writers at Fashionista, Allure, and Cosmopolitan UK.
“Super Bounce is a fast track to an instantly dewier complexion,” writes Allure reporter Karina Hoshikawa. A Glossier shopper writes, “I am prone to cystic acne. I love using this serum because it has minimal ingredients and it is the perfect light moisturizer. I can use it by itself or layer it with a moisturizer.”
Pros: Affordable, simple formula safe for sensitive skin, lightweight yet hydrating, hypoallergenic, cruelty-free
Cons: Small bottle
The best with a clean seal
- Facebook/Drunk Elephant
Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum bears the Clean at Sephora label and contains a number of active ingredients that support the hydrating effects of the hyaluronic acid.
Drunk Elephant is one of the brands at the forefront of the “clean beauty” movement, meaning the brand focuses on naturally-derived ingredients. Many of the products in the range are highly effective and delightful to use (and on the expensive side).
The B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum is a fan- and expert-favorite. It uses a form of hyaluronic acid called sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer to moisturize fine lines and wrinkles into submission and increase skin firmness. The formula also includes pineapple ceramides to “boost luminosity” and even out texture, pro-vitamin B5 for additional hydration, and a watermelon rind, apple, and lentil complex.
That last ingredient sounds like a summer salad from Sweetgreen but, when used on the skin, it helps with long-term hydration and minimizing the signs of aging.
Allure describes this serum as “a tall glass of H20 for your skin.” It has also earned mentions in Women’s Health, Vogue, The Strategist, and InStyle, as well as 634 5-star reviews on Sephora. “I have super oily, acne prone skin and this stuff SAVED my skin. Since using this I haven’t gotten a single zit and the texture on my chin has gone away, it’s expensive but worth every penny,” writes one shopper.
Pros: Air-tight pump packaging, Clean at Sephora label, vegan, gluten-free
The best for super dry skin
Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Serum contains a 75% hyaluronic acid complex that gives a super boost of hydration and plumpness to stressed, flakey skin.
The Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Serum has earned its dreamy name. It’s a gel-textured serum packed with 75% hyaluronic acid, silk proteins for smoothness, and mineral complex for added hydration.
If your skin is super dry and flakey in the winter (or whenever), you can layer this underneath a moisturizer for a quick dose of long-lasting hydration. It’s potent enough that it could be used in place of a cream or gel moisturizer in the summer if you want to cut down on the amount of product that can melt off your face on a 90-degree day.
“I recently finished a course of Accutane […] My skin is slightly dry still I put this on after my shower my skin feels amazing!! It’s not greasy, it’s lightweight, as soon as it absorbed my skin needed nothing else!!!!!” writes one Sephora shopper.
Pros: Pump bottle, fragrance-free, no sulfates or phthalates, good for dry and sensitive skin