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It’s causing a ripple in skincare circles, but exactly what is hyaluronic acid & how does it work?

Whether you’re a skincare rookie or a full-blown beauty junkie, chances are you’ve heard of hyaluronic acid (sometimes labelled up on skincare as HA). You might even have one knocking around your bathroom. But do you know what it is, how it works and, most importantly, how to use it?

Janette Ryan, Head of Training for L’Oréal, shares the secrets to this skincare weapon’s success, and how to get the best out of it. Get ready for the science (don’t worry, we’ll keep it light)…

What's hyaluronic acid?

Let’s face it, the name hyaluronic acid sounds a bit daunting. We know. But it’s what’s inside that counts, right?

“Pure hyaluronic acid is an extra-large sugar molecule naturally present in the skin,” explains Janette. “It’s loved by dermatologists for its intensely moisturising properties. In fact, just one drop of hyaluronic acid can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water.” Wow!

“These impressive hydrating abilities have made hyaluronic acid one of the leading components of all types of skincare products, from cleansers to serums and moisturisers. If the skin were a mattress, hyaluronic acid would be its padding!”

So, in basic terms, hyaluronic acid is amazing at locking in moisture and keeping skin super-hydrated. Sounds good to us…

Why is hyaluronic acid good for your skin?

“Hyaluronic acid keeps skin hydrated, gives a plumping effect and reinforces the skin’s protective barrier,” says Janette.

That means, not only does hyaluronic acid help your skin look and feel healthier, smoother and more radiant, it also lends a helping hand in the fight against free radicals and environmental aggressors. No wonder it’s one of skincare’s worst-kept secrets!

Is hyaluronic acid safe?

“As hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring molecule found in the skin, it’s perfectly safe,” Janette reassures us. “Natural and effective, hyaluronic acid is also gentle on the skin.” This means it’s great for using on any skin type, at any age.

Can you use hyaluronic acid every day?

The short answer: yes, hyaluronic acid can be used every day to help keep your skin intensely hydrated. Why is it important to keep your skin hydrated? Janette explains…

“Hydration is vital for maintaining healthy, fresh-looking skin. As the largest organ in the human body, our skin’s job is to act as a barrier, protecting us from external aggressors.

“When our skin is hydrated, it strengthens the cells of the epidermis (the skin’s outer layer). This means the skin is more able to protect against bacteria, infection and free radical damage.”

How do you use hyaluronic acid?

“This depends on the type of hyaluronic acid skincare product you’re applying. If you’re using a hyaluronic acid serum, apply it to the skin after cleansing and before your daily moisturiser or sun protection,” recommends Janette.

Hyaluronic acid loves moisture, so for super-duper results, apply your serum to slightly damp skin. Smooth it on after you’ve stepped out of the shower, or spritz a face mist before using your hyaluronic acid.

You can also find hyaluronic acid in face masks, moisturisers and eye creams – use these as you normally would to help hydrate and reinforce your skin.

How is hyaluronic acid different to other acids?

Hyaluronic acid’s main purpose is to hydrate. “Unlike AHAs (alpha hydroxyl acids, a group of naturally occurring fruit acids used in cosmetics as moisturisers, emollients and exfoliants), hyaluronic acid doesn’t provide the skin with exfoliating benefits,” explains Janette.

“Hyaluronic acid is a humectant (a fancy word for retaining or preserving moisture), attracting water molecules like a magnet to help keep the skin hydrated.”

And remember, hydrated skin feels soft, looks radiant and any lines and wrinkles appear smoother and less visible. Quick, pass us the hyaluronic acid!

Boots beauty glossary: Humectant (hyoo / meck / tuhnt): A substance used to reduce the loss of moisture

Is hyaluronic acid suitable for every skin type?

When it comes to a skincare wonder product, they don’t come much better than this. Oily skin, acne-prone skin, dry skin, ageing skin, sensitive skin – every skin type can benefit from using hyaluronic acid to help maintain healthy skin.

What should I be looking for when buying hyaluronic acid?

That said, not all hyaluronic acids are made equal, so it’s important to decide what you want out of your skincare, and then find one that matches your ambitions. When it comes to hyaluronic acid, size matters!

“High molecular weight hyaluronic acid is a larger molecule, making it ideal for creating a barrier on the skin’s surface, which helps to keep moisture locked in and has a smoothing and plumping action on the surface,” says Janette.

“Low-weight hyaluronic acid is made up of smaller molecules that penetrate deeper into the epidermis (surface skin layers), and help to re-plump the skin from within. Products containing a duo of hyaluronic acid work well to target more signs of skin ageing such as lines and wrinkles.”

Boots beauty glossary: Epidermis (ep / ee / dur / miss): The outer layer of the skin

Janette's top hyaluronic acid picks​​​​​​​

Vichy Mineral 89 Hyaluronic Acid Booster Serum
This gentle gel-like serum is the perfect first step in your skincare regime.

La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Hyaluronic Acid Serum
Help skin bounce back with this super serum, formulated to intensely hydrate and repair.

L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Filler Hyaluronic Acid Serum
An intensive, non-sticky serum that’s supercharged with 1.5% hyaluronic acid.

Face masks

Vichy Mineral 89 Hyaluronic Acid Instant Recovery Sheet Mask
For an instant hyaluronic acid boost, recharge your skin with this 10-minute mask.

L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Filler Hyaluronic Acid Replumping Tissue Mask
This ultra-thin mask moulds to the skin to help it reach even the finest lines.


CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser
This non-foaming formula is ideal for dry skin, helping to cleanse, protect and hydrate.


La Roche-Posay HyaluB5 Hyaluronic Acid Cream
Specially formulated for skin that’s showing the first signs of ageing and in need of hydration.

L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Filler Hyaluronic Acid Day Cream
Help reduce the appearance of wrinkles with this highly concentrated cream.

CeraVe AM Facial Moisturising Lotion SPF25
Developed with dermatologists for all-day hydration. Plus, it’s got the added bonus of an SPF.

Eye creams

La Roche-Posay HyaluB5 Hyaluronic Acid Eye Cream
Target loss of elasticity and fine lines around the eye area with this anti-wrinkle eye cream.

L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Filler Hyaluronic Acid Eye Cream
Formulated to hydrate and tone the eye area, while reducing the appearance of crow’s feet.


L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Filler Hyaluronic Acid Ampoules
Use one ampoule a day to intensely hydrate and re-plump the appearance of skin.

Don’t keep great skin waiting in the wings – grab the hyaluronic acid that takes your fancy and get ready for your hydration hit.