This Is How Hyaluronic Acid Interacts With All Your Favorite Skincare Ingredients

Two bottles of hyaluronic acid on a palm leaf

Liz DeSousa / Byrdie

Hyaluronic acid is one of the, if not the, buzziest words in skincare. This universally hydrating humectant is capable of binding over 1,000 times its weight in water and is now one of the most notable and sought-after moisturizing ingredients.

Ever wonder how this popular ingredient mixes with others? We spoke with cosmetic chemist Shuting Hu, aesthetic practitioner Linne Linder, and board-certified dermatologist Shari Sperling, MD, to find out. Read on to learn just how hyaluronic acid works with your favorite skincare ingredients.

Meet the Expert

01 of 10


What It Is

Retinol is a powerful ingredient derived from vitamin A that stimulates collagen production and encourages cell turnover. "In this family, we have retinol, retinaldehyde, and retinoic acids," explains Linder. "Retinol has to be converted to retinaldehyde then to retinoic acid in the tissue. Retinoic acid is the only retinoid that works to stimulate collagen so conversion is absolutely necessary for the product to work. You can get retinoic acid in a prescription form (Retin-A) and retinols are available over the counter or in medical offices."

Retinol products are widely prescribed by many skincare specialists, dermatologists, and aesthetic practitioners. "Retinol serums can work on the skin in a few different ways, like stimulating collagen production. It will help to prevent wrinkles from forming while filling out any existing fine lines or wrinkles," says Hu. "Retinol serums will also exfoliate dead skin cells to reveal a brighter, smoother skin underneath. They also help to fade dark spots, sun spots, and hyperpigmentation."

How It Works With Hyaluronic Acid

The experts say that retinol and hyaluronic acid work well together, as they balance one another out.

"Retinol and hyaluronic acid are a perfect pair," says Linder. "Hyaluronic acid acts as a buffering mechanism against some of the irritation that the skin can experience with retinoids. You can reap the benefits of retinol without any of the irritating side effects due to the moisturizing boost from hyaluronic acid."

02 of 10


What It Is

Niacinamide is a vitamin B derivative that is water-soluble. "Also known as vitamin B3, niacinamide is naturally occurring and essential to healthy skin cell functions," says Hu. "Niacinamide... can effectively clear acne, minimize pores, fade discoloration, and even reduce fine lines and wrinkles. The ingredient is also highly compatible with almost any product in your current skincare routine so you can easily introduce it without the concern of facing a breakout or causing irritation."

How It Works With Hyaluronic Acid

The experts say niacinamide and hyaluronic acid pair well together, and you may just find both as ingredients in your favorite moisturizing products. "Niacinamide and hyaluronic acid are both water-based ingredients that work well together for overall hydrating results, leaving the skin rejuvenated and minimizing the sign of aging and fine lines," says Hu.

03 of 10

Vitamin C

A drop of vitamin C serum beside orange slices

Liz DeSousa / Byrdie

What It Is

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and essential nutrient that humans do not produce on their own. Vitamin C protects your skin cells from damaging free radicals and encourages skin cell turnover, meaning it generally keeps skin cells healthy and prevents damage from UV exposure. That being said, Sperling notes, "it is always important to match your vitamin c products with a good sunscreen."

"Vitamin C is most known for a variety of benefits such as anti-inflammatory effects, stimulating new collagen growth (neocollagenesis), providing powerful antioxidant protection, and inhibiting melanogenesis (darker pigmentation)," says Liner. "Clinical studies have shown vitamin C helps with fine lines and coarse wrinkles, skin texture and tone, and yellowing and discoloration, and improves hydration, elasticity, and skin firmness."

How It Works With Hyaluronic Acid

Vitamin C and hyaluronic acid as a combo can typically have results similar to low-dose retinol. "Vitamin C and hyaluronic acid work together by brightening and hydrating the skin," Hu says. "Together these two ingredients can visibly dissolve wrinkles and improve the skin's texture and appearance. "

04 of 10

Salicylic Acid

What It Is

Salicylic Acid is a beta-hydroxy acid that occurs as a natural compound in plants. BHAs are more oil-soluble, which means they can easily break through the skin cells' lipid layers and penetrate the skin at a deeper level than water-soluble products and are anti-inflammatory agents. Salicylic Acid acts as a topical antibacterial agent due to its ability to promote exfoliation.

"Salicylic acid is most typically found in acne face washes and cleansers or spot treatments," says Hu. "It can deeply penetrate the skin and go beyond just the surface layer; it's a really powerful acne-fighting ingredient." Sperling Adds: "[Salicylic acid] helps removes excess oils from the skin. It also helps treat whiteheads and blackheads while decreasing pore size."

How It Works With Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid generally compliments salicylic acid with its hydrating benefits. "Salicylic acid can sometimes make the skin feel dry after use," Hu says. "When paired with hyaluronic acid, the skin can have access to more moisture and seal that moisture in."

05 of 10

Glycolic Acid

What It Is

Glycolic Acid is an AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) derived from sugarcane that has anti-inflammatory effects. "[Glycolic Acid is a] water-soluble alpha-hydroxy acid," Hu shares. "This natural acid consists of tiny molecules making it easier for your skin to absorb. With its ability to quickly absorb into the skin glycolic acid acts as an exfoliant, making it ideal for smoothing fine lines, improving skin texture, and triggering your skin to make more collagen. Glycolic acid is also used to help with any sun damage or acne scars by cleaning out the pores."

How It Works With Hyaluronic Acid

Glycolic acid generally works as an exfoliator and hyaluronic acid as a hydrator, so experts say the two pair well together. "Glycolic acid increases cell turnover, which can sometimes lead to skin irritation, so it is important to pair it with a moisturizing element, such as hyaluronic acid," says Hu. "Using the two together can lead to brighter, dewier skin."

06 of 10

Lactic Acid

What It Is

Lactic Acid is an exfoliant that technically derives from... spoiled milk. Yes, you read that correctly. "Derived from the fermentation of lactose, which is a carbohydrate found in milk, lactic acid is a chemical exfoliant, more specifically an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), that works to hydrate skin and improve the overall appearance," Hu says. "Lactic acid is known to increase cell turnover, which helps eliminate dead skin, leading to a brighter and smoother complexion. It is a mild form of AHA, making this a great option for those with sensitive skin."

How It Works With Hyaluronic Acid

Similar to glycolic acid, this exfoliant pairs nicely with hyaluronic acid. "While lactic acid is exfoliating, hyaluronic acid is hydrating," Hu says. "Lactic acid shaves away any dead skin cells that have built up, which can lead to flaky skin and breakouts. However, when combined with the nourishing and moisturizing properties of hyaluronic acid, the two acids can lead to soft, smooth, and hydrated skin, helping you achieve a clear and glowing complexion."

07 of 10


Swatches of products with ceramides

Liz DeSousa / Byrdie

What They Are

Ceramides are moisturizing waxy lipid molecules that play an essential role in structuring and maintaining the water permeability barrier function of the skin.

"Ceramides are lipids (fatty acids) that make up about 50 percent of our skin barrier," says Linder. "Think of ceramides as the glue that holds our skin cells together and protects us from the elements and from water loss. Low ceramide levels can contribute to such skin conditions as acne, eczema, and rosacea. Because age and the environment decrease the effectiveness of our body's natural ceramides, we need ceramides in our skincare to provide healthy aging of the tissue and restore the skin's barrier. Adding ceramides to your skincare will help you to have firmer, plumper, smoother-looking skin."

How They Work With Hyaluronic Acid

"While the two have different mechanisms of action, they work harmoniously to keep the skin plump and hydrated," says Linder of hyaluronic acid and ceramides. "Hyaluronic acid attracts up to 1,000 percent of its molecular weight in water molecules; thus, it keeps your tissues hydrated and prevents water loss. Hyaluronic acid helps to retain the moisture of the barrier and prevent unwanted collagen and elastin breakdown. Just like a mediator between your tissues and your immune system, hyaluronic acid tells your immune cells to respond to inflammation so that skin can repair properly. Similarly, but through different mechanisms, ceramides work to calm irritated and inflamed skin and strengthen the cellular structure of the skin. Therefore, the two ingredients together provide a powerful anti-inflammatory and protective synergy."

08 of 10


What It Is

Glycerin is a humectant that increases epidermal hydration for the skin. "Glycerin draws water from the nearest sources right to the skin," says Hu. "It works to hydrate the outer layer of the skin, improve the skin's barrier function, and provide protection against skin irritants."

How It Works With Hyaluronic Acid

"While glycerin hydrates and nourishes the outer layer of the skin, hyaluronic acid helps fill wrinkles and fine lines," explains Hu. "Glycerin and hyaluronic acid work well together when it comes to anti-aging benefits and fighting dryness, helping you achieve soft, supple, and hydrated skin."

09 of 10


What It Is

"Squalane comes from squalene, which is an oily substance found in plants, people, and animals," says Hu. "It is a natural lipid that works to moisten and protect your skin and is found in human sebum. Both squalane and squalene are used as moisturizing agents and help increase suppleness and elasticity in the skin." Studies support that squalane also increases the rate of barrier recovery and helps reverse transepidermal water loss for the skin. Squalane can help reduce scars, hyperpigmentation, and sun damage. It can also reduce fine lines and dry patches, and is best suited for those with oily or acne-prone skin."

How It Works With Hyaluronic Acid

"Squalane and hyaluronic acid are naturally occurring in the human body," says Hu. "Squalane locks in moisture and hydrates at a more cellular level, whereas hyaluronic acid works to increase the skin’s water level. Together, they are two great ingredients to combat signs of aging and keep your skin’s moisture barrier at optimal health. Using hyaluronic acid and then layering squalane on top is the best way to draw in hydration and keep it locked in." Needless to say, the two are a moisturizing power duo.

10 of 10


What It Is

Collagen is a protein—the most important structural protein in your skin at that, and the decisive protein that determines skin physiology. "Collagen works to hold the body together, as it forms what essentially is a barrier to provide strength and structure to your body and skin," says Hu. "It is a protein that is naturally occurring in the body’s skin, bones, tendons, and muscles, and is also used for medical and cosmetic purposes, such as for repairing body tissue." 

"Collagen plays a major role in strengthening skin, increasing elasticity, and boosting hydration, helping your skin look plump and youthful," Hu continues. "As you age and are exposed to outdoor factors, such as UV rays, the rate of collagen production in your body begins to decline. Topical collagen is great for giving your skin some extra moisture and can help your skin look and feel softer and smoother."

How It Works With Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is one of the key ingredients for boosting collagen. "As both hyaluronic acid and collagen provide the skin with moisture and nourishment, the two working together can help reduce signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles, leaving your skin looking plump and glowy," says Hu.

As it turns out, there aren't many ingredients that hyaluronic acid doesn't work with. This hydrator is generally safe for all skin types, has no known general negative reactions, and can help moisturize and repair skin in need.

Article Sources
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