Everything You Need To Know About Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is a little like Julia Roberts: a seasoned vet beloved by all, highly dependable, always up for awards, but rarely found at the heart of a viral, buzzy internet moment. The acid has been in just about every moisturizing product around for years, but recently, brands have been trotting out the show pony ingredient and putting it front and center to make us remember just how great it is for every skin type. (Just like how everyone loves Julia.) Need a primer on the superstar hydrator? We've got you.
Despite its scary-sounding name, hyaluronic acid is naturally found in our bodies, which is why our skin — be it oily, dry, mature, or acneic — responds so well when it's introduced artificially. It’s found in almost every skin cell and acts as a cushion that keeps moisture trapped just below the surface. Unfortunately, our stores of the stuff deplete with age, which is why adding it now is the best thing you can do.
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One of the best ways to increase hyaluronic acid production? Ingest it. Leafy greens like spinach and kale, starchy root vegetables, and bone broths are good sources of HA. (There are also some freaky sources, like rooster comb and fish eyeballs, if you want to really go above and beyond.)
But what makes hyaluronic acid so good at moisturizing is the fact that it can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water. Think of it like a soaked sponge that sits under the surface of the epidermis, and steadily drip-feeds skin with moisture throughout the day. As a result, lines look smoother because skin is plumper and dry patches vanish. But because it's a large molecule, it won't penetrate to the deepest layers, so that's where hyaluronic acid fillers, which are made of synthesized HA derived from sodium hyaluronate, come in.
Ready to give it some love? Ahead, check out the best new ways to get your HA, from serums to masks to lip balms.
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75% of this light-as-air serum is hyaluronic acid, so, yeah, you're getting some serious hydration here. Use it morning and night right after your cleanser or exfoliator — and make sure to give your neck some love, too — then follow it up with a moisturizer.

Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Serum, $65, available at Sephora.
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Yes, this is pricey, but it's a worthy splurge. The treatment feeds collagen (basically, skin's version of scaffolding) to increase firmness and plumpness. The oil-free formula has a texture that's somewhere between a serum and a cream, so it's light enough for combination and oily skin tones, too, and sits well under makeup.

Perricone MD Hyalo Plasma Hyaluronic Acid Intensive Moisturizer, $135, available at Sephora.
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You're going to need to get into the DIY spirit with this rubber modeling mask. Fully mix the gel with the activating powder in a bowl, then paint it on skin with the included spatula. (The more uniformly you can apply it, the easier it'll be to peel off in one piece.) The mask will start to dry within minutes, molding tightly to your face (unlike a traditional sheet mask), which ensures the ingredients (in this case, that means the power team of hyaluronic acid and algae) are driven in deeper.

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Hyaluronic Marine Hydrating Modeling Mask, $46, available at Ulta.
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It makes sense that hyaluronic acid would have the same plumping effect on lips as it does on skin. This lip serum containing hyaluronic filling spheres and fat enhancers has two chambers — one for am and one for pm. In the morning, you're getting the benefits of a plumper and lipstick primer (there's a slight tingling, but nothing like the stinging versions of the past); in the evening, intense nourishment.

Dr. Brandt Needles No More 3-D LIP PLUMPfix, $39, available at Sephora.
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To overcome the large size of the HA molecule, this serum is formulated with sodium hyaluronate (hyaluronic acid in salt form) and hydrolyzed HA (broken-down hyaluronic acid), which both have much smaller particles that penetrate into skin easier. It also targets the surface hydration with ceramides, which make healthy skin cells hold hands, if you will, to create a protective barrier around skin and stop moisture escaping, and antioxidants to improve the barrier function.

PCA Skin Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Serum, $115, available in April at PCA Skin.
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The skin's production of hyaluronic acid begins to slow in your twenties, but rapidly declines after 40, which is why there's no harm in supplementing it as much as possible as early as possible. This booster contains proteins and botanical ingredients, like licorice root and purple rice, that support the skin's natural HA levels, along with both full and fragmented molecules to target multiple layers of skin.

SkinCeuticals H.A. Intensifier, $98, available at DermStore.
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What makes this no-frills formula so special, aside from its almost suspiciously reasonable price? Well, there are a few things — like the addition of vitamin B5 to plump and enhance surface hydration and varying molecular weights for increased absorption to deliver the goods even deeper within your skin instead of just sitting on top of it. Oh, and the price.

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, $6.80, available at Amazon.
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