Unless you've been living under a rock, I'm going to go ahead and guess that you are aware of hyaluronic acid. It's been cropping up consistently in skincare for many years now, and it's also a major buzzword on TikTok and among dermatologists and skincare experts. It's one of those skincare ingredients that is practically ubiquitous at this point—it's in serums, moisturizers, and, heck, even haircare.
Even if it appears on ingredient lists on the reg, it's still tricky to know which hyaluronic acid product is best for you. I enlisted derms to help me out in learning how to choose a hyaluronic acid serum, who hyaluronic acid is best for, and more.
What exactly is hyaluronic acid?
Hyaluronic acid acts as a humectant, meaning it retains water. "HA is a chain of carbohydrates that has the ability to hold on to water up to 1000 times its weight," says David Kim, MD, MS, a board-certified dermatologist. "It's an ingredient that helps your skin appear hydrated and plump."
There isn't just one form of hyaluronic acid, either—it comes in different sizes that are able to penetrate different layers of the skin. "Each molecule is assigned a molecular weight, which inversely relates to how deep the molecule can penetrate the skin," says Rina Allawh, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in King of Prussia, PA. The smaller the molecule, the deeper into the skin it's able to penetrate.
It may seem like you'd want to go for the hyaluronic acid with the lowest molecular weight possible, but that's not always the case. "The advantage of higher-molecular-weight hyaluronic acid serums are the anti-inflammatory and soothing properties, as it forms a durable film with the top layer of the skin," says Allawh. "A low-molecular-weight hyaluronic acid serum is more likely to have a lasting anti-wrinkle and regenerating effect and works in the deeper levels of the skin. As you can imagine, lower-molecular-weight hyaluronic acid serums are able to lock in the moisture in the connective tissue of the skin and, as a result, stimulate firming effects."
Luckily, anyone and everyone can use hyaluronic acid, as it's well tolerated among all skin types. "It is one of the most commonly used ingredients in serums and moisturizers, and it's particularly good for people with oily, acne-prone skin because of its light texture," says Kim.
"The benefits of hyaluronic acid serums or drops is a combination of hyaluronic acid and water, which in fact helps maximize hydration," says Allawh. "Serums typically contain low-molecular-weight hyaluronic acid that easily penetrates to the deeper levels of the skin. An added benefit of small molecule size is that it may be easily combined with other hydrating ingredients such as ceramides and essential fatty acids as well as brightening lactic acid."
Keep reading for the best dermatologist-approved and editor-favorite hyaluronic acid serums out there.
Editors' and Experts' Favorite Hyaluronic Acid Serums
Packed with both hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5, this hydrating gel helps bind moisture into the skin.
Pros: Oil-free, moisturizing
Customer review: "Best hyaluronic acid out there! It absorbs beautifully and doesn't leave any residue. I've been using this product for years and although I have tried their new hyaluronic acid, this one is still my favorite."
Best Drugstore: L'Oréal Revitalift Derm Intensives 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum
"L'Oréal's Revitalift 1.5% Pure HA is a good and affordable HA serum," says Kim. "It's light and not sticky or tacky (which some HA serums are), and it's gentle, so anyone who wants just a thin layer of extra hydration can use this."
Pros: Moisturizing, plumping, fragrance-free
Customer review: "It didn't take long to tell this stuff works! I noticed changes in my skin texture after one use and now it's been about 10 days and my skin is so smooth, soft, and even-toned."
Best for Dry Skin: Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Serum
Allawh loves this hyaluronic acid serum because it's lightweight, noncomedogenic, hydrating, and great for anyone with sensitive or acne-prone skin.
Pros: Moisturizing, plumping, noncomedogenic
Cons: Slight fragrance
Customer review: "After using it for a period of time, I noticed that my skin did feel moisturized and slightly more radiant. The serum has a lightweight texture, which makes it easy to apply and absorb into the skin. It contains vitamin B5, known for its soothing properties, which may have contributed to the nourishing effect. "
Best for Sensitive Skin: Vichy Mineral 89 Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum
"This is a fast-absorbing hyaluronic acid moisturizer that helps improve the appearance of dry, dehydrated, and dull skin," says Allawh. "Excellent for all skin types, including dry, sensitive skin."
Pros: Moisturizing, plumping
Cons: May be a bit tacky before absorption
Customer review: "I was afraid to try it because of how sensitive my skin is. But I'm so glad I took a chance on this. The first night I used this I applied it right after my toner. At first this gel like consistency feels watery and goes on smooth. Then it feels a bit tacky but dries down almost immediately, leaving your skin feeling taught and smooth. You get almost an immediate plumping. I noticed more firmness in the lines on my forehead after just two days."
Best With Vitamin C: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Hyaluronic Marine Hydration Booster
This serum is essentially the blue-light glasses of skincare. With both blue light–blocking technology and hyaluronic acid, it protects while it hydrates, making it perfect for skin using retinol that needs extra protection.
Pros: Moisturizing, plumping, protects skin from blue light
Customer review: "This serum completely changed my life. I will be purchasing again and again. It’s hydrating and I love the feel of it."
Best for Mature Skin: SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator
With five different molecular weights of hyaluronic acid, this SkinMedica serum covers all the bases.
Pros: Moisturizing, plumping, firming
Customer review: "This is a great product. The greatest benefit my skin has received is that it has really helped keep my skin hydrated through the winter months. The most noticeable difference is the smooth and even appearance of my skin. I can't believe how soft my skin is."
Best With Niacinamide: Avène Hydrance Boost Concentrated Hydrating Serum
With hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, this serum helps even skin's tone while deeply moisturizing.
Pros: Moisturizing, plumping, evening
Customer review: "The skin on my face tends to dry quickly and feel tight, so I was thrilled when I had lasting moisture from each application. It was easy to apply with my fingertips and absorbed quickly, leaving my face feeling fresher and brighter!"
Best Budget Pick: The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Serum
For just $10, this intensely hydrating serum is a steal.
Pros: Moisturizing, plumping
Cons: Some may not like the smell
Customer review: "Love this stuff. So inexpensive and works just as well as the high-end pricey brands. A little goes a long way and is perfect under moisturizer and makeup. Will continue to keep purchasing."