Derms Agree—It's Time to Mix These Two Hydrating Superstars Into Your Skincare

It’s that time of year again. The temperature is dropping, we’re pivoting to sweater season, and unfortunately, our skin is starting to get drier. This is when we put away our gel moisturizers in favor of richer, heavier creams that will infuse our skin with tons of moisture. 

While there are plenty of moisturizing ingredients out there to look for in our skincare products (think glycerin, butters, and oils), there are two ingredients that are getting a lot of hype in the skincare world—hyaluronic acid and squalane

Hyaluronic acid has been front and center for quite some time now, but squalane has been gaining momentum. These ingredients are both moisturizing superstars, so it’s a good idea to consider adding them to your winter skincare routine. I talked to Rebecca Marcus—MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Maei MD—and Joshua ZeichnerMD, board-certified dermatologist—to get the download on these two hydrating ingredients. Keep reading for everything you need to know.


(Image credit: @marina_torres)

What is squalane, and how does it benefit the skin?

Squalane is an emollient, which means that it works to soften skin. It comes from squalene, a natural component of sebum produced by the skin that is too unstable to formulate into skincare. Squalane, on the other hand, works well when whipped into skincare products. "Squalane, which is created when squalene is hydrogenated, has many benefits for the skin, including emollition, antioxidant, and anticarcinogenic properties,” says Marcus. "Squalane is nonirritating and can calm down redness and inflammation, making it an excellent choice for those with sensitive skin or inflammatory skin conditions.”

Though squalane is primarily used as an emollient, it has other benefits when it’s used in skincare products. ​​”Squalane is super hydrating and is used primarily as a moisturizer but also has antioxidant and skin barrier–boosting properties,” says Marcus. "It can also help to regulate skin’s oil production.”

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What is hyaluronic acid, and how does it benefit the skin?

On the flip side of the hydration spectrum, hyaluronic acid is a humectant. "Think of it like a sponge that pulls in hydration to the outer skin layer to hydrate and plump,” says Zeichner. Hyaluronic acid is a great product to reach for if you want an instant plumping effect. For the best results, try applying it on damp skin, and be sure to seal it in with a moisturizer.

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What is the difference between squalane and hyaluronic acid?

While they both serve to hydrate the skin, hyaluronic acid and squalane have different functions. "The main difference is that hyaluronic acid is a humectant, which means that it draws moisture into the skin, while squalane is an emollient, which means that it traps moisture in the skin and prevents it from evaporating,” says Marcus. "These two ingredients work extremely well together, as they have complementary functions that result in optimal hydration.”


(Image credit: @kat.shearer)

Can you use hyaluronic acid and squalane together? 

Yes, and they work really well in tandem to pull in hydration and keep your skin moisturized. "If you’re using two separate products, I recommend applying hyaluronic acid to damp skin first, followed by squalane to lock in hydration,” says Zeichner. "Hyaluronic acid is great at grabbing onto water, but not keeping it in place, so layering squalane on top of it helps hyaluronic acid work even better.” Products containing both squalane and hyaluronic acid work overtime to keep your skin plump and dewy, even in the driest months. 

Next, I Used to Get Stress Acne on My Chin (Until Derms Recommended These 6 Things)

Associate Beauty Editor

Katie Berohn is the associate beauty editor at Who What Wear. Previously, she worked as the beauty assistant for Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and Prevention magazines, all part of the Hearst Lifestyle Group. She graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder, with a major in journalism and minor in technology, arts, and media, and earned her master's degree at NYU's graduate program for magazine journalism. In addition, Katie has held editorial internships at Denver Life magazine, Yoga Journal, and Cosmopolitan; a digital editorial internship at New York magazine's The Cut; a social good fellowship at Mashable; and a freelance role at HelloGiggles. When she's not obsessing over the latest skincare launch or continuing her journey to smell every perfume on the planet, Katie can be found taking a hot yoga class, trying everything on the menu at New York's newest restaurant, or hanging out at a trendy wine bar with her friends.