The Best Hyaluronic Acid Serums for Dehydrated Skin

BY Gracee Tolentino · October 16, 2019

Neocutis Hyalis+ 2

Despite its popularity, hyaluronic acid is one of the most misunderstood and misused ingredients in skin care. It’s often confused with alpha hydroxy (AHA) and beta hydroxy acids (BHA) since they all do wonders for the skin. AHAs and BHAs exfoliate the topmost layers of your skin. Hyaluronic acid, on the other hand, is a great pick for anyone looking for a serious boost of skin moisture, no matter your skin type. It is one of the most commonly buzzed-about beauty ingredients because of its incredible ability to hold up to 1,000x its weight in water. It’s also something that your body makes naturally, so its chemical composition absorbs easily into your skin. That makes hyaluronic acid serums particularly amazing for dry and mature complexions or anyone who wants to plump away fine lines and wrinkles.

Curious? We talked to Dr. Ashley Magovern, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Manhattan Beach, Calif. and Dermstore’s medical director,  to find out more.

What Is Hyaluronic Acid?

To understand how hyaluronic acid works, we need to understand what it is. According to Dr. Magovern, hyaluronic acid is a glycosaminoglycan, which is technically a protein, which is found naturally in the skin. It’s also found in the eyes, connective tissue and joints. “Think of hyaluronic acid as a powerful hydrator. It has an amazing ability to attract and hold water in the skin, and in the rest of the body where it is found. It lubricates the joints and helps to repair damage to the body after injury,” she explains.

Why Use a Hyaluronic Acid Serum

So if hyaluronic acid is already in our skin and body, why do we need to use a hyaluronic acid serum? Dr. Magovern explains, “As we age and go through life, our skin becomes increasingly dry and loses moisture. Aging skin loses its firmness, becomes less supple and often looks dehydrated. A product that contains hyaluronic acid can replenish the moisture that aging skin is lacking and improve the appearance of fine lines and make the skin looks more smooth.”

Dr. Magovern adds that everyone can and should be using a product containing hyaluronic acid, regardless of age, skin type or concern. “The great thing about hyaluronic acid is that it can be used on all skin types, even sensitive and acne- and rosacea-prone patients. There is nothing better at almost instantly giving a refreshed, hydrated, smooth appearance to the skin. My patients absolutely love it.”

How to Choose the Right One for You

If you’re using a serum or a cream marketed toward plumping and hydrating, chances are you’re already using a product with hyaluronic acid. However, to get the most out of this ingredient, Dr. Magovern recommends looking closely at your product’s ingredient list. “Some formulations claim that they contain hyaluronic acid even though the amount is very small,” she warns.

To be sure, she says to “look for the ingredient ‘sodium hyaluronate’ early in the ingredient list.” She adds: “Hyaluronic acid is a big molecule, and if not formulated well, it may just sit on the skin’s surface. I would also look for other ingredients along with the hyaluronic acid. For example, look for other things like ceramides, peptides, niacinamide or other antioxidants. I also prefer products that are paraben-free, fragrance-free and propylene glycol–free.”

How to Use It for Best Results

“I recommend adding it twice a day as the last treatment step in your daily routine, and using a moisturizer immediately over it,” says Dr. Magovern. “If you are using it during the day, add a sunscreen as the final step. Hyaluronic acid serums and creams act as a fantastic makeup primer after morning application, and I love the idea of allowing your skin to hydrate as you sleep.”

However, if you have oily skin and are already using a moisturizer, Dr. Magovern says you may not need both a hydrating serum and a moisturizer. “I enjoy layering a hyaluronic serum with my usual day and nighttime moisturizer. Those that have more oily skin may prefer the serum alone.”

More Tips for Keeping Skin Hydrated

Adding a hyaluronic acid serum to your skin care routine is one of the best and easiest ways to boost your skin’s hydration levels, especially if you’re struggling with skin that often feels tight and dry. But that’s not the only thing you can do to help your skin get as much moisture as it needs. Here are some more tips from Dr. Magovern:

  • Avoiding over-washing and scrubbing your skin. “This type of mechanical exfoliation damages the skin barrier and makes it harder for the skin to hold on to moisture. Mild exfoliation is key, in my opinion, and chemical exfoliation is my preferred way to do this. This will gently remove the old, surface skin layers. By removing these layers, your moisturizer and/or hyaluronic acid serum will be more effective.”
  • Amp up hydration through your diet. “Not necessarily drinking a ton of water, which is also critical. Certain foods may increase the production of hyaluronic acid, like green leafy and root vegetables, citrus fruits and soy-based foods.”
  • Be consistent with your skin care routine. “Skin care is like exercise, try not to miss a day.”

Ready to try this powerhouse ingredient? Here are the bestselling and most reviewed hyaluronic acid serums on Dermstore:

1. SkinCeuticals Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier

Why we love it: Aside from its high concentration of pure hyaluronic acid, this serum features 10 percent proxylane™, a patented molecule that supports the skin’s hyaluronic acid levels, as well as botanical extracts of licorice root and purple rice. These ingredients work synergistically to amplify the skin’s hyaluronic acid levels by 30 percent. The result? Long-lasting hydration and improved skin texture.

What shoppers say: Instantly absorbs into skin, hydrating and plumping. Hyaluronic acid is every over-40 woman’s secret weapon. I apply on freshly cleansed skin, then follow with a moisturizer. I also pat on after makeup application. Friends think I have had fillers or other work done.”

2. Eminence Organic Skin Care Strawberry Rhubarb Hyaluronic Serum

Why we love it: This serum features plant-derived hyaluronic acid to plump sagging facial contours and boost your skin’s moisture levels. Salicylic acid gently removes debris from your pores to prevent breakouts and even your complexion. CoQ10 stimulates collagen production for younger-looking skin and helps fight photodamage caused by sun exposure.

What shoppers say: Overnight difference in texture, tone and hydration. I swear my skin looks dewy and “bouncy” as if hydrated and healthy. This has done WONDERS for my hormonal acne. Seriously keeps my cystic acne from developing!”

3. SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator

Why we love it: This hydrator features a proprietary blend of five different forms of hyaluronic acid, which work synergistically to provide continuous hydration for up to eight hours. It also contains a very potent antioxidant from vitis flower stem-cell extract, which supports skin’s natural ability to replenish its own hyaluronic acid for increased hydration and long-term skin health.

What shoppers say: “It plumps and smoothes everything out and leaves a gorgeous, silky matte veil on the skin. Never leaving it greasy or shiny. Complexion has been flawless! I’m hooked.”

4. Neocutis Hyalis+

Why we love it: Boosted with a multifunctional blend of sodium hyaluronate, this oil-free formula seals in moisture and minimizes the look of fine lines and wrinkles. Also works to soothe and replenish stressed post-procedure skin.

5. Vichy Mineral 89 Daily Skin Booster Serum and Moisturizer

Why we love it: Made with 15 mineral-rich water and hyaluronic acid, this face moisturizer delivers 24-hour hydration with its non-sticky, non-shiny, fragrance-free and fast-absorbing formula.

What shoppers say: This product has helped my skin tremendously! I use it morning and night after my toner. It doesn’t break me out and absorbs quickly into my skin. I also dab my beauty blender in it and pat it over [the] top of my powder highlighter that I’ve already applied and it just melts my highlighter in beautifully! It is a fantastic product and I will absolutely repurchase!

6. Paula's Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster

Why we love it: Paula’s Choice takes it up a notch with the inclusion of adenosine and panthenol. Adenosine is known to help energize the skin’s surface and is proven to smoothen out wrinkles and crow’s feet. Panthenol contains anti-inflammatory properties and serves as a humectant that seeps deep into the skin layers and helps retain moisture in the skin.

What shoppers say: This is really making a difference in my skin’s appearance! My wrinkles have been softened greatly. I have very dry skin, and the flakes have been dramatically reduced.

7. PCA Skin Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Serum

Why we love it: While most serums contain concentrated amounts of hyaluronic acid, this serum features a proprietary blend, HA-Pro Complex, which encourages the skin to create its own hyaluronic acid, resulting in long-term anti-aging and hydration.

What shoppers say: “I have oily, dehydrated skin, and this has been a wonder product to battle flakiness, fine lines and dryness without making my skin break out or too shiny. It even seems to help breakouts go away faster.

8. Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Hyaluronic Marine Hydration Booster

Why we love it: This hydration powerhouse is packed with collagen- and elastin-boosting ingredients like copper, watermelon and centella asiatica, which are also crucial in helping the skin heal from photodamage. Zinc PCA keeps the production of excess sebum under control while lactic and glycolic acids help refine skin texture.

What shoppers say: “I struggle with acne; that’s why I have to use pretty harsh cleansers and masks to fight them back. This serum works great without leaving my oily skin with a greasy cast or emphasizing dry spots on my jawline.”

Gracee Tolentino author photo

Gracee Tolentino

Gracee Tolentino is the former managing editor of the Dermstore Blog. After spending 10 years of her writing and editing career working in the travel and food industries, she finally found her true calling: beauty, health and wellness. In her spar... Read More >

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