Can Hyaluronic Acid dry out your skin?

Hyaluronic Acid is a skincare favourite and essential hydrator. Rumours may have appeared on your social media feeds about whether it actually dehydrates your skin, but do these stories hold any water?

What is Hyaluronic Acid?


Hyaluronic Acid is a fatty acid found in the skin’s natural barrier. It’s claim to fame is that it can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water, so imagine how well it could hydrate your skin.

There are two forms of Hyaluronic Acid; regular and low molecular weight. The regular weight is absorbed into the surface of the skin and the low molecular weight can penetrate more deeply. The low molecular weight can also enter the skin cells themselves to help them keep them plump and juicy.

Fun fact; Hyaluronic Acid is the main ingredient used to make dermal fillers, but it also works as a topical ingredient in skincare because it helps hydrate, plump and restore the skin’s natural protective barrier.

Your skin’s barrier


The surface of your skin has a natural moisture barrier made of ceramides, cholesterols and fatty acids. It sits between two thin layers of skin cells that are either dead or close to it.

The barrier improves the skin’s immunity by protecting it from bacterial infection and damage. When the barrier is damaged, water gets out and bacteria get in, leading to dryness and breakouts.

Harsh cleansers, artificial fragrances and even certain moisturisers can damage your skins natural barrier.

“Patients with dry skin often say that the more moisturiser they apply, the drier their skin feels,” says RejuvAus founder Dr Cussell. In some cases, this is because harsh ingredients in their moisturisers are slowly damaging their natural barriers, he explains.

Hyaluronic Acid and Vitamin B are two skincare ingredients that can help replenish your skin’s natural barrier and lock in moisture.

Can Hyaluronic Acid dry out your skin?


The great debate among skincare influencers is whether Hyaluronic Acid can actually take water away from you skin and dry it out.

When you apply regular-weight Hyaluronic Acid, it draws water from moisture in the air and binds it to your skin. If it can’t draw moisture from the air, they say, it will draw water from the deeper layers of your skin.

According to Dr Cussell, there are two simple ways to prevent this from happening.

First, he says, do not use moisturisers, make up or primers that have occlusive ingredients like silicones. These ingredients block your HAs from drawing water from the air.

Second, always use a Hyaluronic Acid serum with both regular and low-molecular weight. You see, if the air is dry or your skin is occluded, your regular weight Hyaluronic Acid will try to draw water from deeper layers of your skin. If you apply a low-molecular weight Hyaluronic Acid, it can penetrate deeper into the skin and hold the water there, preventing the regular weight Hyaluronic Acid from pulling it away.

Be sure to check the ingredients label on your serums carefully. Unless it specifies low molecular weight, or LMW Hyaluronic Acid, there’s a good chance that it only contains the regular weight.

In short, Hyaluronic Acid has huge benefits for the skin, but to let it do it's job and hydrate your skin (rather than drying it out) it’s important you don’t use it with occlusive products, and you always use both weights.