Is too much hyaluronic acid bad for your skin?

It's possible to love hyaluronic acid too much

Blue glass vials on pink background with dropper
(Image credit: Getty / Fiordaliso)

It’s fair to say that hyaluronic acid is the ‘white t-shirt’ of our skincare regimes. It’s the everyday hero humectant that attaches itself to the water in cells, making them plump up for pillowy, hydrated skin. So it’s not hard to see why, alongside retinol, we savor every last drop in our anti-aging arsenal. 

But it is possible to love even the best hyaluronic acids a little too much.  

Hyaluronic has an incredible capacity to draw in and hold onto moisture like a sponge. In fact, applied topically, a single gram of hyaluronic acid can hold up to six liters of water. The trouble is, it needs moisture to work in the first place so when applied to dry skin in a dry climate (thanks, central heating) it can actually backfire.

"The temptation is to really slather on a hyaluronic serum at this time of year," says Dr Sophie Shotter. "But you could actually be making your skin drier. Hyaluronic acid will draw moisture from wherever it can find it to hydrate the surface of your face, including the deeper layers of your skin if there is no humidity in the air."

Which is to say, too much hyaluronic acid can leave skin thirstier, and dehydration lines more prominent.

How to apply hyaluronic acid correctly

So what’s the solution? We'd suggest looking for a hyaluronic acid serum that contains additional emollients, like glycerin and ceramides.

You'll find glycerin in Dr Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Acid while Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum is brimming with pineapple ceramides and vitamin B5.

Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum bottle


(Image credit: Cult Beauty)

If emollients don’t appear on the ingredient list, then bring in the reinforcements. 

Create a hydration sandwich: first spritz on a face mist like the Mario Badescu Facial Spray With Aloe, Herbs, and Rosewater, then apply your hyaluronic acid. Finally, top it all off with a ceramide moisturizer such as Origins GinZing moisturizer, or Paula's Choice Clinical Ceramide-Enriched Firming Moisturiser

Paula's Choice Clinical Ceramide-Enriched Firming Moisturiser bottle


(Image credit: Net-a-Porter)

By applying your serum to damp skin, the hyaluronic acid has a reserve of moisture to draw from. "Ceramides make the most of your hyaluronic acid by locking that moisture into the skin instead of letting it escape," says Shotter. 

Granted, this may not speed up your morning routine. But your skin will look so glowy, you’ll reconsider putting any make-up on top.

Fiona Embleton
Fiona Embleton

Senior Beauty Editor, Future Publishing. Portfolio: Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Stylist.