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

Fiona Embleton is a multi-award-winning beauty editor who has tested over 10,000 products in her 10 years +  of writing and shooting beauty stories. For the past four years, she was the Senior Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, having previously worked in the role of Beauty Editor at both Stylist and Cosmopolitan. She has recently gone freelance and alongside My Imperfect Life, she has written for titles including ELLE UK, ELLE Canada, Buro 247, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Vogue Scandinavia, and ES Magazine. Beauty journalism allowed her to marry up her first-class degree in English Literature and Language (she’s a stickler for grammar and a self-confessed ingredients geek) with a passion for make-up and skincare, photography, and catwalk trends. She loves jumping on the latest internet-breaking beauty news, dissecting the best red carpet looks, and having the crème de la crème of dermatologists, make-up artists, and hairstylists on speed dial so she can tap them for the best advice. She’s a discerning beauty shopper and knows it can be confusing trying to navigate what’s hype and what really works. So if she really likes something, you can trust that she has reached that opinion by vetting it against everything else she’s ever tried. Her career highs? Interviewing Cate Blanchett and winning a Jasmine Award for the deeply personal feature Cancer Stole My Mother’s Scent.