I’m a Dermatologist, and This Is the Absolute Best Ingredient to Hydrate Dry Skin

There are a few everyday habits that can help your skin maintain maximum hydration: Avoiding hot showers, drinking lots of water, and keeping exfoliation at a minimum, to name a few. But if you really want your skin to stay moisturized, (particularly during the coldest months of the year)  you'll want to pair these habits with the application of topical hyaluronic acid—which board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, says is the best-of-the-best ingredient for hydrating dry skin.

The benefits of hyaluronic acid

When we're born, our skin has a hefty supply of its own naturally occurring hyaluronic acid. But as we get older, we make less and less of it on our own, which is why adding a topical form of the ingredient into your routines becomes extra-important once you hit 30.

Experts In This Article

Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, which means that it works to hold water underneath the surface of your skin. It's become famous in the skin-care world thanks to the fact that it can hold 1,000 times its weight in water, making it a great pick for anyone with a parched complexion. "Hyaluronic acid is most commonly referred to as a moisture magnet because its job is to find water and keep that within the skin," says Dr. Gohara.

How to use hyaluronic acid

You'll likely find hyaluronic acid in a number of different skin-care products (it's a mainstay in cleansers and moisturizers alike), but using a serum infused with the stuff will give you the most bang for your buck. For the best—and most hydrating—results, Dr. Gohara suggests layer your HA serum under your moisturizer. The reason? Because of hyaluronic acid's humectant properties, it will pull the hydrating ingredients from your moisturizer into the skin, allowing them to penetrate more deeply and quench your complexion from the inside out.

What to look for in a hyaluronic acid serum

According to Dr. Gohara, it's essential to find a hyaluronic serum with various molecular weights. "Different serums and products use different sizes of molecules for different effects on the skin," says Dr. Gohara, explaining that bigger hyaluronic acid molecules sit closer to the top of the skin, while smaller ones make their way to the deeper layers of your epidermis. "For a really well-rounded effect, you want to make sure that you have high and low-weight hyaluronic acid so that every level of skin is being hydrated and plumped," she says.

Shop a derm's favorite hyaluronic acid serums

SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator — $120.00

Dr. Gohara is a big fan of this hyaluronic acid serum because it has five (five!) different molecular weights of the ingredient, which means good things for your skin. “It doesn’t just hydrate the skin, it really does a nice job of making sure that each and every layer has what it needs to be well-functioning and to fend off signs of aging,” she says.

L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Hyaluronic Acid Facial Serum — $15.00

Dr. Gohara isn’t the only one who’s a fan of this drugstore serum: It’s become so popular among shoppers that a bottle sells every minute. It’s made with short and long-chain hyaluronic acid, which means the ingredient is able to hydrate the topmost layers of skin while also sinking deeper within skin to help plump it. A $22 a pop, it’s a serious steal.

Skinceuticals Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier — $102.00

What makes this serum so great is that it’s been clinically proven to help boost your skin’s levels of naturally occurring hyaluronic acid over time. This means that in addition to helping to hydrate skin, it can also help to diminish the appearance of crow’s feet, and make your complexion look firmer and smoother overall.

For more Dear Derm goodness, find out from Dr. Gohara just how to choose a vitamin C serum for your regimen. And here's a dermatologist-approved skin-care routine that you can buy on the cheap. 

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