I’ve Tried Hundreds of Hydrating Serums, But This $22 Drugstore Pick Is My All-Time Favorite

Photo: Getty Images/Antonio_Diaz
After spending the better part of two decades trying to cocktail the perfect routine for my dry complexion, I feel like I deserve a degree in skin-care mixology. I've tried countless serums, moisturizers, and oils for the sake of reaching peak hydration, and my years of testing have taught me that there is one product that absolutely can't be skipped: hyaluronic acid serum.

While this serum isn't usually included in the "key five" that derms say everyone needs to be using on their skin (those spots are reserved for cleanser, antioxidant serum, SPF, retinol, and moisturizer), it should be considered a non-negotiable for those prone to dryness—particularly during the winter months.

Hyaluronic acid is often touted as one of the best hydrating ingredients money can buy. It acts as a humectant, which means that it attracts moisture (kind of like a sponge), and is famous for its ability to hold 1,000 times its weight in water within the skin. This means that it will help any other hydrating ingredients you layer on top of it—like, say, the ones in your go-to moisturizer—penetrate more deeply, delivering moisture from the inside out. While you'll often find hyaluronic acid on the ingredients' list of cleansers and moisturizers, dedicating an entire step to the ingredient allows it to work to its full capacity.

Though the thought of adding yet another product into your already-stacked routine can feel admittedly overwhelming, the good news is that one of the best options on the market will only run you about 20 bucks. Vichy Mineral 89 Daily Skin Booster Serum and Moisturizer ($22) comes highly recommended from both derms and reviewers alike, and after testing it out for myself over the course of the past month it's become a forever staple in my skin-care cabinet, too.

The formula pairs hyaluronic acid (which, of course, is the star of the show) with Vichy's mineral-rich volcanic water. This water is jam-packed with 15 different minerals, including iron, potassium, calcium, and manganese, which work to fortify your skin barrier so that it can better hold onto hydration while also providing protection from environmental aggressors. This is important during the colder months of the year when a lack of moisture in the air can dry out your complexion and mess with the health of your skin barrier. With this serum, you'll get everything you need to combat these issues, which is no small feat for something with a $20 price tag.

Another thing worth noting about the formula? It's oil-free (it actually only has 11 ingredients, which is pretty much the bare minimum in the world of skin care), which makes it totally safe to use on oily and acne-prone skin. In fact, Elyse Love, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City, names it as her favorite hydrating serum for these types of complexions.

I've been applying Vichy 89 as the last step before my moisturizer, and have seen a real difference in the overall appearance of my skin. It's got a water-like texture that doesn't feel sticky or tacky, and my complexion slurps it up within seconds. It makes my skin look immediately plumper (another benefit that hyaluronic acid brings to the table), and I've noticed less dryness and flaking as I've used it over time.

Reviewers seem to share these sentiments. The product has more than 1,000 five-star ratings on Ulta's website, with fans of the formula calling it "a miracle" for its ability to decrease redness and "a dream" for its hydrating and smoothing capabilities. As one user put it, "It's really helped me with hydration and repairing my moisture barrier."

Now that Vichy 89 is a part of my permanent collection, my search for the perfect winter skin-care cocktail is now officially complete.

For more intel on what makes hyaluronic acid so great (particularly this time of year), check out the video below. 

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