IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

This ingredient is a must-have for plump and hydrated skin — 22 options to shop

Dermatologists explain how your skin care routine could benefit from this hydrating ingredient.
Illustration of a Close-up of a Woman applying serum to her face, hands holding droppers, bottles of Trio Rebalancing Moisture Treatment and bottles of SkinCeuticals Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier
TODAY Illustration / honey_and_milk / Getty Images / Walmart / Skinbetter

Every time we turn around, it seems like there's a new skin care product or ingredient that our routine just "has to have." One ingredient that seems to have taken over the skin care world overnight? Hyaluronic acid.

Hyaluronic acid is found in so many skin care products these days, and many dermatologists swear by it — but what exactly is it? We asked dermatologists to explain what hyaluronic acid is, how it can benefit the skin and whether there are any side effects to worry about.

What is hyaluronic acid?

Hyaluronic acid is a substance produced naturally by the skin. It’s a humectant, which means it can absorb and retain water — kind of like a molecular sponge.

“It gives a lot of support and structure to the skin,” Dr. Ted Lain, chief medical officer at Sanova Dermatology in Austin, Texas, previously told TODAY Style. “It brings in moisture, so it’s responsible for a lot of the water content of the skin as well.”

In fact, hyaluronic acid can absorb and retain up to 1,000 times its weight in water, making it a powerful hydrator, according to Dr. Charisse Dolitsky, a dermatologist with the Schweiger Dermatology Group in Long Island, New York.

Hyaluronic acid can also plump the skin alongside its hydrating effects, which can improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles to leave the skin looking healthy and refreshed, explained New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick.

Although the body produces hyaluronic acid naturally, the skin is less able to produce it as we age, making it more common for the skin to get drier over the years.

People often use serums or moisturizers containing hyaluronic acid to get a little extra hydrating boost. (The hyaluronic acid in skin care products is a synthetic version of the compound made in a lab.) It also has uses beyond a surface-level topical, including some medical uses like helping with joint issues and healing wounds.

"As a dermatologist, I use this type of product as a dermal filler when I inject it into the skin to help with fine lines and wrinkles as well as to volumize the face," dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman told Shop TODAY.

What are the benefits of using hyaluronic acid?

First and foremost, hyaluronic acid can be a fantastic moisturizer. When present in creams and serums, it penetrates the skin barrier to help with hydration.

“It can affect the skin by making the cells plump up, make it more dewy and more hydrated and moist, and it can minimize the appearance of fine lines,” Dolitsky previously told TODAY Style.

It can be especially great for people with skin prone to irritation.

“[For] certain people that have a compromised skin barrier, many hyaluronic acid products are nonirritating,” she said. “They have a soothing effect on the skin, if you have a very sensitive skin condition.”

For that reason, hyaluronic acid is often found in combination with other skin care ingredients that could be more irritating, like retinol.

“It gives the topical preparation more of a soothing property,” Dolitsky said. “It can be combined with many different things.”

She added that certain formulations of hyaluronic acid can even stimulate the body to create its own hyaluronic acid.

Does hyaluronic acid have any side effects or risks?

Although it’s called an "acid," don’t let the name fool you. Hyaluronic acid is not an exfoliator like salicylic or glycolic acid. Rather, it’s a kind of carbohydrate produced naturally by the body.

Because hyaluronic acid doesn’t peel or exfoliate the skin at all, it’s generally very safe to use.

“It’s very low on side effects,” Dolitsky said. “In rare instances, some products can be irritating, probably the ones on the extreme end of the spectrum with extremely low molecular weight...they penetrate and they can cause some inflammation and irritation, but it’s rare.”

More often, side effects can occur if you use a product containing hyaluronic acid in combination with other, more irritating ingredients. But both Dolitsky and Lain agree that hyaluronic acid on its own is almost always safe and suitable for all skin types.

Regardless, when trying out products containing hyaluronic acid, Dolitsky recommends testing a small area first to make sure you don’t have a reaction to any of the ingredients.

There are so many products containing hyaluronic acid on the market, and it can be hard to know where to begin. Here are some of the best dermatologist-recommended and top-rated hyaluronic acid serums and moisturizers.

Best hyaluronic acid serums and moisturizers, according to experts

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel

Dolitsky is a big fan of Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost line, and especially this water gel moisturizer.

“I tend to deal with people with dry skin and other issues, so usually need something (like this) that’s a little more of a heavy moisturizer,” Dolitsky said.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Hydrogel Mask

Dolitsky also swears by Neutrogena’s single-use hydrating masks. It is made with 100 percent hydrogel material that allows the mask to hold up to 50 percent more essence than a standard paper face mask.

“People with acne, their skin might be irritated from their medicines, and they put on the hydrogel sheet masks and it’s just kind of soothing, and they feel good," she said.

L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Hyaluronic Acid Facial Serum

TODAY Style editor Bobbie Thomas previously recommended this serum from L'Oreal Paris. With the optimal concentration of hyaluronic acid, it aims to reduce wrinkles while hydrating and providing younger-looking skin in just a week. This serum is a customer favorite and has over 25,000 verified five-star ratings on Amazon.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum

Thomas also recommended this hydrating serum, which helps skin stay smooth and glowing all day long. This serum boasts a near five-star average rating and has almost 9,700 verified five-star ratings on Amazon. One reviewer even said their dermatologist suggested they "stop paying premium price for "high-end" skin care products and switch to the Neutrogena brand."

Skinceuticals Hydrating B5 Gel

Thomas also liked this oil-free serum, which replenishes moisture and restores radiance, creating a smoother complexion. It's powerful enough to be used alone, but gentle enough to be paired with your favorite daily moisturizer.

Dr. Brandt Skincare Hyaluronic Facial Cream

This daily plumping hydrator was another one of Thomas' favorites. It locks in moisture for up to 72 hours, and its peptides help restore and rejuvenate skin, leaving visible results. It dries down to a soft, velvety texture, making it perfect for makeup application.

Top-rated hyaluronic acid serums

Typology Hydrating Serum3% Hyaluronic Acid + 2% B5

Hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 combine in this serum to provide lasting hydration and plumper skin, according to the brand. Shoppers have left over 1,000 five-star reviews and one person even wrote, "Before I applied this my skin was so dry and I would suffer cracked lips every year particularly in cold weather, but since I have used this on my skin I haven’t. Staple for dry sensitive skin."

Osea Hyaluronic Sea Serum

This bestseller from Osea is made with two molecular weights of hyaluronic acid, seaweed and snow mushroom to keep skin looking and feeling healthy and hydrated. According to the brand, this serum instantly increases hydration, fills the look of wrinkles and minimizes the appearances of all lines.

Dime Hyaluronic Acid Serum

This serum has garnered nearly a perfect five-star rating from over 1,700 shoppers on the brand's site. Reviewers rave about how much of a difference it's made for their skin, with one person calling it a "holy grail serum."

Vichy Mineral 89 Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum

This serum from Vichy is oil-free and won't clog the pores, making it suitable for all skin types. It has an average rating over four-and-a-half stars from nearly 19,000 shoppers. One verified five-star reviewer listed numerous benefits they've experienced since using the serum including lightweight hydration, plumper skin and minimize fine lines and wrinkles over time.

SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator

This splurge pick from SkinMedica is made with five types of hydrators, according to the brand, and is designed to provide eight hours of continuous moisture. Key ingredients in this hydrator include a peptide complex to rejuvenate the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as vitamin E to protect the skin from damaging elements and signs of premature aging.

CeraVe Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum

This pick from CeraVe is made with the brand's highest concentration of hyaluronic acid and designed to help skin appear hydrated and smoother. It has a gel-like texture that will help provide a lightweight feel when you apply a layer.

SkinCeuticals Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier

If you’re up for more of a splurge, this hyaluronic acid "intensifier" from SkinCeuticals is a product worth looking at. It is described by the brand as a "multifunctional corrective serum" that is designed to amplify the skin's hyaluronic acid levels, reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles on the skin and deliver long-lasting hydration. This serum is also both paraben- and dye-free.

Trio Rebalancing Moisture Treatment

This treatment is made with sodium hyaluronate, which is an ingredient that is extracted from hyaluronic acid and has a smaller molecule weight, allowing it to penetrate the top layer of the skin for deeper hydration.

Glossier Super Bounce

Hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 go hand in hand in this Glossier serum to provide moisture and long-term hydration to your skin, according to the brand's listed benefits. It touts a silky formula that makes it easy to wear with other moisturizers and even makeup.

Beauty Pie Triple Hyaluronic Acid Lipopeptide Serum

This serum contains not one, not two, but three different weights of hyaluronic acid to tackle hydration in every nook and cranny of your skin. It's also filled with other good-for-your-skin ingredients including peptides and ceramides.

PCA Skin Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Serum

This serum was designed to encourage your skin to create its own hyaluronic acid in an attempt to provide you with long-term anti-aging and hydration.

"When I tell you guys that this is THEE BEST gift u can give your skin, I'm not lying! This serum will wake your skin back up like you're 22 again!" raved one five-star reviewer.

The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid

This bestseller from The Inkey List has over 900 five-star ratings on Sephora's website. One reviewer praised its ability to lock moisture into the skin, adding that it doesn't feel heavy and leaves your skin looking glowy, even when used in conjunction with niacinamide.

Glow Recipe Plum Plump Hyaluronic Serum

Plum isn't a part of this serum's name solely for alliteration purposes; it actually contains three different types of plum extracts. On top of that, its formula also includes a whopping five different weights of hyaluronic acid.

Cosmedica Skincare Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum

This serum has nearly 26,00 verified five-star ratings on Amazon. Its gentle formula is made without any parabens, oils, dyes, fragrances or fillers. One five-star reviewer shared the significant differences they noticed in their skin like higher moisture retention, improved the appearance of crow's feet and softer skin.

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

This budget-friendly hyaluronic acid serum from The Ordinary has over a four-star average rating at Sephora, Ulta and Target. It is vegan and cruelty-free, made without the presence of oil, alcohol, nuts, silicone and gluten. For under $10, this serum is a great option for those who don't want to invest in a high-cost item just yet.

La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum

Made with two types of hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5, this top-rated serum is formulated to leave skin more hydrated and looking visibly plumper within hours. Designed with anti-aging benefits in mind, this serum tackles dehydrated skin, fine lines and loss of elasticity and volume. One Target reviewer called it their "new must-have."

For more stories like this, check out:

Subscribe to our Stuff We Love and One Great Find newsletters, and download our TODAY app to discover deals, shopping tips, budget-friendly product recommendations and more!