Haven’t Tried a Hyaluronic Acid Serum Yet? Here Are 13 of the Best

SKIN CARE REVIEWS

12.28.21DISCLAIMER

Have you considered adding a hyaluronic acid serum into your routine? While the word “acid” sounds ominous, hyaluronic acid couldn’t be more different from other star skincare ingredients such as glycolic acid or alpha hydroxy acid. In layman’s terms (we’ll get scientific in a bit), it’s like a big drink of water that hydrates and plumps the skin — but those aren’t the only impressive hyaluronic acid serum benefits.

While there’s nothing wrong with using a hyaluronic acid moisturizer, the best hyaluronic acid comes in the form of a concentrated, results-driven serum. Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all hyaluronic serum — which is why we’ve done the research for you.

What are the Best Skin Care Products of 2022?

No worries. Here at the Derm Review, we’ve reviewed hundreds of products with a scientific lens to ensure you’re creating a skincare regimen that’s safe and effective. Whether you’re looking for a pure hyaluronic acid serum or one formulated with other ingredients to address your skin concerns, here are 13 of the best formulas.

Hyaluronic Acid Serum: The List

Best Overall: Carrot & Stick The Repair Serum, $80

Runner Up: Carrot & Stick The Hydrating Serum, $70

Best Dermatologist Pick: SkinCeuticals Hyaluronic Acid Skin Intensifier, $100

Best Budget: The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, $6.80

Best for Brightening: OLEHENRIKSEN Banana Bright Vitamin C Serum, $65

Best for Sensitive Skin: Ghost Democracy Floodgate Hyaluronic Acid Serum, $34

Best Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum: L’Oreal Revitalift Derm Intensives 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum, $29.99

Best Gradual Release Formula: Cerave Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum, $15.99

Best Luxe: Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Serum, $300

Best Drugstore Buy: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum, $23.99

Best for Extra-Dry Skin: Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Serum, $52

Best for Mature Skin: SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator, $178

Best for Irritated Skin: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Hydrating Serum, $38

The Science Behind Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is an aqueous substance that our bodies produce naturally to help maintain the skin’s moisture. Though it’s found in our connective tissue, joints, and even eyes, we’re here to discuss hyaluronic acid concerning the skin. 

We produce less of it as we age, resulting in increased dryness, fine lines, and wrinkles. For this reason, hyaluronic acid in skincare is incredibly beneficial. As it’s a humectant, it can hold over 1,000 times its weight in water, so it’s safe to say it’s a super-hydrator of epic proportions.

Unlike the HA that our body produces, the version used in skincare products, such as a hyaluronic acid serum, is typically made in a lab using a process called bio-fermentation.

Note that hydration (water) is not the same as moisture (oil), which is why all skin types can benefit from a HA serum as it’s lightweight yet effective. A hydrator (like hyaluronic acid) draws water to the skin using humectants, which collect moisture from the environment to bind it to the skin. This process makes it possible for the skin to absorb the water.

Related: Best Face Serums

Hyaluronic Acid Serum Benefits

The reality is, everyone’s skin can be dehydrated (lacking water), so all types can benefit from a hyaluronic acid serum. What does a hyaluronic acid serum do? Notable hyaluronic acid benefits for the skin include:

  • HA has anti-wrinkle properties due to its ability to retain sizable amounts of water, thus keeping the skin incredibly hydrated.
  • Studies suggest hyaluronic acid can heal wounds more quickly by managing inflammation levels and signaling the body to create more blood vessels in the injured area.
  • Hyaluronic acid strengthens the skin’s natural barriers to help seal in moisture, which creates a more intense hydrating effect. Over time, the deterioration of the lipid barrier can slow down and become more protected, enhancing the skin’s resilience.
  • While HA can’t increase cell turnover like retinol or glycolic acid, it does help further skin cell regeneration due to increased hydration and barrier protection.
  • Research indicates HA has antibacterial properties, which is excellent news for acne patients.
  • While hyaluronic acid can’t replace elastin, it can give the skin a more toned and smooth appearance since it’s plumping up the skin due to increased hydration.

Related: Best Retinol Serum

What to Look for in the Best Hyaluronic Acid

In most cases, the smaller the molecules, the greater their ability to penetrate the skin. With that said, many serums claim to possess the power of hyaluronic acid. Still, the reality is, they contain larger molecules that (at best) bind water and provide hydration but cannot penetrate the skin

  • For optimal results, look for a HA serum that contains molecules in a variety of sizes — most brands will let you know if this is the case for their formula. Products that use just one form of hyaluronic acid can draw moisture out of the skin, making the surface feel soft and hydrated temporarily while feeling like you need more hyaluronic acid after the product is rinsed.To be clear, it’s the low molecular weight HA that penetrates the deep layers, providing lasting benefits, while high weight HA molecules supply an instant moisture surge.
  • Additionally, consider choosing a formula that contains other powerhouse ingredients such as brightening vitamin C or skin-soothing niacinamide — but avoid harsh additives such as alcohol and sulfates. 
  • Also, Don’t feel the need to look for a serum with a ridiculously high concentration of HA — 0.2 to 1% is typical, though you may find a blend that contains a higher percentage.

How to Use a Hyaluronic Acid Serum

Man applying serum

Before anything else, conduct a patch test — especially if you have sensitive skin or decide to try a formula with a higher concentration of HA. Just because it’s an ingredient suitable for all skin types doesn’t mean you still can’t have a reaction.

Always pair your hyaluronic acid serum with a moisturizer for your skin type. Remember, it’s providing you with hydration — not moisture. If your skin is already on the dry side, the HA acid will pull water from wherever it can source it (including deep within the layers of your skin), and it will evaporate into the air if not properly sealed with a moisturizer. Apply your serum to damp — not bone dry — skin for optimal hydration.

When to use a hyaluronic acid serum? You can apply it twice a day, in the morning and at night, as a part of your skincare routine.

Keep an eye on your skin. If you notice your skin becoming drier, you may be overdoing it, or you need to pause due to climate changes. If there’s no humidity in the air, HA will draw moisture from wherever it can, which is likely your skin.

Best Hyaluronic Acid Serums

Best Overall: Carrot & Stick The Repair Serum, $80
Carrot & Stick’s hyaluronic serum visibly lifts, tightens, and firms while defending against damaging free radicals. Hyaluronic acid and vitamin E deliver an instant boost of hydration, while a blend of synthesized growth factors encourages elasticity, cell turnover, and nutrient absorption to support revitalization. 

Seven plant-based neuropeptides enhance the skin’s structural integrity from the inside out, promoting smoother, more resilient-looking skin. Finally, soothing and brightening botanicals impart an ageless glow.

Runner Up: Carrot & Stick The Hydrating Serum, $60
This intensely hydrating serum contains both high and low molecular weight hyaluronic acid. These two forms continuously draw water to the skin’s surface and lock it in.

Best Dermatologist Pick: SkinCeuticals Hyaluronic Acid Skin Intensifier, $100
SkinCeuticals’ results-driven formulas continue to be a favorite of skincare professionals and consumers alike, and this serum is no exception. A potent blend of unadulterated hyaluronic acid, licorice root, proxylane (a powerhouse anti-aging ingredient), and purple rice work synergistically to increase the skin’s hyaluronic acid levels by 30%.

Immediately and over time, the skin becomes more hydrated, the texture is improved, fine lines and wrinkles are diminished, and elasticity is restored.

Related: Best Night Serums

Best Budget: The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, $6.80
We love that The Ordinary hyaluronic acid serum is formulated with multiple molecular weights of hyaluronic acid to offer multi-depth hydration and visible plumping without drawing water out of the skin solely to improve temporary surface hydration. This makes The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 a good option for those with dehydrated skin and/or skin showing signs of aging.

Best for Brightening: OLEHENRIKSEN Banana Bright Vitamin C Serum, $65
OLEHENRIKSEN’s cult-favorite Banana Bright Eye Cream pairs perfectly with this supercharged vitamin C and hyaluronic serum that, along with hyaluronic acid for hydration, contains 15% vitamin C to brighten and energize. Vitamin E nourishes while exfoliating polyhydroxy acids promote a more even and revitalized skin tone.

Best for Sensitive Skin: Ghost Democracy Floodgate Hyaluronic Acid Serum, $34
While HA is considered a safe and suitable ingredient for all skin types, for those who tend to be on the more sensitive side, a hyaluronic acid and niacinamide serum is best. This version contains 2.1% pure HA in low, medium, and high weights in addition to 4.0% niacinamide (aka vitamin B3) to calm irritation and strengthen the skin’s natural moisture barrier. 

The addition of linden flower and white tea leaf extracts provides further anti-inflammatory and skin-soothing properties. You won’t find any faux fragrance, essential oils, parabens, or other potential irritants, making it an ideal HA serum for sensitive skin.

Best Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum: L’Oreal Revitalift Derm Intensives 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum, $29.99
This L’Oreal hyaluronic acid serum is formulated with 1.5% pure hyaluronic acid — the brand’s most potent hydrating formula containing its highest concentration of pure hyaluronic acid. Validated by an external panel of dermatologists, L’Oreal claims it’s the number one selling serum in America. It immediately hydrates, plumps skin in one week, and reduces the appearance of wrinkles over time. 

Best Gradual Release Formula: Cerave Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum, $15.99
CeraVe Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum helps bind moisture to your skin’s surface, smoothing it and providing up to 24 hours of hydration. Hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5, and three essential ceramides work together to lock in moisture and help restore your skin’s protective barrier for up to 24 hours. The brand’s patented MVE technology encapsulates ceramides to ensure efficient delivery within the skin’s barrier and slow release over time.

Related: Best Niacinamide Serums

Best Luxe: Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Serum, $300
When you’re paying this much for a hyaluronic acid serum, you probably want to know what makes it worth the splurge. Long-and short-chain hyaluronic molecules have the ability to penetrate each layer of the skin, so you’ll notice immediate and long-term improvements. This upscale serum contains purslane, Dr. Strum’s hero ingredient, which calms irritation and inflammation, protects the skin and provides nutritive and anti-oxidative benefits.

Best Drugstore Buy: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum, $23.99
Who doesn’t love a good drugstore find? Especially one that’s as heralded as this serum formulated with Neutrogena’s 17% Hydration Complex made of high and low weight hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5, and trehalose to attract moisture and seal it in. All skin types will feel weightlessly hydrated for a full 24 hours.

Best for Extra Dry Skin: Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Serum, $52
A simple hyaluronic acid serum won’t do for those with highly parched skin. For that reason, this formula is an excellent choice for extra dry skin because it contains a potent 30% HA complex made up of three different molecular sizes of HA. 

There are two other star ingredients: ProHyal+ (a natural form of hyaluronic acid based on a high concentration in yeast oligosaccharides) and a 1% Pentavitin formulation that studies show keeps the skin hydrated for 72 hours.

Related: Best Anti Aging Face Serums

Best for Mature Skin: SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator, $178
The more dry mature skin is, the more prominent fine lines and wrinkles become. This serum is fortified with five different types of HA and skin-plumping peptides to intensely hydrate, smooth, and soften the signs of age — immediately and over time. 

The formula harnesses SkinMedica’s VITISENCE Technology power, which is made up of a blend of potent antioxidants derived from the Vitus flower stem cell extract, polysaccharides, and a peptide complex to help the skin replenish its hyaluronic acid levels.

Best for Irritated Skin: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Hydrating Serum, $38
As the name suggests, this serum comes to the rescue for sensitized, irritated skin regardless of type. Hyaluronic acid supports the skin’s hydration levels, colloidal oatmeal and aloe leaf juice soothe, and peptides soften the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It only takes a few applications to start to notice a less irritated and more hydrated complexion.

Related: Best Vitamin C Serums

Best Hyaluronic Acid: The Bottom Line

What’s the Best Hyaluronic Acid Serum? Overall, we suggest Carrot & Stick The Repair Serum. We also recommend Carrot & Stick The Hydrating Serum.

While there’s nothing wrong with using a hyaluronic acid moisturizer, the best hyaluronic acid comes from a concentrated, results-driven serum. For optimal results, look for a HA serum that contains molecules in a variety of sizes — most brands will let you know if this is the case for their formula. 

Products that use just one form of hyaluronic acid can draw moisture out of the skin, temporarily making the surface feel soft and hydrated while making you feel like you need more hyaluronic acid after the product is rinsed.

To be clear, it’s the low molecular weight HA that penetrates the deep layers, providing lasting benefits, while high weight HA molecules supply an instant moisture surge. Additionally, consider choosing a formula that contains other powerhouse ingredients such as brightening vitamin C or skin-soothing niacinamide — but avoid harsh additives such as alcohol and sulfates.

What’s the best hyaluronic acid, in your opinion? Let us know in the comments below!

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about hyaluronic acid serums.

 

FAQs
Yes — even twice a day. Be sure to apply your HA serum to clean, damp skin. Wait about two minutes before sealing it in with a moisturizer and a few drops of face oil to prevent it from evaporating from your skin barrier.
Hyaluronic acid is hydrating, while retinol is an antioxidant that increases skin cell turnover and stimulates collagen production. With that said, retinol and a hyaluronic acid serum go hand-in-hand because HA can help negate some of the dryness associated with retinol. RoC, Obagi, SkinBetter Science, Advanced Clinicals, and SkinMedica are a few retinol brands we recommend.
While both of these ingredients are favored by skincare professionals, hyaluronic acid is best if you’re looking to moisturize dry skin. At the same time, retinol works better to target fine lines and wrinkles by boosting collagen production.
While hyaluronic acid can’t fade visible acne scars, it can help reduce redness, lessen the visible appearance of acne, and help protect the skin — which is vital because acne-prone skin typically has a compromised lipid barrier.
It’s a misconception that hyaluronic is bad for your skin. However, you mustn’t overdo it. HA draws moisture from wherever it can find it to hydrate the surface of your face, including the deeper layers of your skin if no humidity is present in the air. With that said, too much hyaluronic acid can leave skin even more parched, making fine lines more prominent.
No — HA can be just as beneficial for your lips as it is for your skin because the lips are prone to dryness, cracking, and peeling due to moisture loss.`
Hyaluronic acid hydrates and plumps up the skin, imparting a youthful and radiant glow that can help mask darkness under the eyes.
Unlike the precautions you should take when using retinol in combination with alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids, benzoyl peroxide, and some types of vitamin C, hyaluronic acid mixes well with most ingredients.

Sources:
“Hyaluronic Acid: A Key Molecule in Skin Aging,” U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, July 2012.
“Hyaluronic Acid in Inflammation and Tissue Regeneration,” National Library of Medicine National Center for Biotechnology Information,” March 2016.
“The Hype on Hyaluronic Acid,” Harvard Health Publishing, January 2020.
“Bacteriostatic Effects of Hyaluronic Acid,”
National Library of Medicine National Center for Biotechnology Information, April 1999.

  • doris Original review: Jul 07, 2017. Reply

    A very high % will actually dry out your skin or cause you to break out. HA is a humectant and draws water from the environment into the skin. Apparently, when air humidity is very low, hyaluronic acid may preferentially pull water from the skin rather than from the air, thus producing the opposite effect and drying out the skin. Use with caution.

  • Kat Original review: Jan 31, 2015. Reply

    i’ve done a lot of personal research on hyaluronic acid. There are things we need to consider before we make the big purchase.

    First, most expensive does NOT mean it’s the best. Essentially, we need to look for HA with no animal by-products. Vegan is best. Vegetarian does not mean vegan. It may contain cartilage from a rooster comb. Also, it shouldn’t have the following:

    No Yeast, Wheat, Corn, Milk, Egg, Soy, Glutens, Artificial Colors or Flavors, Alcohol, DMAE, Added Sugar or Preservatives.

    Last, pure HA usually contains alcohol, which is why some have reactions around the delicate eye area. It can also dry out the skin. This was my experience. The pure HA just rolled of my face, in small sticky clumps. My skin did not absorb the HA.

    This is what I’ve learned from my extensive research. If it’s supplements, it’s good to be combined with MSM and Chondroiton, for joint relief. 🙂

  • Dee Original review: Oct 03, 2014. Reply

    Would you please let me know the brand and name of the cream your doctor prescribed? Thank you!

  • JOAN BOYER Original review: Jul 20, 2014. Reply

    why haven’t u published the percentage of hyaluronic acid serum and any other ingredients in the product?

  • Jossie Original review: Mar 07, 2014. Reply

    Hi Jasmine, which serum are you using ?

  • Katie T. Original review: Dec 03, 2013. Reply

    I really like this stuff. I was actually given a bottle of pure hyaluronic acid by a cosmetic chemist who swears by it. Its really good for very dry and brittle skin.

  • jrusselljerry Original review: Sep 30, 2013. Reply

    Ya i agree with Kate!! Actually Hyaluronic Acid , comes from an extracellular protein during a natural fermentation process; not from an animal source.

  • Jasmine Original review: Sep 25, 2013. Reply

    I recently started using a Hyaluronic Acid Serum and found it to be very healing. I normally have sensitive skin and cant use many things but was worried about wrinkles around my eyes and my beautician recommend Hyaluronic Acid and it didn’t cause any irritation and it kinda worked straight away.

  • Riggs Original review: Aug 08, 2013. Reply

    Do you know which serum has the highest percentage of Hyaluronic Acid? I noticed most skin care products do not list the percentage of ingredients. I have always had good experiences with Hyaluronic Acid Serums but would like to be using the strongest one.

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