The best way to use hyaluronic acid skincare products.

Hi Dr Irwin, I came across your website doing google search to learn about sunscreens. Your website is incredible and very informative, and your non-biased website is very much appreciated. I live in Phoenix which has weather that goes from warm to hot and generally very dry. My question is regarding the use of hyaluronic acid to help my 47 yr old aging skin. I’ve tried different brands and include Clinique as well as online brands. I have sensitive, acne prone skin and have trouble with the smaller molecule size of hyaluronic acid causing acne. I have noticed that no matter the brand, my skin is always drier after putting hyaluronic type cream in my face. It occurred to me that our air is drier here in Phoenix and has no moisture for hyaluronic acid to pull from. I tried bedside humidifier overnight but did stop the overdrying of my skin. I’ve stopped the hyaluronic acid completely and gone back to moisturizers which helps me looking younger. Would you be able to provide advice for all of us that live in very dry climates and use of hyaluronic acid products for both Acne prone and non-acne prone skin? Thank you for your time and again, I love your website and so glad I found it!

You made my day!  Sometimes I get that writer’s thing, where the writing just goes out into the universe, and I have no idea where it lands.  It helps to get feedback.  🙂

Regarding topical use of hyaluronic acid (HAs), it’s usually just listed on the ingredient list as hyaluronic acid.  Molecular weight (MW) is not specified .  From what I can glean from the medical literature, the very low MWs can a be drying because they increase water loss across the barrier layer (epidermis).  They thus are drying. And conversely, the higher MW forms or “resistent” forms of HA decrease skin water loss.  They are then moisturizing.

For the skin nerds among us, this is called a decrease or increase in transepidermal water loss (or TEWLs).  I’ll do more research on specific products to see if I can find a way to recommend a few for skin types.

Acne and HAs

In general, I can’t think of a case of acne that I’ve seen that was aggravated by HA serums.  HA is better in a serum form because the concentration will be higher and there’s no oil.  HAs in creams could definately aggravate acne depending on what’s in the base.  Creams often have oils in the base. Since acne in women and men is very hormonal, it’s very possible that the acne outbreak had more to do with hormone shifts, or an increase in inflammatory foods, then anything in the HA serum.  It can be tough to pin down the exact cause of an acne flare.

Bottom Line for HA use:

  • Buy the serum, not the creams
  • If you’re dry, or living in a very dry climate.  Wash your face with a very gentle cleanser that doesn’t strip moisture like the Eminence Lemon Cleanser.  Then apply a good serum like this one, then your moisturizer, and then your moisturizing sunscreen.  Same thing at night, but you don’t need the sunscreen, and you may need to reapply sunscreen or moisturizer midday if it’s really dry.
  • Look for moisturizers to go over the HA serum that have natural oils or ceramides in them.

Hope this helps,

Dr. B


Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

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