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I don't think I'm saying anything controversial by proclaiming that most of us are kind of 'over' hyaluronic acid serums as an individual step in your skincare routine. However, there are a few formulas I've tried that elevate this ingredient beyond the bog-standard hyaluronic serum you've seen a million times before, and we're talking about them today...
In case you've been living under a rock, I'm sure you know that hyaluronic acid is a humectant, meaning it's a water magnet. It's not hydrating in and of itself, though, it's important to note: you need to apply it to damp skin and seal it in with a nice, well-rounded moisturiser. Too much hyaluronic acid can actually be irritating for the skin, so I don't recommend using a dedicated serum if it's already in other steps in your routine like your toner and moisturiser. I look for multi-weight formulas broadly, so the molecule isn't robbing hydration from the upper layers of your skin to hydrate it on a deeper level; you really want that water pulled into every layer. However, I still think it's a good ingredient in the right hands and the right routine. It just takes a bit more than hyaluronic acid on its own to get me interested in a product these days!
The first product we'll talk about today is the Medik8 Hydr8 B5 Intense* | £57. Alongside your hyaluronic acid, we have panthenol (AKA Vitamin B5) which helps soothe the skin but also assists with water retention, sources of antioxidants to help preserve your skin against free radical damage in the environment and natural moisturising factors. These ingredients mirror what's already in your skin and strengthen the skin barrier by topping up your natural supplies. Natural moisturising factors include glycerin, urea, Sodium PCA, amino acids and lactic acid. This isn't just a hydrating serum with hyaluronic acid, it's a brilliant, soothing serum that's going to protect the skin and support its natural barrier function.
The product that really cracked this category open for me is PSA Skin's the Most Hyaluronic Super Nutrient Hydration Serum | £34. This is one of those serums I can intuitively reach for when I'm not sure what my skin wants but it's just looking a bit dry, dull and lacklustre to make it feel healthy, bouncy and calm. Alongside the hyaluronic acid, we have panthenol again, but there's also safflower oil to soften and moisturise the skin, plus to help bind some of the hydration in and we also have fermented ingredients for an added antioxidant boost. Sodium PCA and bisabolol are great for soothing the skin and licorice extract can help brighten dark spots. Even though the hyaluronic acid is spotlighted in the product name, there's so much that's more interesting than that single ingredient going on in here!
Next up is a newer launch: the Dermalogica Circular Hydration Serum* | £55. It utilises a couple of forms of hyaluronic acid, plus polyglutamic acid and glycerin which are also humectants, and your panthenol. We have natural moisturising factors in here to support the skin barrier like urea, lactic acid and Sodium PCA and also softening and moisturising plant oils. Oat extract can help soothe the skin and there's rice extract which can be calming for the skin but also help with excess oiliness. This is a nice, well-rounded formula that combines hydration and moisturising ingredients to offer plump, hydrated skin that lasts all day. Just to note, though: this one does contain fragrance so it might not be for you if you prefer not to have those sorts of ingredients in your skincare.
Another more recent release is the Alpha-H Hyaluronic 8 Super Serum* | £44.95. The two forms of traditional hyaluronic acid are supported by glycerin and urea, as well as some really nice emollients to leave your skin soft after use, plus aloe for that soothing benefit. Alpha-H also use a patent-pending form of hyaluronic acid that's supposed to penetrate deeper into the skin and create more of a lasting plumping effect. I can't find a ton if information to substantiate this claim but it's an interesting addition nonetheless. This also contains a patented ingredient complex with hydrolysed pea protein that might help repair and protect the skin throughout the day and a really interesting antioxidant, giving that free radical protection. Whilst the stuff in here outside the traditional hyaluronic acid is a little more experimental, I kind of like that! I'm all about pairing tried and true ingredients with newer ones because in the very least you get the benefits of the more proven component but you could also reap additional benefits too. This is hydrating, it doesn't evaporate off my skin, it's softening and it makes my skin look plump, healthy and radiant.
Next, let's talk about the Zelens Hyaluron Intense Hydro-Plumping Serum* | £68. This serum is formulated as a multi-molecular complex, which I love and also contains an encapsulated form of hyaluronic acid, which isn't something I've really come across before and thought was interesting. It's in a polysaccharide base with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients. We also have fermented ingredients and my beloved Beta-glucan; I think this is such an underrated ingredient here in the West! It has the ability to both soothe and hydrate the skin. Then we have lipids in here to give the formula more substance and to soften and moisturise the skin, as well as helping to actually bind that hydration in. I absolutely love this: it's so easy to slot into my routine when my skin is looking dry, dull and lacklustre, and it's great when my skin is a little bit sensitive too.
Ok, this is more of a traditional hyaluronic acid formula, but it's still the gold standard for me which is why I had to mention it: it's the Niod Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex* | £41. While most of the products in this post have other ingredients in them that make them more of a gel, this is a true water-like, totally-transparent formula that you definitely need to sandwich between dampening the skin and a moisturiser or serum that contain something occlusive. This combines 15 forms of hyaluronic acid and its derivatives and uses a peptide delivery system alongside added ingredients that help with water retention. I think it's the forms of hyaluronic acid and how the overall formula helps them to actually get into the skin and retain water that makes this product special to me. It's one of those products you can reach for if you want that plump, hydrated skin effect fast!
Last but not least, let's cover off the Venn Age-Response Compound K Hyaluronic Booster* | £115. It's pricey, but I have to say I do love Venn's skincare philosophy and formulation approach; though their products often spotlight a star active, if you dig into the INCI list, they're complex and multi-tasking formulas. This product obviously contains hyaluronic acid (five forms with different molecular weights) alongside peptides (to plump and hydrate the skin but potentially also to help maintain your collagen), fermented ingredients and antioxidant plant extracts. There's also the titular Vitamin K which is known for its wound-healing properties and can be anti-inflammatory and beneficial for broken capillaries, as well as having antioxidant powers. I personally find it really moisturising too so I get that fresh, healthy, juicy skin look.
Do you use hyaluronic acid serums? Have you tried any of these?