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How to choose the best hyaluronic acid serum

Hyaluronic Acid has become the cosmetic world’s ingredient of the moment.

Seems like everyone is espousing its virtues and you’re wondering whether your skin care routine is complete without a Hyaluronic Acid serum.

You’ve probably heard quite a few of the great benefits of a Hyaluronic Acid and why you should start using it. If you’re reading this, you’re bound to have heard at least a dozen times that it’s an incredible moisture magnet that holds up to 1000 times its own weight in water.

Your skin doesn’t have its usual fullness and those lines are starting to show, so now you want some of this magical potion to give you your youth back. Kinda like Botox without the needles and without the frozen look.

Sounds amazing, right?

Adding a Hyaluronic Acid serum can be a game changer, quenching your skin’s thirst for hydration, making the complexion feel supple and promoting overall radiance.

This wonderful ingredient can benefit everyone, no matter their age or skin type.

But there really is a lot more you need to know about this molecule before rushing off to buy a year’s supply of the stuff.

Let’s jump in.

What is hyaluronic acid?

Hyaluronic Acid, also known as Hyaluron or Hyaluronate, is a naturally occurring substance found in our bodies – especially in eyes, joints and skin – to cushion, lubricate and hydrate.

It helps to maintain elasticity by regulating water content and water transport in the skin, keeping skin cells healthy and structural proteins, such as collagen and elastin, in good condition.

And it plays an essential role in wound healing by controlling inflammation and directing blood flow to tissue.

Fifty percent of Hyaluronic Acid in the body is found in the skin: dermis, hypodermis and epidermis.

In the epidermis, it forms part of the skin’s natural moisturising factors (NMF) while in the dermis it forms part of the skin’s glycosaminoglycans (GAGs).

Hyaluronic Acid, like the other NMFs, is a powerful humectant that attracts water and controls how much of it is lost from the skin. About 30% of the water found in the topmost layers of the skin is bound to these NMF molecules. Skin cells that are adequately hydrated are better able to maintain elasticity, flush toxins and carry nutrients, and protect against external aggressors, including UV rays.

Glycosaminoglycans help with the repair of scars and wrinkles, and give the skin a youthful glow. Unfortunately, along with other important elements in the skin, glycosaminoglycans decrease due to age and sun damage. As a result, our skin becomes dry and dull, and loses its bounce.

When used as a cosmetic ingredient, Hyaluronic Acid attracts and holds onto water molecules so that the skin looks plumper and feels more elastic. It can add a touch of youth by smoothing out visible fine lines and wrinkles caused by dryness.

Hyaluronic Acid was first synthesised in 1964 and then used in the 1970s and 1980s in ophthalmic surgery. Its benefits soon became recognised in dermatology and it started to be used as an injectable.

In 1982, Estee Lauder recognised its benefits and launched the first night-time serum, Advanced Night Repair, containing topical Hyaluronic Acid.

Why use a hyaluronic acid serum?

A Hyaluronic Acid serum is a light, water-based formula that should absorb easily and get straight to work to hydrate, smooth, soothe and soften the skin.

Here are some of the specific benefits of using a Hyaluronic Acid serum:

Hydration: Hyaluronic Acid remarkably increases the skin’s hydration. It can do this in different ways, depending on the type of Hyaluronic Acid used. Hyaluronic Acid can draw water from the atmosphere, grab onto water from the deeper layers that’s being lost to evaporation and create a layer that traps water. A hydrated skin helps the skin function more effectively and supports healing.

Plumping effect: By replenishing moisture, Hyaluronic Acid can plump skin cells and reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles. This can create a smoother an more youthful looking complexion.

Improved texture: Hyaluronic Acid can soften and smooth the skin. And when used on wounds, it’s been found to promote cell turnover and stimulate collagen production.

Soothing and calming: Hyaluronic Acid has anti-inflammatory properties. It can help to calm redness and irritation, making sensitive or irritated skin feel more comfortable. It’s very helpful for those who have reactive skin.

Let’s look more closely at the different types of Hyaluronic Acid serums available.

Is all hyaluronic acid the same?

When it comes to Hyaluronic Acid serums, not all products are created equal.

Every Hyaluronic Acid serum is different. This means you need to consider the type of Hyaluronic Acid used, the other ingredients used, the delivery technology, the stability of the actives and the packaging.

There are many types of Hyaluronic Acid molecules used in serums, each with its own properties and benefits. Here are the main types available:

High Molecular Weight Hyaluronic Acid has larger molecules that sit on the surface of the skin, forming a thin layer that protects the barrier and prevents moisture loss. It provides immediate hydration and helps to improve the feel of the skin.

Medium Molecular Weight Hyaluronic Acid uses not too small, not too big molecules to help retain moisture slightly below the skin’s barrier, having some short-term and long-term benefits.

Low and Extra Low Molecular Weight Hyaluronic Acid has very small molecules that can penetrate deeper into the skin. This type can provide long-lasting hydration and prevent excess inflammation, which provides anti-ageing benefits.

Super Low and Ultra Low Molecular Weight Hyaluronic Acid is controversial. It binds less water than high weight but penetrates the deepest. There’s research on pig ear skin showing this form can reach the dermis. Other research has indicated it can cause irritation and inflammation.

Multi-molecular Weight Hyaluronic Acid combines high, medium and low-molecular weight Hyaluronic Acid to deliver the distinct benefits of each type of Hyaluronic Acid. It has been found that multi-weight Hyaluronic Acid has synergistic benefits and are better at hydrating the skin.

Infographic on benefits and drawbacks of different hyaluronic acid serum molecular weights by Skin Clinica Australia.

Hyaluronic Acid serum infographic shows benefits and drawbacks of different molecular weights.

Hyaluronic acid weights

So now you know that it’s important to consider the weight of the Hyaluronic Acid has used. But there’s still more you should know.

When choosing a Hyaluronic Acid serum, you also need to consider the type of Hyaluronic Acid used and its intended effects.

Hyaluronic Acid comes in different forms and molecular weights.

Each form is quite similar but there are differences in molecular size.  Hyaluronic acid can be divided into: Ultra High, High, Medium, Low, Extra Low, Super Low and Ultra Low.

The exact range for categories is a little difficult to determine as there is no set standard. Different ingredient manufacturers have different weights even for the same stated category. The following provides an indicative guide.

By now, you’re probably wondering, what weight you should use. It really depends what benefits you’re seeking. Serums that combine multi-molecular weights can provide the best of all worlds.

Something in the 80 – 1500 kDa range is ideal, however most brands don’t declare the actual size.

Declaration on the label

This ingredient is not always listed as Hyaluronic Acid on the ingredient panel. Given it comes in different forms, it may have another name.

Here are the forms typically and how they’re declared packaging.

Hyaluronic Acid is typically high-molecular weight and sits on the skin’s surface where it protects the skin barrier and holds in moisture.

Hydrolysed Hyaluronic Acid has been chemically broken down into smaller fragments so that it can penetrate the skin more deeply and provide more intense hydration.

Sodium Hyaluronate is the salt form of Hyaluronic Acid that has a small molecular structure for stability and increased resistance to oxidation. Its smaller molecular size and water solubility makes it easier for it to penetrate deeper, where it can provider more intense hydration. It also can help with repair and increases the skin’s natural defences. Sodium Hyaluronate has an average size of 66-99 kDa.

Hydrolysed Sodium Hyaluronate is an ultra-small form of Sodium Hyaluronate. It’s been chemically fragmented to a size that can reach the deeper layers of the skin. It has an ultra-small weight of 10kDa and is controversial due to the possibility that it induces inflammation.

Which Hyaluronic Acid serum is best?

There’s no one best Hyaluronic Acid serum. There are many available to choose from.

When deciding on a Hyaluronic Acid serum you want to look at the type of Hyaluronic Acid used, as this will determine the molecular weight.

High-molecular weight will improve surface hydration by binding to water from the atmosphere or water that’s evaporating from the skin. It does not pull water out of the dermis, as it sometimes incorrectly reported.

Low-molecular weight does not penetrate the dermis but can improve moisture and water transfer and visibly improve skin texture.

Increasing Hyaluronic Acid in the skin creates an ideal environment for the production of collagen.

Some things to consider:


Choosing the right Hyaluronic Acid serum is not about finding a product with the highest concentration.

Used at too high a concentration, the serum becomes too thick, making it not only unpleasant to use but potentially causing breakouts.

A concentration of 0.5-1% is ideal, with the maximum recommended being 2%.


While you can get a Hyaluronic Acid with this as the hero ingredient, many brands combine it with other actives, giving you more bang for your buck. For example, you may find AHAs, Cell Cultures, Collagen, Ferments, Niacinamide, Peptides, Panthenol, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and many more.

Hyaluronic Acid is often combined with other humectants too, such as Algae, Beta-Glucan, Centella Asiatica, Glycerin, Sodium PCA, Urea and Snow Fungus. This enables formulators to increase the hydrating powers of the formula without having to have too high a concentration of Hyaluronic Acid. If the serum is too thick and heavy, it will not absorb well and be too tacky on the skin.

Look at the ingredient label carefully, seeing if there are other ingredients that are helpful for your skin type and skin concern.

Formulation is a make-or-break consideration. You want the serum to leave your skin feeling soft and supple, but not leave a feeling of heaviness or stickiness.

Skin type

Hyaluronic Acid, as already mentioned, comes in many formulations to suit different skin types and skin concerns.

You’ll want to check the ingredient list to see what other ingredients have been included and whether they’re suitable for you.

For example, those with acne-prone skin may prefer a lightweight, oil-free serum that also contains  Niacinamide and Salicylic Acid.

While those with sensitive skin would benefit from Aloe Vera, Beta Glucan and Bisabolol, and may want to give irritating essential oils and fragrance a miss.

By choosing the right formulation, you can ensure it provides ample hydration and works harmoniously with your skin, promoting overall skin health.

Value for money

When it comes to skin care products, expensive doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best product out there. And being inexpensive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be a bad product.

However you do need to be prepared to do some research, read (conflicting) reviews and be prepared to do some experimenting to find the one that works best for both your skin and wallet.

Lastly, keep in mind that skin care is an investment in your overall wellbeing and confidence. While it’s important to consider the cost, prioritise the quality and effectiveness of the serum. A serum that delivers visible results and improves your skin is worth it, even if it costs more. A product that’s inexpensive but doesn’t perform, is a waste of money.

A Hyaluronic Acid serum may feature a stellar list of ingredients and be loved by many people, including influencers, but just not you.

How long before I see results?

A Hyaluronic Acid serum gets absorbed in a short time and goes to work immediately to help perk up the skin.

However you need to use it consistently, as with other products, to see enhanced results. Allow four weeks to really start to see an improvement in skin elasticity and visible fine lines and wrinkles.

When you’re critically looking at yourself in the mirror every day, subtle changes can be more difficult to detect.

Apply twice a day to help boost your results.

What if I stop using it?

It’s important to understand that a Hyaluronic Acid serum mainly offers short-term benefits. It temporarily plumps the skin and improves retention of water.

Low-molecular weight Hyaluronic Acid may have some other benefits too, however it’s unable to directly or permanently add to your skin’s own store of Hyaluronic Acid in the dermis.

For this reason, you need to keep using a Hyaluronic Acid serum to enjoy the benefits.

For more lasting and pronounced effects, Hyaluronic Acid injections are available.

How to apply it?

A Hyaluronic Acid serum should be applied to damp skin and followed by a moisturiser.

Leave the skin damp after cleansing and apply your Hyaluronic Acid serum or spritz dry skin with eau thermale or toner and then apply. This is particularly important if you live in a dry climate.

As to whether you apply it before or after other serums depends on the formulation of both of the serums.

Low-molecular weight Hyaluronic Acid can help with the penetration of other serums and there are arguments for applying it first. But, given that many Hyaluronic Acid serums are multi-weight these days, apply the Hyaluronic Acid serum after your other serums, particularly if it leaves a noticeable film on the skin.

Allow it absorb and then follow with your preferred moisturiser.

What can’t it do?

You’ve heard a lot about what Hyaluronic Acid serum can do but it’s also good to know its limitations.

The majority of Hyaluronic Acid in the skin is found in the dermis, where it helps provide structural support, plumpness and elasticity, enabling the skin to bounce back after performing facial expressions or being pulled. As already mentioned, it’s also found in the epidermis and plays an important role in keeping the surface of our skin healthy and hydrated.

Skin care science has advanced significantly and new formulations allow for deep penetration into the epidermis. Unfortunately, however, topical products cannot penetrate the dermis.

Currently, there is no topical Hyaluronic Acid serum on the market that has the ability to reach the dermis. Only injectable Hyaluronic Acid can add to the reservoirs in the dermis.

Also keep in mind that Hyaluronic Acid isn’t the only ingredient that can intensely hydrate the skin. Some other great options are Glycerin, Panthenol, Betaine, Beta-Glucan, Carrageenan, Aloe Vera, Cucumber Extract, Sodium PCA and Urea.

Final thoughts

Choosing a Hyaluronic Acid serum doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

By understanding the factors to consider, you can confidently navigate the world of Hyaluronic Acid serums and choose the perfect one for you. Read product labels, consider the concentration and formulation, seek out recommendations and assess value for money.

Now you’re ready to quench your skin’s thirst for hydration and achieve a radiant and supple complexion.

Our Hyaluronic Acid serum picks

We have many serums that contain Hyaluronic Acid.

Here are our most popular ones.

Medik8 Hydr8 B5 Intense


A super hydrating serum that combines multi-weight Sodium Hyaluronate with Vitamin B5 and natural moisturising factors to relieve dehydrated skin and support the production of Hyaluronic Acid. A goldilocks formulation that’s neither too thick nor too light.

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BioBare Collagen Revive


A bi-phasic serum that combines water-soluble ingredients with oil-based ingredients to ensure skin is hydrated and moisturised. Sodium Hyaluronate has been paired with other nourishing and anti-ageing ingredients so you get the best of everything.

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Pestle & Mortar Pure Hyaluronic


An exceptional intensive Hyaluronic Acid serum that keeps it simple in ingredients but not in effect. Pure vegan Sodium Hyaluronate in a high concentration combined with Glycerin to make skin feels super smooth, soft and oh so hydrated.

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Oskia Isotonic Hydra Serum

Oskia Isotonic Hydra Serum is not your average Hyaluronic Acid serum

A biomimetic hydration fluid that goes the extra mile with its sensational ingredient list. Essential nutrients,  proven bioactives and Sodium Hyaluronate make this a dream serum that hydrates, refines and restores glow.

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Embryolisse Hydra Serum Booster

Embryolisse Hydra Serum now available in Australia from Skin Clinica

A global favourite that intensely hydrates and leaves skin feeling plump, nourished and radiant. The clean formulation combines Sodium Hyaluronate with Water Lily Extract for its antioxidant and soothing benefits.

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Medik8 Liquid Peptides

Medik8 Liquid Peptides Serum Anti-Ageing Skin Care - Skin Clinica

Medik8 has combined anti-ageing peptides with multi-weight Sodium Hyaluronate and drone-delivery technology to ensure the actives get delivered deeper in the skin where they can do the most benefit.

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Bloc Boost Your Youth

Bloc Boost Your Youth serum is available in Australia and New Zealand from authorised stockist Skin Clinica

A powerhouse silky serum that combines a high concentration of clinically proven anti-ageing peptides and antioxidants with Sodium Hyaluronate to hydrate, firm and improve tone.

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Yours truly in better skin






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