By now, you probably own at least one skin-care product featuring hyaluronic acid. The sugar molecule has a stronghold over skin-care afficianados, beauty influencers, and derms alike thanks to its ability to draw in and hold onto water. But there’s a good chance you’re using it all wrong and unintentionally hindering its hydrating abilities, as noted by one TikTok user.
Back in December, beauty enthusiast Rocio Soria (aka @rocio.roses on TikTok) dropped a major truth bomb about hyaluronic acid. In the clip, Soria says she’s “going to help every single baddie on this app with dry skin.” She continues, “If you have dry, flaky, dehydrated skin, you have to, have to, have to use hyaluronic acid. If you have, and it did not work, you probably used it wrong.”
She then expands on that surprising take. “You have to put moisture back into your face, whether it’s water or a facial spray like this one,” she says, holding her facial mist of choice, Heritage Store Rosewater with Glycerin (Buy It, $5, target.com). Soria gives her face a spritz, explaining that as a humectant, hyaluronic acid “will hold the water molecules on the surface of your face to keep you nice and plump, hydrated, and dewy.” Next, Soria applies her hyaluronic acid-rich serum of choice, Glow Recipe Plum Plump Hyaluronic Acid Serum (Buy It, $42, sephora.com), before spraying her skin again with the facial mist. She then advises sealing everything in “right away with your favorite moisturizer.”
First, know that hyaluronic acid deserves every ounce of enthusiasm that Soria brought to her praise of the ingredient. “Hyaluronic acid is the most common hydrating ingredient,” says Dr. Purvisha Patel, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare. “It’s a water-binding molecule naturally found in our skin,” which is what makes it so fabulous, she says. “It is a humectant type of moisturizer, which means that it pulls [water] from the air and its surroundings,” therefore boosting moisture in spades. Hyaluronic acid “is broken down by enzymes that we have in the body that are activated by skin-damaging environmental elements, like the sun, which is what leads to dry skin, fine lines, and wrinkles,” which is why replenishing it can be so helpful, says Dr. Patel.
Dr. Patel confirms that applying a hyaluronic acid serum alone to dry skin may actually leave your skin more dehydrated. It will only serve to attract water from deeper within your skin, “and this can cause increased barrier disruption and dry skin,” she says. “Always apply hyaluronic acid on damp skin to hold the water on the skin,” advises Dr. Patel. “Either face mists or plain old water are good for dampening the skin — then you’ll want to ‘trap’ the moisture with your go-to moisturizer.” She does add one caveat: “If you use a face mist, look at the ingredients. If it has an oil emulsion in it, then the hyaluronic acid will not work as well if applied after.” When in doubt, H2O will always suffice.
However, not every expert considers this a hard and fast rule. Mona Gohara, M.D., associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine, notes that she never personally dampens her skin before applying her HA moisturizer of choice — and that it may not be necessary depending on the particular formula. “If the product itself is hyaluronic acid-based it can penetrate into the skin if it contains both large and small hyaluronic acid molecules,” she says. “I use Ha5 from Skinmedica which has molecules that can penetrate the skin and others that sit on top of the skin — both work to attract water. The instructions don’t call for dampening skin first, but that may be product-specific.”
If you’re unsure whether your favorite serum incorporates a variety of molecule sizes, though, you don’t have much to lose by splashing a few drops of water on your face to prep your skin. You may find that doing so takes the product’s hydrating abilities to another level.