Is Hyaluronic Acid Good for Acne?

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In the past few years, everyone seems to be talking about hyaluronic acid and its benefits, starting from moisturizers with sodium hyaluronate to hyaluronic lip fillers. Some have even opted to embark on a hyaluronic acid food diet, eating their way to healthier and younger-looking skin.  

And indeed, hyaluronic acid is a wonderful skincare ingredient that is becoming increasingly popular, for many good reasons. One of them is that it’s suitable for people with all skin types, especially when fit properly into the skincare routine. It can also help people with various skin conditions, such as eczema and rosacea.

But what about when it comes to acne? Is hyaluronic acid good for acne or can hyaluronic acid cause acne? Well, the truth is that answer to these questions isn’t that simple — hyaluronic acid can both fight and cause acne. Confusing? Maybe, but when you hear the whole story you’ll understand that the hyaluronic acid acne connection is quite logical. Let’s simplify this and stick with the main question: Is hyaluronic acid good for acne?

Hyaluronic Acid for Acne: Is It Helpful?

Hyaluronic acid is an excellent moisturizer, which means that it binds water from the environment and hydrates the skin achieving that beautiful plumping effect we all like. However, when we talk about the moisturizing properties of hyaluronic acid, it is important to understand its power. Because it is not just like any other humectant. Hyaluronic acid can actually trap approximately 1000 times its weight of water. Wow! This ability is of great importance for people with a damaged skin barrier.

The skin barrier is the surface layer of the skin that protects it from various external influences (UV rays, pollutants, microorganisms, etc.). This means that anything that isn’t supposed to approach deeper layers of the skin will stay on the other side. The skin barrier also prevents transepidermal water loss, which ensures that our skin is sufficiently hydrated.

However, overwashing, the use of aggressive cleansers or harsh mechanical peels can damage the skin barrier and dehydrate since the water leaves the deeper layers of the skin. As a consequence of the damaged surface protective layer of the skin, the pores become clogged and acne appears.

By binding water molecules, hyaluronic acid contributes to skin hydration and replaces lost water. So, is hyaluronic acid good for acne? When usedalong with other skincare ingredients (such as ceramides, amino acids, and fatty acids), it can improve the condition of the skin barrier and contribute to the elimination of acne. 

This way, hyaluronic acid can be beneficial for people with breakouts caused by a damaged skin barrier. And if you want to help hyaluronic acid achieve its maximum effect, it is necessary to apply it on damp skin and then cover it with a layer of moisturizer that contains emollients. They will lock the water in the skin and prevent further evaporation from it. Synergistic effect!

Can Hyaluronic Acid Cause Acne?

As you can see, hyaluronic acid can definitely help fight acne. Considering that it’s a generally safe and gentle ingredient, it can suit all skin types and rarely causes any problems. But before you marvel at its magical properties, we suggest you hear the other side of the story.

Can hyaluronic acid cause acne? This ingredient can be both a hero and a villain. Although it fights acne caused by a damaged skin barrier, sometimes hyaluronic acid can also sometimes cause acne. How is it possible?

You have probably heard that the use of acids in skincare is associated with skin purging and the appearance of acne. As a board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Sapna Palep says: Skin purging most commonly occurs in reaction to chemical exfoliants and retinoids. If you’re not familiar with skin purging, it implies the appearance of acne on the face due to the use of active ingredients that accelerate cell turnover. 

So can hyaluronic acid cause acne? What really happens is that all the micro-comedones in the deeper layers of the skin that are just starting to build their way up through the skin reach its surface faster, and that is the moment when we can see a new pimple on our face. Yay!

However, what you need to remember is that hyaluronic acid is not actually acid and has no exfoliating effect, so it does not lead to skin purging. But this does not mean that it cannot cause acne. The mechanism by which hyaluronic acid can lead to breakouts is skin dehydration. If you are confused now because we just said that hyaluronic acid promotes hydration, we suggest you listen to the rest of the story.

Hyaluronic acid promotes skin hydration as a humectant, but it is necessary to apply it on damp skin and then cover it with adequate emollients. Otherwise, water can evaporate from the skin very easily because nothing holds it back. And if you don’t drink enough water and live in a dry area, you can say hi to dehydrated skin and acne.

The Hyaluronic Acid Acne Connection

Another thing to keep in mind is that it is not always hyaluronic acid that’s at fault. 

For example, if you use hyaluronic acid serum and you notice new acne on your skin, maybe it is not about this ingredient, but other ones that are also present in the product, such as silicones and lanolin.

When using hyaluronic acid for acne, try to remember if you have used any of the other ingredients before and if it has caused the same skin problem. You can also try changing the serum formulation and check if hyaluronic acid is really the cause. After all, it may be another ingredient that is the culprit.

The Best Serums with Hyaluronic Acid for Acne

If you’re still wondering whether is hyaluronic acid good for acne, these serums can be your best allies. Combining hyaluronic acid with calming anti-oxidants and acne-fighting ingredients, they’ve got the formulation to help fight those unwanted breakouts.

1. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Serum

Neutrogena’s gentle hydrating formula is both oil-free and non-comedogenic. Using this hyaluronic acid for acne problems can lead to good results as it ensures you attain that fully hydrated complexion without clogging your pores.

2. Paula’s Choice Resist Ultra-Light Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum

Paula’s Choice offers another lightweight hydrating serum with heavy-duty antioxidants (niacinamide) and skin-identical ingredients for anti-aging and skin-smoothing.  It’s a good formulation of hyaluronic acid for acne that substantially increases skin-rejuvenating hydration.

3. Isdin Hyaluronic Booster Deep Hydration Serum Ampoules

Isdin’s Hyaluronic Booster ampoules contain two different types of hyaluronic acid — these low and medium-weight hyaluronic acid molecules work together to help improve skin elasticity and boost natural moisture levels. You no longer have to think twice about whether is hyaluronic acid good for acne?

4. Glossier Super Bounce

Glossier‘s Super Bounce packs the power of hyaluronic acid with B5 to hydrate the skin on multiple levels. The Pro-Vitamin B5, in particular, works with hyaluronic acid for acne prevention— promoting long-term hydration and healthy-looking skin.

5. THE INKEY LIST Hyaluronic Acid Serum

Is hyaluronic acid good for acne? This one is. With its 2% pure hyaluronic acid, THE INKEY LIST works across multiple layers of the skin and basically turns your skin into a moisture magnet —  unleashing potent hyaluronic acid for acne prevention and helping your cells retain as much moisture as possible.

6. Vichy Mineral 89 Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum and Daily Face Moisturizer

When using hyaluronic acid for acne, it’s best to choose a formula that’s free from oil and fragrance. Aside from these, the Vichy Mineral 89 Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum and Daily Face Moisturizer contains mineral-rich volcanic water, sourced straight from French volcanoes.

Final Thoughts: Hyaluronic Acid for Acne

For the moment of truth: Is hyaluronic acid good for acne?

Although hyaluronic acid promotes skin hydration and can be helpful for people dealing with acne caused by damaged skin barriers, keep in mind that this is not the whole story.  If you don’t use hyaluronic acid for skin properly it can cause unwanted results: dehydrate the skin and cause acne. 

You might also want to read more about maskne and the best maskne products you can use to combat your mask-induced breakouts.

Make sure you always apply products with this ingredient to damp skin, lock in the water with a moisturizer and you’re good to go!