Does Hyaluronic Acid Cause Purging: The Definitive Guide

If you’ve been slapping skincare on your face for more than a few weeks you’ve no doubt heard of hyaluronic acid.

 It occurs naturally in our bodies and is marketed to us as doing lots of amazing things for our skin.

Your mama told you to never trust a marketer, right? She was a wise woman your mama.

Skincare companies are heavily invested in making something good sound like “the only reason your skin hasn’t fallen off is pure luck. Do you want to stop your skin from falling off? Of course, you do! You need this $478 serum. Immediately!”

Hey, lot’s of claims are made about skincare ingredients. And lot’s of them cause skin to purge.

Is hyaluronic acid one of them? Let’s find out.

Does Hyaluronic Acid Cause Purge?

Hyaluronic acid occurs naturally in our bodies and has an immense capacity to hold water. If you use hyaluronic acid in a dry environment where there is no humidity it will draw the ‘water’ it needs from wherever it can. If there’s no moisture in the air then it will pull it from the deeper layers of your skin, where it evaporates. This causes your skin to get red, irritated and dry. It looks like purging but it’s actually not.

This makes sense right, if we make hyaluronic acid in our bodies naturally why would it be irritating when put on our skin?

Turns out not all hyaluronic acids are created equal and science is partly to blame.

Also how you use hyaluronic acid and where in your routine you use it can also affect how it performs.

Wait, Hyaluronic Acid Can Cause Skin Purge?

Apart from using hyaluronic acid in a dry climate, the type of hyaluronic acid you put on your skin can irritate it.

Hyaluronic acid is a big molecule and because of this, it has a hard time penetrating the surface of the skin. This is actually what makes hyaluronic acid such a great moisturizer.

It pulls huge amounts of water to the surface of your skin and then holds it there forming a barrier against the outside world.

Hyaluronic Acid is a water magnet

Secondly hyaluronic acid triggers growth factor manufacturing in your skin and this has anti-inflammatory effects on your skin.

Naturally occurring hyaluronic acid has large molecules and is a great moisturizer and anything that is anti-inflammatory is by its nature anti-ageing. This is all good stuff and sounds great.

So what the problem?

Large molecule hyaluronic acid sits in the matrix of our skin, keeping it firm, plump and smooth. When we get injured or even sunburnt hyaluronic acid breaks down into smaller molecules to cause inflammation and scar tissue formation.

So let’s recap.

Natural large molecule hyaluronic acid is great for the skin. Small molecule hyaluronic acid is bad because it causes inflammation and scars. Some types of hyaluronic acid cause a skin reaction that could be classed as ‘skin purge’.

There is lots of science to back up these findings. However, the cosmetic industry and science don’t often agree and what is ‘good’ and what is not.

Skin science that is not backed by cosmetic companies is often not ‘looking’ for a result to make a new product more marketable.

Cosmetic companies on the other hand want to produce more products to sell and ‘The latest technological formula backed by research’, sells products. They wanted to make hyaluronic acid to penetrate the skin so it could ‘work ore effectively’.

You do not want hyaluronic acid to penetrate your skin, your skin views that as a danger signal and set up an inflammation response.

These low weight hyaluronic acid could also be what is causing your skin to become irritated and feel like it’s breaking out. They may not be pimples, they may in fact be scars.

You want hyaluronic acid to sit on your skin drawing in water and forming a protective barrier.

Should I use Hyaluronic Acid?

We love hyaluronic acid because it is amazing at moisturizing and has proven anti-ageing effects on the skin. Just make sure you are getting the right type of hyaluronic acid in your product.

We recommend avoiding low weight hyaluronic acid as it can be an irritant, cause inflammations and increase your chances of forming scars.

But a good hyaluronic acid is in my top 5 skincare ingredients. When we talk about hyaluronic acid we are talking about the large unfragmented kind.

Despite the word “acid” in the name, hyaluronic acid is perfectly safe. It’s a normal part of our skin, so it’s almost impossible to have a negative reaction to HA. 

Cosmetic fillers are made from hyaluronic acid because your body doesn’t reject it as an invader. In fact, it’s actually suitable for every skin type, including sensitive skin and skin that’s prone to acne. You can even use it if you’re pregnant.

Depending on whether you get your HA in a serum or a moisturizer, experts recommend you use it as often as twice a day. For most people, the best routine involves using this product in the morning and evening.

Where Does Hyaluronic Acid Go in My Skincare Routine?

Most HA comes in either a serum or a moisturizer.

If you choose a serum, follow these steps for the best results:

  1. Cleanse your face gently. You might like to double cleanse
  2. Pat your face to remove 90% of the water, leave it a little bit damp
  3. Put a few drops of the serum on your fingers and apply it to your whole face evenly
  4. Give the serum just a moment to absorb: but don’t wait too long
  5. Cover immediately with a quality moisturizer to seal in your hydration

If your HA already comes in a moisturizer, half the work is done for you. Just cleanse your face, apply your product, and get on with your day without adding an extra step to your routine. You can use hyaluronic acid morning and night or just in the morning.

Hyaluronic acid is a treatment/moisturization step in your skincare routine.

Hyaluronic Acid Day Routine
Hyaluronic Acid Night

Choose Complimentary Ingredients

Certain things go really well with HA and help it do its job better. First, you want ingredients that will hold moisture on your skin and keep it from just evaporating away. Butters and oils, like shea butter and avocado oil, are wonderful choices for keeping your HA and moisture where they can work together to improve your skin.

Vitamin C is also a classic ingredient to combine with HA. It naturally protects the skin against cellular damage, and it also helps to combat dryness. Pantothenic acid is another great choice. This soothing ingredient is regularly used to treat things like rashes and eczema, and it’s good for healthy skin, too.

The Importance of Using HA Effectively 

HA works by attracting moisture. In fact, one molecule of HA is capable of attracting and holding up to 1,000 times its own weight in water. Imagine that kind of hydration attraction on your skin! The key lies in using it correctly.

If you put your HA on the wrong way, it can actually have the opposite of your intended effect. Instead of attracting all that moisture from the outside to your skin, it will pull moisture from inside to the surface of your skin, where it evaporates away. This just makes a bad dry skin situation even worse.

Getting the Best Results

Because HA is so powerful, you should see changes almost immediately. You’ll notice your skin feels smoother and more hydrated, and there’s typically a plumping effect, as well. However, if you’re using HA as part of a skincare routine designed to fight the signs of ageing, like fine lines and lost firmness, be aware that you’ll have to wait a few months to really see a difference.

The Bottom Line

Hyaluronic acid is a powerful, naturally occurring substance that keeps our skin soft, supple, and hydrated. We lose HA over time, but thankfully we can get back some of that hydration with quality serums and moisturizers applied topically. Choose a large weight molecule of hyaluronic acid to avoid irritation and apply it to damp skin.

 Top 3 Recommended Hyaluronic Acid Products

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 30ml

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2%

This is a hero product from the ordinary line of skincare. Hyaluronic Acid is a skincare hero anyway. Able to hold up to 1000x its own weight in water this is an impressive little molecule.

What’s to love about this ordinary hyaluronic acid?

  • Price, as always with The Ordinary you are never going to regret a purchase when it’s so affordable and this is a well-formulated product
  • Lightweight and easily absorbed.
  • Suitable for all skin types even acne-prone and rosacea.
  • You can use and should use hyaluronic acid twice a day am and pm. This is because it washes off and you want it to form a barrier between your skin and the world.
  • It is the ‘top coat’ of all your serums, but before moisturizer and sunscreen

PAULA’S CHOICE Hyaluronic Booster 15ml

Paula's Choice HA

This is a lovely formula that contains ceramides as well as hyaluronic acid. Ceramides give this clear gel a smooth soothing feel when applied to the skin.

This is a good choice and like all hyaluronic serums, you can add a few drops to your moisturizer to boost its hydration effects.

Non-irritating and leaves no sticky residue.

Why this hyaluronic acid makes the recommended list:

  • Well formulated and no nasty ingredients or fragrance.
  • Comes in a pump dispenser bottle which means you don’t have to put your fingers in the jar if that kind of stuff sigs you out.
  • Use a night as your last step before moisturizer or mix a few drops of it into your moisturizer.
  • Reapply in the morning as your last step before sunscreen.
  • Lightweight and fragrance-free.
  • Suitable for all skin types.
  • You can use and should use hyaluronic acid twice a day am and pm. This is because it washes off and you want it to form a barrier between your skin and the world.
  • Always wear sunscreen during the day.

CLINIQUE Moisture Surge Hydrator

Clinique Moisture Surge

This is my favourite hyaluronic containing product. It’s called a hydrator and that is exactly what it feels like on the skin.

When I put this on my skin it instantly feels soothed and plumped.

If you have a skincare fridge – I don’t I want my skincare babies to grow up scrappy not spoiled – that would be an even more addictively refreshing experience.

Why this is my favourite hyaluronic acid:

  • The ingredients as well as being rich in hyaluronic acid it contains caffeine and Aloe.
  • Use a night as your last step to your pm routine. Put a thick layer let in sunk in go to bed and in the morning your skin will be plump and smooth.
  • Reapply in the morning as your last step before sunscreen.
  • I use this to calm frizzy hair. Just apply a walnut-sized blob to dry hair and presto frizzy and flyaways are gone.
  • Use it on cuticles that are in need of some love.
  • You can even use it on top of your make-up as a highlighter.
  • This is a hyaluronic acid like no other. Hand on my heart I just don’t think you will regret trying this product.
  • Lightweight and fragrance-free.
  • Suitable for all skin types even acne-prone and rosacea. In fact, I recommend this product for acne-prone skin.
  • You can use and should use hyaluronic acid twice a day am and pm. This is because it washes off and you want it to form a barrier between your skin and the world.
  • Always wear sunscreen during the day.

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