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Hyaluronic Acid vs Glycerin

Hyaluronic Acid vs Glycerin

By Calum Torrington

26 September 2022

If hydration is what you’re seeking, look no further than Hyaluronic acid and Glycerin.

Today, we’re breaking down these two popular and powerful actives: What they are, how to use them, and our product recommendations!

This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon Associate we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

What is Hyaluronic Acid?

If you’ve spent any time at all investigating skin care ingredients lists, I have no doubt hyaluronic acid has crossed your path at some point.

One of the most well-known skin care ingredients, hyaluronic acid is the star of topical serums, lotions, and creams.

Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, and its molecules can attract and bind over a thousand times their weight in water.

This active is actually a naturally occurring polysaccharide abundant in the human body.

Hyaluronic acid is most present in your skin tissues, working to keep your skin plump and supple.

However, as we age our body produces less hyaluronic acid- which can then lead to dryer skin with an increase in fine lines and wrinkles.

Even though hyaluronic acid has become a viral sensation over the past few years, it isn’t for everyone. Here’s why:

According to an article written by Dr. Kristina Liu, the larger hyaluronic acid molecules (which are the best at retaining water and keeping skin hydrated) are too big to penetrate the skin!

So when these larger molecules are applied topically to the skin, they are only capable of hydrating the surface level.

As for the smaller hyaluronic acid molecules, they retain less water and can still only penetrate through the topmost layer of skin.

Dr. Liu suggests looking for a hyaluronic acid serum with different molecules in varying sizes for best results.

Another drawback of hyaluronic acid is that it draws moisture from its surroundings.

This means that if you live in a dry climate and there’s no moisture in the air, the hyaluronic acid will start to pull moisture out of the deeper layers of your skin.

I’ve dabbled in hyaluronic acid personally, and found this to be undeniably true.

Whenever I was somewhere more humid, hyaluronic acid kept my skin soft, supple and hydrated- but in a dryer climate (where I spend most of my time), it left my skin feeling dryer and tighter.

For anyone who does live somewhere with a more humid climate, hyaluronic acid can be a great option.

What is Glycerin?

The criminally underrated ingredient, glycerin, is a hydration hero you’re going to want to remember.

Also known as glycerol, glycerin is actually a pretty common ingredient in many skincare products and can be found in nearly all water-based moisturizers. It was the third most-used ingredient in cosmetic formulations in 2014!

Just like hyaluronic acid, glycerin is a humectant.

It attracts water molecules to keep the skin moisturized, and since glycerin is a small molecule it penetrates through the skin barrier to keep the lower layers of your skin hydrated.

Think of glycerin as a water reservoir that keeps the skin hydrated by holding water into the skin and leaving it silky smooth.

Alongside hydration, glycerin will also help to strengthen your skin's natural moisture barrier.

One study also found the active to contain healing properties that functions as a signal, directing skin cells through their four stages of maturity.

As an added bonus, the ingredient is considered One studynon-allergenic and suitable for acne-prone skin.

Glycerin is an absolute must for anyone with dry or combination skin. Whether you’re acne-prone or not, it’s great for balancing the skin and keeping it smooth!

Doubling down on glycerin products in my routine has changed my skincare game completely. I now make a point of seeking out moisturizers where it’s a main ingredient.

Once you’ve experienced the hydration glycerin has to offer, I guarantee you won’t go back.

Hyaluronic Acid vs Glycerin: What's the difference between the two?

Hyaluronic acid and Glycerin are both humectants with the ability to hydrate your skin. However, there are a few differences in how they go about this.

Hyaluronic acid is a larger molecule than glycerin, which means it cannot penetrate as deeply into the skin.

Glycerin is great for locking in moisture and hydrating all the layers of your skin; hyaluronic acid on the other hand is better for surface-level moisture.

Glycerin is amazing for anyone with extremely dry and dehydrated skin, as it can penetrate the layers and provide proper hydration.

In contrast, what hyaluronic acid will do is prevent your skin from getting any dryer than it is currently.

One thing to look out for is the texture of glycerin, as sometimes it can be a bit sticky. As such, I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone with oily skin.

The best choice for your skin will depend on how dry it usually is, and the kind of climate you live in.

Can they be used together?

Yes, glycerin and hyaluronic acid can definitely be used together!

However, you typically don’t need both in your skincare routine unless you have extremely dry skin.

How to use both together

If you are wanting to combine the power of hyaluronic acid and glycerin for maximum hydration, the best way to do so is by layering the products.

It’s best to begin with a hyaluronic acid hydrating serum that will attract moisture, and then follow with a glycerin-based moisturizer to seal in the hydration.

With that said, skin care is not one size fits all.

Play around with different hyaluronic acid products (not just serums), see what works best for you. Then, do the same with glycerin!

There truly are so many amazing products to choose from, so figuring out what your skin loves is key to seeing results.

Take it from someone who has spent years working in skincare recommending products to customers: It’s all about trial and error!

Our Product Recommendations

Dermalogica Hyaluronic Ceramide Mist is great for all skin types, but especially welcomed by those with dryer skin types. This ceramide mist will keep your skin hydrated, lock in moisture, smooth fine lines, and help to strengthen your skin's moisture barrier against water loss.

The La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Pure Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum is an anti-wrinkle formula that promises to intensely hydrate and re-plump aging skin. It’s an affordable option, specifically formulated for anyone with sensitive skin.

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 contains hyaluronic acid molecules of different sizes and weights to guarantee maximum hydration. In addition, it helps with the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles- a definite plus!

A product that utilizes both hyaluronic acid and glycerin is CeraVe’s Hydrating Cleanser. This super-affordable, gentle cleanser is a must have for anyone with dry skin.

Finally, if you suffer from extremely dry skin, the Aquaphor Healing Ointment will be your sought-after savior. Containing a combination of glycerin, petroleum jelly and other hydrating goodies, this moisturizer will calm redness, soften skin and lock in hydration.

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