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Best hyaluronic acid serum 2021: The top serums to hydrate your skin and smooth out wrinkles

Lise Smith
25 Oct 2021
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Level up your skincare game with the best hyaluronic acid serums for glowing, hydrated skin

You may have heard a lot in recent years about hyaluronic acid (HA), the wonder ingredient that has found its way into seemingly everything from face creams and foundations to shampoos and eyelash treatments. A brilliant hydrator, hyaluronic acid helps to plump up and retain moisture in the skin, smoothing away fine lines and wrinkles and giving skin a younger, fresher feel.

A facial serum is the most potent way to give your skin a concentrated burst of any skincare ingredient, and a serum primarily containing hyaluronic acid is an efficient way to infuse the skin with this plumping and hydrating wonder-stuff. If your goal is softer, firmer, fresher skin, adding a layer of HA serum to your skincare routine can really make a difference to your skin’s hydration levels and overall texture.

Below we talk about how an HA serum can help your skin look and feel its best, and we’ve then tested HA serums at a range of price points to help you pick the best for you.

READ NEXT: Feel smooth as silk with our favourite body moisturisers


Best hyaluronic acid serums: At a glance

  • Best serum on a budget: The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 | Buy now
  • Best for intensive hydration: Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum | Buy now
  • Best for mature skin: L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Filler 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum | Buy now
  • Best long-lasting hydration: CeraVe Hyaluronic Acid Serum | Buy now
  • Best luxury HA serum: SkinCeuticals H.A Intensifier | Buy now

How to choose the best hyaluronic acid serum for you

What is hyaluronic acid?

Hyaluronic acid is a lubricant produced naturally by the body. While it is (as the name implies) an acid, it’s not a strong exfoliant like salicylic acid; rather it’s a gentle fluid humectant that acts like a sponge to soak up and retain moisture in the skin. Each molecule of hyaluronic acid is able to absorb and hold many times its own volume in water, which produces the plumping effect we see naturally in young skin, which makes plenty of its own hyaluronic acid.

As skin ages, we produce less of this lubricating and hydrating natural acid, which is one reason skin tends to become dryer and dehydrated as it gets older, leading to fine lines and wrinkles. Replacing the body’s own supply using products containing hyaluronic acid is a good way to put back some of that hydrating and plumping power. Skin will look and feel softer and fresher as soon as you use a hyaluronic acid product; and over time, skincare products containing hyaluronic acid will help the skin to maintain its own supply of moisture, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Hyaluronic acid also has healing and anti-inflammatory properties, making it an excellent product to use to heal and hydrate irritated or sensitive skin. A great product to help dry skin retain moisture, hyaluronic acid is a good lightweight and non-greasy ingredient to help balance oilier skins.

How should I apply my hyaluronic acid serum?

An HA serum is best used after cleansing but before moisturising, to allow the product to sink into the skin and get all the hydrating goodies where they need to be. Apply a pump or two of serum to the face and neck with light fingertip strokes, and follow with an optional spritz of plain water and your favourite moisturiser.

It’s up to you if you use your HA serum as part of your morning or your night-time routine; if applying in the morning, give the product time to sink in before applying moisturiser and makeup, as serum formulations can be quite runny and may cause your makeup to slide off if not properly absorbed.

Unlike some products, such as vitamin C or retinol, hyaluronic acid is gentle enough to be used daily; there’s no need to build up usage slowly over time. Once you’ve picked your preferred serum, you can apply it straight away as often as you’d like.

What should I use afterwards?

Hyaluronic acid serum is great at trapping moisture in the skin, but serum formulations aren’t so good at providing an occlusive layer (the final skincare layer that traps in all the softening and moisturising ingredients). You’ll probably find that a serum on its own leaves skin a little dry and prickly, so you’ll want to finish with a nourishing moisturiser to trap all that hydrating goodness inside the skin and leave your face feeling smooth and comfortable. Simply apply your favourite face cream after the HA serum to lock in moisture at bedtime, or before you start your morning makeup routine.

Read on to find out more about our favourite hyaluronic acid serums, whatever your budget.

READ NEXT: Combat dry skin with this year’s best moisturisers

The best hyaluronic acid serums to buy

1. The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5: Best budget hyaluronic acid serum

Price: £5.90 | Buy from Cult Beauty

Iconic budget brand The Ordinary is known for its combination of high-quality ingredients and minimalist packaging to make quality skincare affordable for all. This simple yet powerful combination of hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 works deep in the skin; three different sizes of hyaluronic acid molecule are able to penetrate different levels of the skin to provide plumping hydration from the inside out. The result is soft, dewy skin that feels fresher, and shows fewer fine lines.

The Ordinary’s serum formula is gentle enough for all skin types, vegan and oil-free, making it particularly suitable for oilier skins that don’t get on well with added oils. If your skin is dryer, we’d definitely recommend following the serum with a nourishing moisturiser.

Key specs – Pack size: 30ml; Hyaluronic acid concentration: 2%

Buy from Cult Beauty


2. Boots Ingredients Hyaluronic Acid Serum: Best on the high street

Price: £5 | Buy from Boots

Single-ingredient products have become hugely popular in recent years, in no small part due to the popularity of brands like The Ordinary. Boots recently launched its own range of simple products with single or minimal ingredients, and this plant-derived hyaluronic acid serum is a great no-frills hydrating and brightening product. The lightweight serum feels silky and sinks into the skin easily. The Ingredients hyaluronic acid range also includes a lightweight moisturiser and sleep mask, which feel fresh and hydrating on oily and combination skin; dry skins may prefer to follow with a richer moisturiser.

Key specs – Pack size: 30ml; Hyaluronic acid concentration: Not stated

Buy from Boots


3. Glossier Super Bounce Hyaluronic Acid + Vitamin B5 serum: Best hydrating facial serum

Price: £24 | Buy from Glossier

An excellent serum for calming irritated or sensitive skin, cult brand Glossier’s Super Bounce serum combines the hydrating power of hyaluronic acid with healing and moisturising vitamin B5. The result is deeply hydrated, plumper and bouncier skin that glows from within. The fragrance- and paraben-free serum is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive and inflamed skin, and the formula is particularly beneficial for acne-prone and scarred skin.

Glossier’s non-sticky serum is quickly absorbed into the skin, making it ideal for morning application before makeup; it’s also a great hydrating serum for winter weather. The £24 price tag is higher than some of our budget options, but this is a quality product that will freshen and plump up all skin types; and the pretty pastel bottle will look nice on your nightstand, too.

Key specs – Pack size: 30ml; Hyaluronic acid concentration: 2%

Buy from Glossier


4. L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Filler 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum: Best for mature skins

Price: £25 | Buy from Boots

One of the most popular hyaluronic acid serums on the market – L’Oreal reports one bottle sold every minute in the US – Revitalift is an intensely hydrating serum with a 1.5% concentration of hyaluronic acid in two molecular weights, to penetrate the deeper skin layers as well as hydrating the surface. The serum feels light and non-sticky and absorbs well; skin feels immediately fresher, calmer and more hydrated. With longer-term use, fine lines and wrinkles appear reduced and skin is better able to hold moisture. A good serum for all skin types, this is particularly suitable for dryer and more mature skins. Combine with the hyaluronic acid tissue sheet mask in the same range for a weekly plumping treat.

Key specs – Pack size: 30ml; Hyaluronic acid concentration: 1.5%

Buy from Boots


5. Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum: Best for intensive hydration

Price: £40 | Buy from Cult Beauty

Cold weather, central heating, air conditioning and other environmental factors can cause skin to become dry and dehydrated. If tight, dry or flaky skin is your major skin concern then this super-hydrating blend of hyaluronic acid and natural fruit extracts may be just what you need. The lightwight gel – combining coconut, watermelon and apple extracts with vitamin B5 and gentle sodium hyaluronate – sinks right into the skin, providing instant moisture, and smells wonderful too.

Almost as important is what the serum doesn’t contain: there’s no synthetic fragrance, colour, alcohol or silicone to irritate or further dry out already dry skin. A couple of pumps of B-Hydra each day will help skin feel refreshed and comfortable as well as looking moist and dewy.

Key specs – Pack size: 50ml; Hyaluronic acid concentration: Not stated

Buy from Cult Beauty


6. ThisWorks Morning Expert hyaluronic serum: Best for a morning boost

Price: £37 | Buy from This Works

This brightening serum from ThisWorks brings together hydrating hyaluronic acid with vitamin C to freshen up dull, morning skin. Vitamin C is a fantastic multitasking ingredient that boosts collagen production to plump up skin, promotes recovery and healing, and gently exfoliates dull outer layers of skin to reveal a fresh, glowing complexion. Together with the moisture-trapping power of hyaluronic acid, Morning Expert is a potent combination of ingredients that will give skin a bright morning glow and help you put your best face forward. Perfect if a busy work (or play) schedule has left your skin looking a little lacklustre.

Key specs – Pack size: 30ml; Hyaluronic acid concentration: 2%

Buy from This Works


7. CeraVe Hyaluronic Acid Serum: Best for longlasting hydration

Price: £17 | Buy from Superdrug

If you follow skincare channels on TikTok or Instagram, you’re bound to have seen a lot of positive buzz around CeraVe’s intensive hyaluronic acid serum. Designed for all-day wear, thes serum comes in a gel-cream formula slightly thicker than most serums to deliver longlasting hydrating effects. CeraVe’s HA serum includes moisturising ceramides, so feels softer and more moisturising than many similar products; if you have oily or combination skin you might even find this hydrating serum is moisturising enough to use without a separate face cream. The non-greasy formula sinks well into the skin and can be worn under makeup, making it a good product to use in the morning for all-day hydration.

Key specs – Pack size: 30ml; Hyaluronic acid concentration: Not stated

Buy from Superdrug


8. SkinCeuticals H.A Intensifier: Best luxury HA serum

Price: £77 | Buy from Skincity

If cash is no object and you like to invest in skincare, this super-high quality hyaluronic acid serum from skin health specialists SkinCeuticals is a dramatically hydrating serum that promises not only immediate hydrating effects when applied to the face, but also a boost over time to the skin’s own levels of hyaluronic acid production and retention. As well as hyaluronic acid, this serum contains antioxidants Purple Rice and Liquorice Root, and beechwood derivative Proxylane to help reduce moisture loss. The serum sinks rapidly into the skin, leaving it velvety-soft; over two to four weeks, fine lines around the eyes and mouth are reduced, and skin appears firmer and plumper. At almost £80 this is a luxury product to invest in, but one that feels lovely on the skin and gives excellent, long-lasting results.

Key specs – Pack size: 30ml; Hyaluronic acid concentration: 1.3%

Buy from Skincity


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