Hyaluronic acid is a beautiful, luxurious humectant that’s brilliant for dry skin, but due to its high price tag (it’s usually well over $2USD per gram!) it can be a bit intimidating to work with. So, if you’ve been wanting to start formulating with this gorgeous, luxurious ingredient—but haven’t been sure where to start—this blog post is for you! I’ve collected answers to the most common hyaluronic acid questions and compiled seven of my favourite hyaluronic acid formulations from the last couple years to make it super easy to get started.

Want to watch this project instead of read it?

Watch Now

What should you buy?

Hyaluronic acid is sold in a variety of weights like “low molecular weight”, “super low molecular weight”, “high molecular weight”, etc. If you look closer you’ll find a more specific size indicator for each product; a range of daltons.

A dalton is a very very very tiny weight measurement that is equal to 0.0000000000000000000000016605g. Holy moly, that’s a lot of zeros!

Because a dalton is so positively minuscule, the numbers (and ranges) you’ll find for different weights of hyaluronic acid are quite large. The lowest weight I’ve seen for sale is Lotion Crafter’s “Ultra Low Molecular Weight” at 2800–4300 daltons, and the highest I’ve found is YellowBee’s “High Molecular Weight” at 1.6–2 million daltons.

When you’re brand new to working with hyaluronic acid, I recommend starting with a hyaluronic acid that is around 800,000–1 million daltons. A hyaluronic acid of this weight will create a medium-viscosity gel and falls within the range recommended by Simple Skincare Science: “the hyaluronic you want to use should be between 80,000 to 1,000,000 daltons (80 – 1,000 kDa). This seems to be the sweet spot according to studies.”

800,000–1 million dalton weight hyaluronic acid is generally sold as low or medium molecular weight hyaluronic acid, but be sure to check the documentation from your supplier as the “friendly” names are not firmly defined (aka one supplier’s “low” might be another’s “medium”).

If you’ve got access to a variety of weights and you feel like splurging a bit, you can definitely order a few different ones! Broadly, the lower the weight, the more able it is to absorb into the skin, while the higher the weight, the more it will sit on the surface of the skin—meaning different weights deliver hydration to different parts of the skin. One or the other isn’t necessarily good or bad—it’s more about what you’re looking to get from your skincare products. Learn more about the different weights with this great article from Simple Skincare Science. I also recommend this LabMuffin post, which has some helpful discussion of the worry about really low molecular weight HA causing inflammation.

Generally, expect to spend $10–20USD on your first hyaluronic acid purchase.

I’d start with around 5–10g unless the price is great. You’ll typically pay a pretty substantial premium to purchase just one gram, so I don’t recommend doing that. As of 2024, Lotion Crafter sells 1g for $6.95, and 5g for $13.95 ($6.95/g vs. $2.79/g).

How to work with it

When you purchase pure hyaluronic acid, you’ll get a jar or baggie of expensive dry white powder. Now what?

For two reasons, I recommend turning your dry hyaluronic acid powder into a 1% stock solution.

  1. Hyaluronic acid is effective at low usage levels (0.2% has been shown to be effective in a variety of studies–learn more about that here), and using a stock solution makes it easier to weigh out small amounts of this expensive ingredient accurately (which can help save money).
  2. Many weights of hyaluronic acid take a looooong time to hydrate. My LMW & HMW hyaluronic acids each take upwards of 12 hours to fully hydrate, and I do not want to built 12+ hours of waiting time into every formulation I make that contains hyaluronic acid!

How to make a stock solution

In a beaker or glass measuring cup, combine:

  • 1% | 1g hyaluronic acid powder
  • 0.5% | 0.5g Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada)
  • 98.5% | 98.5g distilled water

Weigh everything into a beaker and cover it. I usually skip stirring at this point in time.

Leave it until you can’t see any dry powder left. The higher the weight of your hyaluronic acid, the longer this will take.

Once all the white powder is gone, stir the mixture until uniform. Bottle it up and label the bottle, and now you have a stock you can use in all your hyaluronic acid formulations!

Learn more: Let’s Talk About Hyaluronic Acid

Can I use a different preservative in my stock solution?

Yes, but it needs to be fully and easily water soluble because the mixture is almost entirely water. This means preservatives containing phenoxyethanol or benzyl alcohol will not work. Unsure if your preservative contains these ingredients? Read the INCI!

Why didn’t my hyaluronic acid mixture gel up?

The viscosity of your hyaluronic acid stock depends on the weight of the hyaluronic acid you used to make it. The higher the weight, the thicker your stock will be. Viscosity (or lack thereof) is not an indicator of quality or if you’ve done something right (or wrong).

This is a 1% stock made from 800,000–1 million dalton hyaluronic acid. It’s definitely thicker than water, but it’s not stiff or anywhere close to solid.

This is a 1% stock made from 1.6–2 million dalton hyaluronic acid; it’s way thicker than the previous stock! Notice how it comes out in blobs rather than pouring?

And this is a 1% stock made from <50,000 dalton hyaluronic acid; it’s indistinguishable from water.

Want to watch this project instead of read it?

Watch Now

How much to use

Just 0.2% is generally enough (click this link to read more and learn more!). You can also use less; Lotion Crafter’s lowest recommended usage rate for hyaluronic acid is just 0.01%

You certainly can use more if you want to (I occasionally do if I’m feeling fancy!), but given how expensive hyaluronic acid is, I tend to stick to low-but-effective usage levels in order to keep costs down.

To get a final concentration of 0.2% in your formulations, use 20% of your 1% stock solution.

Studies show that there’s not much benefit including more than 2% hyaluronic acid in formulations, and it would also be really expensive. I know you can find 2% hyaluronic acid products for sale from brands like The Ordinary, but I think we can safely assume they have access to bulk pricing we simply can’t hope to match. If you purchase hyaluronic acid from Lotion Crafter 1g at a time it’s $6.95/g, but if you can splurge and get a kilo all at once, it’s just $0.885/g. Imagine how much more those savings could scale if you were ordering by the barrel straight from the manufacturer!

How can I add hyaluronic acid to a formulation?

Simply trade 20% of the water content in the formulation for your 1% hyaluronic acid solution. This will result in a 0.2% concentration of hyaluronic acid in your finished formulation. You can definitely use more or less:

  • 1% of a 1% stock solution would translate to 0.01% hyaluronic acid in your final formulation (the lowest end of the Lotion Crafter recommended usage range)
  • 10% = 0.1% hyaluronic acid in the overall formulation
  • 20% = 0.2% hyaluronic acid in the overall formulation
  • 30% = 0.3% hyaluronic acid in the overall formulation
  • 40% = 0.4% hyaluronic acid in the overall formulation
  • 60% = 0.6% hyaluronic acid in the overall formulation
  • 80% = 0.7% hyaluronic acid in the overall formulation
  • 90% = 0.9% hyaluronic acid in the overall formulation
  • 100% = 1% hyaluronic acid in the overall formulation

As you can see, because we’re using a 1% hyaluronic acid solution, you cannot surpass a 1% final concentration with it (and 100% of the stock is really just using the stock vs formulating with it as an ingredient).

If you’d like to use more hyaluronic acid you will be somewhat constrained by the weight you are using. Higher weights (roughly upwards of a million daltons) absorb a lot of water, creating quite a thick gel—I think you’d be quite hard pressed to exceed a 1% total concentration of such hyaluronic acids without encountering clumping and possible waste of the precious HA.

Lower weights, however, don’t absorb nearly as much water, and I think you could successfully create a 2–5% stock with lower weight hyaluronic acids. You could then use that more concentrated stock to get more HA into your formulations.

For example, if you used a 5% stock in your formulation:

  • 20% = 0.5% hyaluronic acid in the overall formulation
  • 40% = 1% hyaluronic acid in the overall formulation

Include the hyaluronic acid stock solution in the heated water phase if there is one; it can be cold processed if there isn’t.

Remember that your stock already contains a preservative (Liquid Germall™ Plus, if you’ve done what I do), so including 20% of your hyaluronic acid stock solution means you’ve also included 0.1% Liquid Germall™ Plus in your product, meaning you can use 0.4% instead of 0.5% in cold processed formulations if you’re using Liquid Germall™ Plus to preserve the rest of the formulation (Liquid Germall™ Plus is heat sensitive, so if the stock is going in the heated phase I still include 0.5% Liquid Germall™ Plus in the cool down phase).

What if my stock is a different concentration than 1%?

If you’ve purchased or made a stock with a different concentration, you’ll just need to do a bit of math to land on the same 0.2% concentration in your final product.

If your stock is twice as concentrated, you’ll use half the amount.

The math is: (% of stock used) × (% concentration of the stock) = (% of hyaluronic acid in the final formula)

So: 20% × 1% = 0.2%

If your stock was 2% instead of 1% concentrated, that would be: 20% × 2% = 0.4%

You can see that’s twice the amount of hyaluronic acid, so you’d want to half the usage rate to get the same final concentration: 10% × 1% = 0.2%

That now leaves us with 10% of the formulation that is unaccounted for; simply replace it with more distilled water and you’re off to the races!

Is there anything I can’t use hyaluronic acid with/in?

I have yet to come across any ingredients hyaluronic acid is not compatible with.

I am sometimes asked about making DIY versions of hyaluronic acid injectables; do NOT do this (with hyaluronic acid or any other ingredient!). Avoiding infection and potential death is well worth the cost of paying a professional to do this for you.

Due to its high cost I don’t recommend using hyaluronic acid in wash-off products, though you certainly can—it just feels like a waste to me.

Can I use multiple weights of hyaluronic acid in one formulation?

Definitely! To do this, I recommend making 1% stock solutions for each weight of hyaluronic acid, and then blending those stock solutions on a per-formulation basis. This gives you much more flexibility than making a blended stock solution.

If you have some really low molecular weight hyaluronic acids that don’t form thick gels you may want to make more concentrated solutions (2–5%) so they don’t take up as much room in your formulation. I recently shared a rather indulgent Triple Hyaluronic Acid Facial Serum formulation video with my patrons, and because I used three different weights, each at 0.2%, that formulation ended up being 60% hyaluronic acid stocks. If I’d made a 4% stock with the <50,000 Daltons hyaluronic acid (instead of a 1% stock) I could’ve kept the overall percentage of hyaluronic acid the same, but only needed 45% of the stock solutions in the formulation.

Relevant links & further reading

Want to watch this project instead of read it?

Watch Now

Formulations to make

I recommend starting with my Hyaluronic Acid Serum: 3 vs. 5 vs. 8 ingredients. In that post I share three different hyaluronic acid formulations, with each one building on the one before it. The first formulation uses just three ingredients, the second adds two more, and the third adds three more.

My Brightening Hyaluronic Acid & Niacinamide Facial Serum is a bit of a continuation of the first three serums, combining hydrating hyaluronic acid with brightening niacinamide (Vitamin B3) for a really lovely skincare experience.

If you’d like to incorporate hyaluronic acid into a facial product, might I recommend my Goji & Açaí Superfood Face Cream? The inclusion of açaí oil and black goji berry extract makes this formulation quite fancy, but you can easily simplify it to work with what you have. Simply swap those ingredients for a different liquid carrier oil and botanical extract that your face loves, and you’re off to the races!

Because hyaluronic acid is pretty expensive, I usually don’t put it in body products (and never in wash off products!). However, if you’d like to splurge and create an indulgent body moisturizer, I’m a big fan of my Body Shop-inspired Strawberry Body Yogurt. You can have a ton of fun customizing this formulation with different themes like mango, blueberry, or lime—I’ve shared details on how in the blog post 🙂

And lastly, for something a bit more advanced, check out my 5% Lactic Acid + Hyaluronic Acid Exfoliating Serum. You will need to be comfortable testing and adjusting the pH of the formulation to quite a precise level, so this isn’t a beginner-friendly DIY, but if you’ve been making for a while it’s a really fun challenge and a beautiful end result.

Even more hyaluronic acid formulations

Want to watch this project instead of read it?

Watch Now

 

Gifting Disclosure

The high molecular weight hyaluronic acid was gifted by YellowBee.
The low molecular weight hyaluronic acid was gifted by Pure Nature.