Today we’re talking about hyaluronic acid! If you haven’t read 2018’s Let’s Talk About Hyaluronic Acid post, definitely give that a read first—it covers the hyaluronic acid basics. In this post I’ll be tackling some of the most common questions I get about hyaluronic acid and highlight some of my favourite hyaluronic acid formulations. Let’s get hydrated!

Hyaluronic acid Q&A

What sort of hyaluronic acid should I buy?

To start with, I recommend purchasing hyaluronic acid that is around 800,000–1 million daltons. Hyaluronic acid of this weight is generally sold as low to medium molecular weight hyaluronic acid, though make sure you check the documentation from your supplier as the named distinctions are not well defined (one supplier’s “low” might be another’s “medium”). This is partially a personal preference thing; I like the silky viscosity of hyaluronic acid of this weight. If you live in a country with great hyaluronic acid availability and you feel like experimenting, go ahead and purchase a variety of weights to see what you like best! According to 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.”

There is some debate around the usefulness of very high and very low molecular weight hyaluronic acids. The general idea is that within the general 80,000 to 1,000,000 daltons range higher molecular weights work on the surface of the skin, and lower weights can penetrate the stratum corneum to some degree to work more deeply. But, if the molecular weight is much higher than 1 million daltons it won’t do much good, and if it’s much lower than 80,000 daltons, it could cause irritation. LabMuffin has some good discussion of this in this post—definitely give it a read! It’s not quite as simple as high = good, low = bad.

How do I work with hyaluronic acid?

I recommend using the dry powder to create a 1% solution of hyaluronic acid and using that solution in your formulations. I recommend this for two reasons:

  1. Dry hyaluronic acid can take hours to fully hydrate and dissolve—if you’ve already made the stock you don’t have to wait for it to hydrate every time you make something.
  2. Hyaluronic acid is effective at low usage rates and it’s much easier to precisely weigh it out when it is in a diluted solution.

How much hyaluronic acid should I use in my formulations?

Around 0.2% is enough (click this link to read more and learn more!). You can use more, but hyaluronic acid is effective at low concentrations and it’s expensive! At ~$5/gram, it’s one of the most expensive ingredients I use. A 100g (3.5oz) batch of a formulation featuring 0.2% hyaluronic acid has about $1 of hyaluronic acid in it! There’s a good chance that is more expensive than the rest of the formulation combined.

To get a final concentration of 0.2% in your formulations you’ll include a 1% stock at 20%. 30% of that 1% stock would be 0.3% hyaluronic acid in the final formulation, etc. You cannot exceed a 1% final hyaluronic acid concentration when working with a 1% hyaluronic acid stock; when you’re working with a diluted solution you can only end up with a lower final concentration than that of the solution.

Studies show that there’s not much benefit including more than 2% hyaluronic acid in formulations (it can actually be counter-productive!).

Why is my 1% stock watery?

If you’ve properly measured everything, differing viscosities of a 1% stock are usually due to using a lower molecular weight of hyaluronic acid (this includes using sodium hyaluronate instead of hyaluronic acid). The higher the molecular weight of the hyaluronic acid, the more viscous a 1% hyaluronic acid solution will be. There’s nothing wrong, and you can still use the stock.

Can I make more than a 1% stock?

It depends; if you’re using a higher molecular weight hyaluronic acid you may encounter issues with it fully hydrating. You can likely make a more concentrated stock with molecular weights below 80,000 daltons.

Is hyaluronic acid vegan?

Yes. The hyaluronic acid we use in our products is made by fermentation and is vegan. Hyaluronic acid does occur naturally in the human body and rooster combs, but cosmetic ingredient manufacturers don’t harvest hyaluronic acid from humans or other living creatures—it would be far more expensive.

Can I use sodium hyaluronate instead?

Generally yes, though remember that its molecular weight is very low so it will not make a viscous solution and will perform differently than a higher weight hyaluronic acid.

(Sodium hyaluronate is the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid.)

What else can I use instead?

You’ll want to look at other humectants like glycerin, propanediol, and sodium lactate. The specific formulation and your personal tastes will both factor into determining what the best option is.

Relevant links & further reading

Ten Projects to Make with Hyaluronic Acid

Start with a simple 1% hyaluronic acid stock. It’s the starting point for all of my hyaluronic acid formulations.

You can use that stock as it is, or you can upgrade to a Lavender Aloe Hydrating Facial Toner, including some lavender hydrosol and other skin goodies like allantoin and panthenol.

If you’d like something with a more serum-y consistency, check out my Hyaluronic Acid B5 Facial Serum. A touch of xanthan gum gives this serum more body than the lavender toner, and some PEG-8 dimethicone adds some lovely slip and richness.

For a lovely facial lotion, try my Sugar Plum Facial Lotion. Soothing panthenol, brightening N-Acetyl Glucosamine, and luxurious argan oil team up with hyaluronic acid for a downright swoon-worthy formulation.

For a more targeted product, try my Prickly Pear Eye Gel Cream. Hyaluronic acid helps plump fine lines while caffeine powder helps de-puff the under-eye area.

My Brightening Gel Serum combines hyaluronic acid with niacinamide (Vitamin B3) and N-Acetyl Glucosamine for a luxurious serum that both brightens and moisturizes the skin.

Want to seriously pamper your hands? Try my Pemberley Hand Lotion. It was my Formula Botanica Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation final project, and it’s utterly lovely.

For some body-pampering goodness, try my Strawberry Rose Body Glow Serum. It’s scented with strawberry and rose hydrosols for a delicious skin treat.

For even more all-body awesomeness, my ultralight Strawberry Kiwi Body Yogurt is just the thing for anyone who prefers their skincare products to be featherlight.

Looking for an indulgent masking experience? My Herbs & Honey Pink Clay Mask was inspired by a face mask I spotted on Instagram that rings it at about $100/100mL—and it’s nowhere close to $100 to make your own!