Can You Use Hyaluronic Acid And Glycolic Acid Together?

Can you use Hyaluronic acid and Glycolic acid together?

I get this question a lot. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I’m not a fan of mixing your acids together. Go overboard and you could literally burn your skin off.

And yet, every rule has its exception. Hyaluronic acid is a different kind of acids to the other famous acids in skincare, like Glycolic acid. You can pile on this baby like there’s no tomorrow and there’s no burning off skin. Only baby soft skin.

So what happens when you mix it with Hyaluronic acid? I’ve looked at the science to find out how your skin reacts when you use both (hint: for dry skin in particular, this combination is a godsend – and yes, other skin types can use it too).

Here’s your answer to the question: Can you use Hyaluronic acid and glycolic acid together?

Hyaluronic Acid: What Is It And How Does It Benefit Skin?

Did you know your skin naturally produces Hyaluronic Acid? It’s part of the glue that holds your skin cells together. So what’s its job?

Hyaluronic acid is a humectant. That’s a fancy way of saying “moisture magnet”. This acid attracts and binds moisture from the environment into the skin, pumping up its hydration levels.

Other ingredients do this. Glycerin and Urea spring to mind immediately. But Hyaluronic Acid goes the extra mile: it can bind up to 1000 times its weight in water! That’s a waterfall of moisture!

When skin has all the moisture it needs, it his softer to the touch; it’s all plumped up, which in turn makes wrinkles look smaller; and has that beautiful dewy glow that makes it look like it’s lit from within.

This is the trick behind Korean skincare, by the way: plenty of Hyaluronic acid and moisture, moisture, moisture! The Koreans know that, when your skin has all the hydration it needs (and a touch more!), it naturally looks younger.

Hydration is Hyaluronic Acid’s main job, but this superhero has other tricks up its sleeve. It also:

  • Increases skin’s elasticity: A 2011 study shows that, when used together with Retinaldehyde (a form of Vitamin A), Hyaluronic helped reduce wrinkles and increase skin’s elasticity by up to 33%.
  • Treats atopic dermatitis (and other irritations): Hyaluronic acid is part of your skin’s natural protective barrier. When this barrier is intact and working properly, your skin is less prone to redness and irritations. By helping repairing this barrier, Hyaluronic Acid also helps treat dermatitis and other types of irritations.
  • Helps soothe rosacea: A 2013 study has found that low molecular weight Hyaluronic Acid improves all the symptoms of rosacea, including reductions in papules, erythema, burning or stinging.

Hyaluronic acid comes in different molecular sizes. The smaller their size, the deeper they can penetrate your skin. Bigger ones stay on its surface, hydrating only its most superficial layers.

Don’t let that fool you into thinking only low molecular weight Hyaluronic Acid is effective. Every layer of your skin, from the uppermost to the deepest needs hydration. The best Hyaluronic acid serums contain several molecular sizes to ensure that every layer has the hydration it needs.

Best Picks:

  • La Roche Posay Heal B5 Hyaluronic Acid Serum (£27.75): A simple, no-frills Hyaluronic Acid serum to hydrate skin and soothe irritation. Available at Sephora and Look Fantastic
  • Niod Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Acid (£25.00): This baby contains 15 forms of Hyaluronic Acid to hydrate every layer of skin. It’s the most hydrating serum I’ve ever tried. Available at Beauty Bay and Cult Beauty
  • Paula’s Choice Resist Hyaluronic Acid Booster ($34.00): It contains Hyaluronic Acid to hydrate skin and ceramides to create a protective barrier that keeps moisture in. Available at DermstoreNordstrom, Paula’s Choice and Selfridges

Related: What Are Humectants And Why Do You Need Them In Your Skincare Routine?

Struggling to put together a skincare routine that banishes dryness and makes your skin supple and dewy? Download your FREE “Best Skincare Routine For Dry Skin” to get started (it features product recommendations + right application order):

Glycolic Acid: What Is It And How Does It Benefit Skin?

Glycolic acid is the smallest member of the exfoliating Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) family. Its small molecular size means it penetrates skin deeper than all its siblings, but it’s more irritating, too. In skincare, more effective often equals more irritating. *sighs*

Glycolic acid has three main jobs in skincare:

  • It exfoliates skin: Like all AHAs, Glycolic acid exfoliates skin by dissolving the “glue” that holds skin cells together, so they can slough off and reveal the brighter, smoother skin underneath. Overtime, this exfoliation helps fade away dark spots, too.
  • It boosts collagen production: At 10%+ concentrations, it helps your skin produce more collagen (the protein that keeps it firm). In the long run, this translates to fewer, less deep wrinkles.
  • It hydrates skin: It increases the levels of hyaluronic acid in your skin – and you know what a moisture magnet that is now. The more hyaluronic acid your skin has, the better.

Now, for the not-so-good part… It’s very rare to find skincare products that use 10% or more Glycolic Acid – for a reason. Glycolic acid can cause redness, irritation, stinging, flakiness, and dryness.

Most skin types tolerate small concentrations easily. But the higher up you go, the higher the chance, it’ll irritate your skin. Very high concentrations should only be applied by dermatologists – unless you want to burn your skin!

In practice, this means the Glycolic Acid exfoliants you’re using can exfoliate and hydrate skin, fade away dark spots, and prevent acne, but not boost collagen. Oh well, 2 out of 3 isn’t that bad.

One more thing: while everyone can use hyaluronic acid, Glycolic Acid is more suitable for dry skin (thanks to its hydrating properties).

Best Picks:

  • Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum ($90.00): This exfoliant contains two exfoliants. Glycolic Acid to fade away dark spots and Salicylic Acid to unclog pores. Available at Cult BeautySephora and SpaceNK
  • Paula’s Choice Resist Daily Smoothing Treatment with 5% AHA ($33.00): A wonderful low strength Glycolic Acid exfoliant that makes skin softer, smoother, and brighter. Available at Paula’s Choice and Selfridges
  • The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution (£6.80): A gentle, no-frills Glycolic Acid exfoliant for people on a budget. Available at Beauty Bay and Cult Beauty

Related: AHAs VS BHA: Which Exfoliant Is Best For You?

drunk elephant tlc framboos glycolic night serum

Hyaluronic Acid VS Glycolic Acid: Which One Is Better?

While both Hyaluronic Acid and Glycolic Acid have humectant, hydrating properties, they’re more different than they’re alike.

Hyaluronic Acid is a hydrator. It can also increase skin’s elasticity and soothe irritations, but its main job is to deliver a waterfall of moisture to your skin to keep it hydrated and plumper for longer.

Glycolic Acid is first and foremost an exfoliant that removes dead cells from the surface of the skin and fades away dark spots. So it all depends on what you’re looking for.

Hyaluronic Acid VS Glycolic Acid: Which One Is Better For Hydration?

Hyaluronic Acid wins this hands down. It draws and binds to the skin up to 1000 times its weight in water. Glycolic acid can draw its fair share of moisture to your skin, but can’t compete with that.

Hyaluronic Acid is also a godsend for all skin types:

  • It gives dry skin the extra burst of moisture it so badly needs.
  • It hydrates oily skin without adding extra oil to it.
  • It infuses water back into dehydrated skin to quench its thirst.
  • It’s so gentle, even sensitive skin can use it without issues.

Glycolic Acid, on the other hand, is too irritating for sensitive skin and only has limited benefits for oily skin (this skin type benefits more from a salicylic acid exfoliant. It doesn’t hydrate skin, but it’s a godsend for unclogging pores.).

Hyaluronic Acid VS Glycolic Acid: Which One Is Better At Treating Wrinkles?

This time, Glycolic Acid wins. Hyaluronic Acid has limited anti-aging properties. It mostly uses moisture to plump up skin, so that fine lines and wrinkles look smaller, but the effect is only temporary.

Glycolic Acid exfoliates skin and, at high enough concentrations, stimulates the production of collagen, the protein that keeps skin firm. Used regularly, it makes a bigger dent in your wrinkles. Plus, its exfoliating properties also fade away the brown spots that come along with age.

Hyaluronic Acid VS Glycolic Acid: Which One Is Better For Sensitive Skin?

Again, Hyaluronic Acid wins hands down. It’s both good and bad news.

It’s good news because Hyaluronic Acid is safe for everyone. It deeply hydrates skin – and when skin has all the moisture it needs, it looks smoother, plumper, and younger. Plus, it helps soothe irritations. But, the effects are only temporary.

Glycolic Acid is a more powerful anti-aging superstars. But, like all powerful anti-aging actives, it causes side effects, like irritation, redness, and dryness – especially in sensitive skin. Despite its anti-aging properties, this is an ingredient I don’t recommend you use if you are sensitive skin. Go for lactic acid instead.

Hyaluronic Acid VS Glycolic Acid: Which One Is Best For My Skin?

Hyaluronic Acid GLYCOLIC ACID
Dry skin ✔️ ✔️
Oily skin ✔️
Dehydrated skin ✔️ ✔️
Sun-damaged skin ✔️ ✔️
Combination skin ✔️
Acne-prone skin ✔️
Sensitive skin ✔️
Normal skin ✔️ ✔️

While everyone can use and benefit from using hyaluronic acid in their skincare routine, glycolic acid’s unique mix of exfoliating and hydrating properties makes it suitable mostly for dry and sun-damaged skin types. Oily, acne-prone skin will benefit more from a salicylic acid exfoliant that can unclog pores while sensitive skin will find Glycolic Acid too harsh.

Can You Use Hyaluronic Acid and Glycolic Acid Together?

Yes! Yes! Yes! I often recommend using Hyaluronic acid and Glycolic acid together. Here’s why:

  • Extra hydration: Both Hyaluronic acid and Glycolic acid increase moisture levels in your skin. Hydration is the foundation of healthy skin. It makes skin plumper, reduces the look of fine lines and wrinkles, and gives it a subtle, as-if-lit-from-within glow. If your skin isn’t hydrated enough, there’s no point in focusing on anti-aging or anything else. Without a hydrating foundation, your skin will never look its best.
  • Less irritation: Glycolic acid may be hydrating, but it’s also irritating (especially when you first start using it). Adding extra hydration to your skin after exfoliation helps you better tolerate it and reduce any side effects. Who wouldn’t want that?

This time you have everything to gain and nothing to lose by using these two acids together – especially if you have dry skin. This combination will hydrate your skin, soften rough patches, and give your complexion a dewy glow.

Related: If Your Skin Is Perfectly Hydrated, Do You Still Need To Worry About Anti-Aging?

niod multi-molecular hyaluronic complex

How To Use Hyaluronic Acid And Glycolic Acid Together

Did you know skincare products work better when you apply them on damp skin? Wet skin is more permeable, so skincare ingredients – as long as their molecular size is small enough – can more easily penetrate it.

This hack works wonders for Hyaluronic acid – especially if you live in a dry climate where your skin needs all the moisture it can get. The extra dampness helps your skin attract more moisture from the environment into your skin, leaving it softer and suppler.

Glycolic acid is the opposite. This acid can be irritating, remember? Applying it onto damp skin makes it more irritating – especially if you have sensitive skin.

According to the rules of skincare, exfoliation goes before hydration. But Hyaluronic acid works best on damp skin while Glycolic Acid doesn’t. What’s a girl to do?

Here are your options:

  1. The no-fuss way: Use Hyaluronic acid after Glycolic acid, both on dry skin. Hyaluronic acid works well on dry skin too. Using it on damp skin makes it go the extra mile, but unless you live in a very dry climate, the difference in results isn’t massive.
  2. If you live in a dry climate: Apply Glycolic acid on dry skin first. Then, spritz your skin with a hydrating mist to wet skin and follow up with your Hyaluronic acid serum to lock all that moisture in.
  3. If you have sensitive skin: I usually recommend Lactic acid for sensitive skin (it’s gentler). But if you must use Glycolic acid, layer it on top of Hyaluronic acid. Yes, it dilutes its effectiveness – but makes it less irritating, too.
  4. The multi-tasker: Get a moisturiser with both Glycolic acid and Hyaluronic acid. Just don’t use it daily. Exfoliating two or three times a week is more than enough.

Related: Glycolic Acid VS Lactic Acid: Which One Is Right For You?

Hyaluronic Acid Or Glycolic Acid: Which One Goes First?

If you’re using two separate products, now with hyaluronic acid and the other with glycolic acid, apply glycolic acid first. Exfoliation is always the next step after cleansing. You need to apply that exfoliant as closer to clean skin as possible to remove dead skin cells.

Hyaluronic Acid is one of those ingredients you can use in any order. I recommend you apply it after Glycolic Acid, but there’s research showing it works even when applied after moisturiser or sunscreens. So don’t overthink it. Glycolic acid first, Hyaluronic Acid second.

The Bottom Line

You can totally use Hyaluronic acid and Glycolic acid together. They boost your skin’s hydration, make fine lines and wrinkles look smaller, and reduce the irritating potential of exfoliation.