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Does Hyaluronic Acid Trigger Acne Breakouts? 

Hyaluronic acid is a versatile skincare ingredient that can help benefit your skin without causing acne. It supports moisturizing your skin by binding and retaining water molecules from your skin, environment, and other skincare products leading to improved hydration levels and skin texture.

Hyaluronic acid itself does not cause acne, cystic acne, or purging, but breakouts may occur due to improper application. Additionally, other acne-causing ingredients in a product that contains hyaluronic acid or inadequate moisture levels may trigger acne breakouts.

It is suitable for all skin types, including dry, oily, sensitive, mature, and normal/combination skin. Applying hyaluronic acid to damp skin and following it with a non-comedogenic moisturizer will encourage the best results.

Ultimately, acne sufferers can use hyaluronic acid to improve and heal their skin, provided they choose a well-formulated product and follow proper skincare routines.

This article will cover what hyaluronic acid is, the best way to use it, the side effects, if it causes acne, and the best product to use.

What is hyaluronic acid?

Hyaluronic acid is an anti-inflammatory glycosaminoglycan compound that helps moisturize the skin without clogging the pores or triggering a reaction on sensitive skin. Hyaluronic acid is known for its unique ability to bind and retain water molecules at different sizes, making it a vital and versatile component for maintaining moisture in biological tissues.

Glycosaminoglycan is composed of long chains of sugar molecules that are crucial components in connective tissue and are found naturally in the skin’s dermis layer, joints, and eye fluids.

In skincare, hyaluronic acid is used for its powerful hydrating properties. When fully absorbed into the skin, hyaluronic acid can hold 1000 times its weight in water. As a result, hyaluronic acid is often used on its own or as a key ingredient in many hydrating serums, moisturizers, and masks.

What are the skin benefits of hyaluronic acid?

  • Moisturizing: Effectively hydrates by holding and retaining significant amounts of water
  • Anti-Aging: Reduces the appearance of fine lines and supports your skin’s natural elasticity
  • Healing: Can help to heal acne scars, redness, inflammation, and irritation
  • Tolerability: Rarely causes allergic reactions since it’s a substance that is produced by the body
  • Improved Skin Texture: Can help reduce the appearance of fine lines over time
  • Antioxidant: Defends against environmental damage
  • Works Well with Other Ingredients: Helps other skincare ingredients penetrate deeper into the skin.
  • Non-comedogenic: Will not clog pores
  • Regulates Sebum Production: Balances oil levels in the skin

Which skin types tend to benefit the most from hyaluronic acid?

Hyaluronic acid benefits all skin types as it is a versatile skincare ingredient.

  • Dry Skin: Locks in moisture from moisturizers
  • Oily Skin: Helps hydrate without increasing oiliness
  • Sensitive Skin: Its natural occurrence in the body makes it non-irritating
  • Mature Skin: Reduces wrinkles and fine lines
  • Normal/Combination Skin: Helps maintain skin balance

What is the difference between high, medium, and low molecular weight hyaluronic acid?

High, medium, and low molecular weight hyaluronic acid are different based on the size of their molecules. The size variation impacts how deep the hyaluronic acid penetrates the skin and the specific benefits.

  • High Molecular Weight Hyaluronic Acid (HMW-HA): This form of hyaluronic acid has larger molecules that do not penetrate deep into the skin but rather sit on the skin’s surface. This size forms hydrating barriers and locks in moisture to guard against water loss. This form is used for quicker short-term benefits and surface hydration of the skin.
  • Medium Molecular Weight Hyaluronic Acid: The middle form of hyaluronic acid because it’s smaller than HMQ-HA but larger than LMV-HA, which helps reach the middle levels of the skin.
  • Low Molecular Weight Hyaluronic Acid (LMW-HA): The smallest in size, LMW-HA can penetrate the deepest layers of the skin, providing hydration from within. By reaching deeper layers of the skin, it can help stimulate collagen production that benefits skin elasticity. This form is used more for long-lasting anti-aging benefits.

What is the best way to use hyaluronic acid for acne breakouts?

For the best results with using hyaluronic acid, the most important aspect to think about is how you incorporate it into your skin care regimen. The steps before and after can enhance the benefits that you experience with using hyaluronic acid.

  1. Cleanse: Begin with a non-drying cleanser that is gentle on your skin. It is important to prepare for the application of hyaluronic acid by removing any makeup, dirt, and excess oil from your skin.
  2. Exfoliate (optional): It is helpful to also remove any dead skin cells by exfoliating so that your pores do not clog.
  3. Apply Hyaluronic Acid: Apply a small amount on your finger tips and apply it gently to your facial skin. It is important to pull in moisture when applying hyaluronic acid to dampen your skin. If your environment is dry, consider misting your face.
  4. Follow with Moisturizer: Hyaluronic acid does not moisturize on its own but rather is a humectant that draws in water. Make sure that you lock in hydration by following with a non-comedogenic moisturizer.

The ideal time to apply hyaluronic acid is after showering – the natural humidity and steam in the bathroom will help it lock moisture into your skin barrier and give you an instant, plumped glow.

It’s important to be patient, as results can take time. If you have had bad reactions to products in the past, make sure to patch test to avoid potential adverse reactions.

Should hyaluronic acid be combined with anything else?

Hyaluronic acid draws moisture from the water molecules in a cream or serum, so combining it with other water-based hydrating products can help to keep the skin supple.

Combining hyaluronic acid products with beneficial skincare ingredients such as vitamin C, Retinol, peptides, and exfoliants can aid the benefits of hyaluronic acid and reduces the adverse effects that come with other ingredients.

Vitamin C helps enhance the hydration and brightness of your skin. Retinol helps with anti-aging but tends cause skin dryness which hyaluronic acid can mitigate. Peptides stimulate collagen products and pair well with hyaluronic acid to increase anti-aging benefits.

Is acne a side effect of hyaluronic acid?

Acne is not considered a side effect of hyaluronic acid. It is generally well-tolerated by many people and is non-comedogenic. Many adverse effects stem from inadequate moisturization and improper application to dry skin lacking moisture to lock in.

When choosing a hyaluronic acid serum for acne-prone skin, opt for high-molecular-weight hyaluronic acid. While there are benefits to using a more concentrated, low-molecular weighted acid, the risk of inflammation makes it the less suitable choice for acne-prone skin.

Is hyaluronic acid comedogenic?

Hyaluronic acid is non-comedogenic: it’s unlikely to clog your pores and cause breakouts on its own. However, that doesn’t mean all hyaluronic acid products suit acne-prone skin. 

It’s important to always check a product’s label to ensure no comedogenic ingredients have been snuck in there. Many hyaluronic acid moisturizers and serums will be formulated with both hyaluronic acid and comedogenic ingredients, so use our handy guide below when inspecting labels.

Does hyaluronic acid cause cystic acne?

Even when using a hyaluronic acid product formulated with comedogenic ingredients, it’s unlikely to trigger the development of cystic acne. Cystic acne tends to be hormonal and related to the overproduction of sebum in the skin, which often becomes blocked in the skin’s pores.

If you’re struggling with cystic acne and experimenting with hyaluronic acid to treat it, it might first be a good idea to investigate the source of your cystic acne. A study conducted by Chungnam National University found that hyaluronic acid can help control the skin’s oil production. Cystic acne can often be caused by underlying conditions, such as candida, thyroid conditions, and fungal acne.

As our eBook Unmasking Acne explains, some acne sufferers can spend upwards of thousands of dollars on anti-acne skincare products that exacerbate their skin problems instead of improving them. Before spending money on expensive, “cure-all” skincare products, ensure you know your acne’s underlying cause. Simple lifestyle changes and diet modifications can sometimes clear up persistent cystic acne.

Does hyaluronic acid cause acne when used incorrectly?

Applying hyaluronic acid without the proper moisture on your skin will cause your skin to overproduce oil to compensate and, therefore, may cause a breakout. Simply put, hyaluronic acid needs something to attach to, also known as an occlusive property.

Following a proper skincare regimen and choosing the right products can avoid breakouts when using hyaluronic acid.

Can hyaluronic acid cause skin purging?

Hyaluronic acid alone is unlikely to be the culprit for skin purging. Hyaluronic acid is a humectant and hydrating property, not an acid exfoliator: it cannot create skin cell turnover.

What is purging?

Purging occurs when a skincare product makes the skin’s cells turn over faster than usual: this process creates whiteheads on the skin’s surface and might be confused for a “traditional” breakout. 

Purging often occurs with aggressive anti-acne treatments or strong chemical exfoliants. Still, this process does not indicate a product’s quality or effectiveness: sometimes, the skin’s barrier is simply damaged, which can lead to purging. 

Skin purging typically lasts a couple of weeks but can continue for over a month. If you think you’re experiencing purging, you can continue using the product to see if the breakouts stop. If your acne problems persist after 5-6 weeks, it’s best to stop using the product.

What is the best hyaluronic acid for acne-prone skin?

When using hyaluronic acid for acne-prone skin, opting for a hyaluronic acid serum is often more beneficial. Hyaluronic acid serums are often combined with other non-comedogenic ingredients to soothe redness, calm inflammation, provide hydration and protect the skin’s natural moisture barrier.

Check the label for both the weight of the hyaluronic acid and any comedogenic ingredients.

I recommend using collagen serums or supplementation in addition to hyaluronic acid. Collagen helps keep the skin hydrated and reduces signs of aging.  

Check out Clearstem Skincare’s CELLRENEW Collagen Infusion Serum if you want hyaluronic acid and collagen benefits.

Reddit Users Experiences With Hyaluronic Acid For Acne

We always recommend optimizing your diet before trying any kind of skincare product. Reddit users have voiced concerns about their experience with hyaluronic acid.

One Reddit user said, “I started to use hyaluronic acid a little over a week ago (the Ordinary brand of 2% and vitamin B-5.) At first it seemed to be working well for my skin; however, in the last 2-3 days, my skin has gotten increasingly red, bumpy, and irritated. It almost looks as though I have a sunburn, and I have rough, bumpy skin on my nose that hurts to touch.”

r/SkincareAddiction

Hyaluronic acid absorbs moisture, so if you have sensitive skin or do not adequately moisturize and dampen your skin, you may face inflammation and irritation.

Hyaluronic acid can cause discomfort if used incorrectly, especially if the serum contains comedogenic ingredients. If you are considering using a hyaluronic acid serum, I highly recommend using Clearstem or consulting a dermatologist.

Should acne sufferers use hyaluronic acid for acne breakouts?

If you suffer from acne, hyaluronic acid is beneficial, non-comedogenic, and non-exfoliating acid that can help moisturize and heal your skin. If you’re experiencing breakouts with a new hyaluronic skin care product, check the label to look for comedogenic ingredients.

If your skincare product is comedogenic and you’re still experiencing breakouts, you might be misusing hyaluronic acid. When applied correctly, hyaluronic acid can help your skin retain its natural moisture and smooth fine lines and scars while giving your complexion a plumped, dewy glow.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you overuse hyaluronic acid?

Yes, it is possible, although unlikely, to overuse hyaluronic acid. As long as you follow the dosage outlined on the bottle, you should not have to worry about overusing hyaluronic acid. If you do overuse hyaluronic acid, you may notice red swelling in your skin.

Should I use hyaluronic acid in the morning or night?

Hyaluronic acid can be used in the morning or at night with no issues.

Originally Published: June 26, 2023

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sam wood is GoodGlow's Chief Editor
Analyzed by Sam Wood

Hi, I’m Sam Wood, the chief editor, lead acne expert, and health coach at GoodGlow, as well as a best-selling author for one of the top acne books on Amazon. I struggled with acne for over 10 years, and began studying the effects of diet on skin quality while pursuing a degree in Nutrition Sciences at the University of Missouri. After shifting from mainstream skincare trends to in-depth research in medical journals, I experienced significant personal success in managing my acne. This inspired me to start GoodGlow, where I simplify complex scientific findings into easy-to-understand advice. With over 10 years in the field, I’ve helped more than 2,500 people achieve clearer skin through natural, holistic methods, and I’m dedicated to personally assisting those seeking guidance on their acne journey.

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2 thoughts on “Does Hyaluronic Acid Trigger Acne Breakouts? ”

  1. I systematically have an outbreak after a few days of using hyaluronic acid, despite using it correctly (after showering and before moisturizer). I get painful acne in places that are very unusual for me (forehead, sides of the nose). I tried it several times with the same results – and the product I use does not contain comedogenic ingredients per your list… I’m disappointed because I noticed a slight plumping effect (I’m 40) but honestly it’s not worth it…

    Reply

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