This Hyaluronic Acid-Packed Serum Is So Hydrating, It Might Just Replace Your Moisturizer

After devoting years of my life to researching and testing beauty products, I’ve become a bit of a formula snob. But when it comes to what you put on your skin, I fully believe that a healthy dose of snobbery shouldn’t be just tolerated, but celebrated. Your skin is your first line of defense against the elements, pollution, and other harsh side effects of living — so why not ensure the formulas you slather your skin with don’t add to its stress? All this is to say that I treat every new product with skepticism until it proves itself a worthy member of my routine, and the latest I am coveting is SkinMedica® HA Rejuvenating Hydrator ($120).

To understand this formula, you need a primer on hyaluronic acid (HA). “Hyaluronic acid is the ultimate skin multitasker,” says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “At the same time it can hydrate, plump the skin’s appearance, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.” That’s because this substance — which is naturally produced by the body — acts almost like a magnet for water, drawing it to skin and helping it hold on to moisture longer. The unfortunate thing about HA, though, is that your body’s ability to produce it decreases with age, so your skin loses out on that boost of hydration. We all know that thirsty skin doesn’t look as fresh, and it can also make fine lines and wrinkles appear more severe.

That’s where topically-applied HA comes to the rescue. HA5® contains — as you might have guessed — a cocktail of five different forms of HA: sodium hyaluronate (a form of HA with a smaller molecule size), uncross-linked HA (meaning it breaks down faster and thus acts more quickly), cross-linked HA (which breaks down more slowly so it can hydrate up to eight hours), nano HA (which has a smaller molecular size to enhance absorption), and the brand’s own time-release form of HA for long-term delivery of hydration. Whew!

According to Dr. Zeichner, the blend of all five forms complement each other “to give both immediate smoothing as well as more long-lasting skin hydration.” And that’s not all — HA5® also contains “VITISENSCETM Technology, a SkinMedica® exclusive technology that harnesses potent antioxidants found in Vitis Flower Stem Cells and other specialty ingredients to support skin’s ability to replenish its own HA.”

As careful as I am about selecting my products, I am surprisingly careless about application and rarely read directions unless they are completely counterintuitive. This means that my first few uses didn’t allow HA to reveal its true potential (though I confess I was still impressed). That’s because I was fooled by the name. Just because it’s called a hydrator doesn’t mean it’s a moisturizer. It’s not. Rather, it’s a serum that is designed to be used before the moisturizing step of your regimen.

Because I have a routine that can get so extensive it borders on obscene, I apply HA after double cleansing and applying an essence or priming serum like Sulwhasoo® First Care Activating Serum EX ($84), which I like to believe provides a pre-hydrated canvas to help enhance the benefits of the SkinMedica formula. And according to Dr. Zeichner, applying HA serums either to damp skin or with damp fingertips is the best move. “This gives the HA the water it needs to hydrate the skin optimally,” he explains.

Once I’m primed, I smooth HA5® on my entire face (even under my eyes, all the way up to my lower lashline) and down to my decollete, dabbing any extra on the backs of my hands. The texture is unlike any skincare treatment I have ever tried: it is super velvety and silky, similar to makeup primer, but never gets sticky, gunky, or pilly like a primer might. It also feels cooling and “wet,” which sounds silly (of course it’s wet, it’s a creamy serum!), but the sensation is similar to water droplets bursting on your skin.

Most shocking of all — just as soon as you experience all of this, you notice it all disappears as HA absorbs into your skin. I cannot convey this strongly enough: the formula is practically both weightless and invisible, so anyone who hates feeling suffocated by skincare will adore this.

From here, I’ll either apply makeup directly on top or continue my skincare regimen, depending on the time of day. But regardless of how I incorporate it to my routine, I find it makes my skin feel super smooth — perfect for applying makeup — with any rough texture or crepiness practically obliterated. Even better, those pesky fine lines around my eyes look smoother and less significant.

But I’ve found that the best part of HA is that because HA draws in water from its surroundings, the formula helps amplify the benefits of any moisturizing products above it. My hack? On days when I’m looking particularly parched and lackluster, I finish my routine with a liberal spritz of a facial spray like TatchaTM Luminous Dewy Skin Mist ($56) or Elcie Cosmetics The Hydra Enhancer ($40). I imagine the molecules of HA grasping onto every droplet of the mist and sucking it into my skin. The result is a complexion so gloriously fresh, radiant, and supple that satisfies the high expectations of even the snobbiest skincare lover.

Please note that SkinMedica is an Allergan Product.
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