Can You Use Hyaluronic Acid and Glycolic Acid Together?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

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.

Hyaluronic acid and Glycolic acid are the exception to the rule. Here’s why:

  • What Is Hyaluronic Acid?
  • What Is Glycolic Acid?
  • Should You Use Hyaluronic Acid and Glycolic Acid Together?
  • How To Use Hyaluronic Acid And Glycolic Acid Together
  • The Bottom Line

What Is Hyaluronic Acid?

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Part of the glue that holds skin cells together, 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.

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

  • Increases skin’s elasticity
  • Treats atopic dermatitis (and other irritations)
  • Helps soothe rosacea

P.S. 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.

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What Is Glycolic Acid?

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

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.

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Should 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.
  • 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.

How To Use Hyaluronic Acid And Glycolic Acid Together

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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 they’re 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.

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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.

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.

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