If you want plumper, more hydrated, and younger looking skin, hyaluronic acid (also called hyaluronate) is the one skincare ingredient I'd start with.
Read on to find out what's so amazing about it, and our product recommendations for every budget!
I've discovered that hydrating your skin is one of the key secrets to healthy and glowing skin, no matter what type of skin you have.
You can hydrate it from the inside with the foods you eat and the water you drink, but more importantly, on the outside you want skincare that is going to lock in moisture and effectively leave your skin hydrated for many hours at a time.
Sure, when you look at anti-ageing skincare, there are many other active ingredients that crop up, but at the most basic level, a power hydrator like hyaluronic acid should be a staple component of your skincare routine.
And let's face it. Skincare products with hyaluronic acid can also be wonderfully affordable!
The reason hyaluronic acid is so good at hydrating your skin, is that it's actually a polymer that naturally occurs in your body to begin with.
The only difference is that our personal supply of it begins to diminish with time from our teens due to things like sun exposure, ageing, and environmental aggressors.
As a result, our skin struggles to stay hydrated and loses firmness, plumpness, and begins to age faster.
Hyaluronic acid's ability to retain moisture (or bind itself to moisture) is exceptionally important when it comes to skin aging, especially because it reportedly holds up to 6 litres of water per gram.
And naturally, one of the qualities of youthful skin is its ability to hold water and retain a balanced amount of moisture so that the tissues in your skin remain hydrated and flexible, yet firm.
Whether you use this ingredient in a serum, moisturiser, or rich cream really depends on your skin type.
So if you have oilier skin, opt for lighter serum-like products that will sink into your skin and allow it to better absorb hydration from your regular moisturiser.
#1 Hada Labo Super Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Essence, $31.90 for 30ml ($1.05/ml)
As far as you skincare options go, this essence from Hada Labo (which has an amazing range of hyaluronic acid skincare) is a great affordable basic essence to try.
It contains four types of hyaluronic acid to penetrate your skin on different levels, and is going to act as a booster of sorts to improve your skin's ability to absorb hydration from the rest of your moisturisers.
It comes in a solid bottle and a dropper applicator so it's both hygienic and precise.
You only need a few drops at a time, and I like using this after a toner and before any serums.
#2 Skin Inc Hyaluronic Acid Serum, $68 for 10ml ($6.80/ml)
Another serum that's pretty mainly hyaluronic acid is this (significantly pricier) one by Skin Inc.
It's made to be as efficacious as possible, so the hyaluronic acid is protected by patented seaweed capsules which release the ingredients only upon application to the skin.
The serum is part of the brand's customisable Daily Dose range, which means you can mix it with up to two other serums to create your own daily concoction, depending on what your skin needs.
I also recommend using it after toner and before any moisturisers, and I find that it also helps keep oil at bay for longer if you have an oily T-zone.
#3 Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Face Serum, $88 for 30ml ($2.90/ml)
Fast-absorbing and intensely hydrating, this rose face serum by Fresh is wonderfully lightweight and smells good.
It contains rosewater as well as rose flower oil and cucumber extract, which I find is great if you have tired or sensitive skin.
Like the serums and essences above, it's not sufficiently moisturising on its own, but is a great pre-moisturising serum so your skin gets a little help with retaining moisture.
#4 Eve Lom Intense Hydration Serum, $185 for 30ml ($6.20/ml)
The second most expensive option on this list (in cost per milliliter) is this serum from Eve Lom.
It's apparently clinically proven to increase your skin's moisture levels by up to 80 per cent in just two hours.
It's ideal for dry or normal skin types that need extra hydration, and is highly concentrated but lightweight enough to use under moisturisers or face creams.
While the bottle is gorgeous, it might be tough to tell when you're running low.
#5 Philosophy Renewed Hope in A Jar, $62 for 60ml ($1/ml)
Reformulated from the brand's bestselling moisturiser, this renewed lighter, finer hydrater contains a trio of hyaluronic acids to quench your skin's thirst.
It helps lock in water and speed up its delivery to cells - with a blue agave extract to encourage your body's natural production of hyaluronic acid.
I also love that it doesn't have the same unpleasant smell the original version had, which made it difficult for me to use.
#6 First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Hydrating Serum, $67 for 30ml ($2.20/ml)
A mid-range option to try is this gel serum from First Aid Beauty.
It has a thicker consistency than most of the other serums, but it sinks into the skin easily enough and can also be used under another moisturiser.
It also contains anti-ageing peptides that work to minimise the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, and collagen for elasticity and firmness.
And as a bonus, the brand also has a lip product called the Ultra Repair Lip Therapy ($21) which I love to travel with because it keeps my lips moisturised for hours.
And yes, it also contains hyaluronic acid.