They’re both acids but, while there are a few similarities, they mostly offer different benefits for your skin. What happens when you layer both ingredients in the same routine? Can you use hyaluronic acid and glycolic acid together?
Similarities vs Differences Between Hyaluronic Acid & Glycolic Acid
Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) made from the sugar cane plant. It helps to exfoliate your skin by breaking down the bonds that hold your individual skin cells together and allowing them to be shed from the surface of your skin with more ease.
The result? Smoother and brighter skin.
AHAs, like glycolic acid, also help to boost collagen production, lighten dark marks, treat acne, and hydrate your skin through their humectant effects.
Hyaluronic acid is also a humectant, however, unlike glycolic acid, it’s not an exfoliating acid.
Humectants are hydrating skincare ingredients that draw water from your dermis and/or your surrounding environment into your skin.
Hyaluronic acid is one of the most popular and effective humectants available and is able to bind up to 1000x its weight in water.
It’s also naturally present in your skin as part of your natural moisturizing factors (NMFs).
While glycolic acid isn’t found naturally in your skin, another AHA, lactic acid, is.
Can You Use Hyaluronic Acid and Glycolic Acid Together?
One concern regarding the use of hyaluronic acid and glycolic acid together is in regard to how each ingredient should ideally be used.
Glycolic acid is ideally applied to dry skin, while hyaluronic acid is ideally applied to damp skin and followed with a moisturizer/occlusive.
This makes it a little trickier to combine both ingredients together while sticking to these ‘rules’.
Does it mean that you shouldn’t combine hyaluronic acid and glycolic acid together in the same routine?
Not at all!
You just need to understand why these so-called ‘rules’ exist in the first place.
The main reason that you are advised to use glycolic acid on dry skin rather than damp skin is because damp skin is more permeable – meaning that skincare ingredients find it easier to penetrate your skin’s barrier.
That’s great for most skincare ingredients, isn’t it? After all, easier penetration means increased effectiveness, right?
Right! Except, increased effectiveness also means an increased risk of irritation.
As glycolic acid increases your skin cell turnover, it comes with a high risk of skin irritation, and applying it to damp skin increases this risk.
Hyaluronic acid isn’t irritating and, because it draws water into your skin, the damper your skin the better!
It’s particularly important to apply hyaluronic acid to damp skin if you live in a dry climate. This is because hyaluronic acid can only draw water from your environment if there is plenty of moisture in the air (a humid climate).
If there isn’t much moisture on the surface of your skin or in your surrounding environment, hyaluronic acid can only draw moisture from your dermis.
In most cases, this isn’t a problem – your dermis has plenty of moisture to spare. However, if all the moisture being pulled from your dermis isn’t locked in with a thicker moisturizer, it can escape from your epidermis and leave you with dehydrated skin.
Hyaluronic acid can also draw the water from the thicker moisturizer into your skin.
So how can you get around the damp vs dry skin issue?
- If your skin is not easily irritated, you could apply hyaluronic acid onto your skin that’s damp after cleansing, then apply your glycolic acid and follow with a moisturizer.
- If you’re using a glycolic acid toner, you could apply that to your dry face, use a facial mist to add moisture, then apply your hyaluronic acid and lock it all in with a moisturizer.
- If you have sensitive skin, you could look for a moisturizer that contains glycolic acid (you may even be able to find one that has both hyaluronic acid AND glycolic acid – which brings us onto point number 4…)
- You could use a product that combines both ingredients for you.
- You could use a glycolic acid serum AFTER your moisturizer – yes, that’s right, active ingredients will still work if applied after moisturizers – this also has a ‘buffering’ effect which can help reduce skin irritation.
Should You Use Hyaluronic Acid and Glycolic Acid Together?
Now we know that you can use hyaluronic acid and glycolic acid together, should you? Are there any benefits to this ingredient combination?
Hyaluronic acid and glycolic acid actually complement each other quite well when it comes to anti-aging.
When your skin cells are well hydrated, they keep your skin looking plump and bouncy by increasing its elasticity – this means that your skin can ‘bounce-back’ after performing facial expressions or being poked and pulled at.
Glycolic acid, on the other hand, increases the amount of collagen within your skin which provides cushioning and volume, as well as reducing fine lines and wrinkles.
The other main benefit of using hyaluronic acid and glycolic acid together is reducing the irritation experienced with glycolic acid.
For example, a small clinical study found that the use of a cream containing hyaluronic acid and hibiscus after a 70% glycolic acid peel helped skin recover faster and provided a better overall skin appearance than when a cream without these ingredients was used.
Tissue samples treated with the same routine demonstrated that the combination of hyaluronic acid and glycolic acid also led to more collagen production than when glycolic acid was used alone.
Summary – Can You Use Hyaluronic Acid and Glycolic Acid Together?
Yes, you absolutely can use hyaluronic acid and glycolic acid together in the same skincare routine! In fact, this combination may boost collagen production and reduce the irritation potential of glycolic acid.
Laura is a skincare addict and sunscreen enthusiast with more than 10 years of experience working in healthcare and over 5 years of experience working as a nurse. She has experience in plastic and reconstructive surgery, dermatology, and aesthetics and has received training in laser treatments. Laura is currently working in healthcare education and writes for ScienceBecomesHer in her spare time. Read More.