If you think you know hyaluronic acid, think again. There’s more to this skincare wunderkind that meets the eye.

If you consider yourself to be even remotely invested in the world of skincare, you’re likely familiar with hyaluronic acid—or so you think. You’ve no doubt heard of HA, you’ve probably tried it in some form or another, and due to the ingredient’s huge popularity in the skincare world, you probably already have at least one product sitting in your medicine cabinet that contains HA.

But what if we told you that the story behind HA is more complicated than you’ve been led to believe? It’s true; what many of us think of as a dependable-if-somewhat-boring staple hydrator is actually a more complex character, especially when it comes to defying visible signs of aging, a promise made by so many HA products.

What is hyaluronic acid?

Let’s begin with the basics. HA is a sugar molecule that occurs naturally in your skin. Its superpower lies in its ability to attract and store up to 1,000 times its weight in water, which is why it's often lauded for its ability to provide an instant, visible plumping and refreshing effect to skin. If you think of your dehydrated skin cells as deflated balloons (not an especially sexy analogy, but an apt one), HA acts as helium, bringing water molecules directly to the source for a serious lifting and plumping boost, returning some of the volume that was lost due to dehydration.

How does hyaluronic acid work?

All of this might sound beneficial, but things are about to get a bit more complicated. HA is incredible at its job, but it requires specific conditions in order to do its best. HA comes in several so-called “weights,” ranging from low molecular to high molecular. The simpler explanation of this is that the higher the weight, the more difficult it is for the HA molecules to penetrate the layers of the dermis and get deeper into the skin.

This matters because the skin cells deepest down are the ones that you need to reach in order to get a true and lasting plumping effect. Many products contain only high weight HA, which just sits on top of your skin. It might make a marginal difference, but it’s not going to give you the plumping effect you’re after, and it’s certainly not going to have any positive long-term effects.

Moral of the story: if you’re going to reach for an HA product, you want to find one that has several different molecular weights, like HA+ Replenishing Serum, which has both low and medium weight HA, so that all layers of your skin can reap maximum hydrating and plumping benefits.

Can HA help with signs of aging?

Huge, emphatic “yes”! Not only can it help, but we would go as far as to say that HA is a non-negotiable in your routine if you’re looking to visibly soften signs of aging. What makes it so good at its job? We know that HA is the harbinger of all things plump, luscious, and full, but as we age, the amount of naturally occurring HA in our skin decreases. That means that over time, we look significantly less, well, plump, luscious, and full. This happens naturally–no matter how hard you try to avoid visible signs of aging– as the degradation of HA accelerates with UV exposure, which we can mitigate, but not avoid entirely.

But it’s not all bad news. Just as HA can make an exit from your cells, so, too, can it make a reappearance. If you find that your skin is looking less full than it once did, you’ve got options. Topical HA, so long as it appears in a low or medium molecular weight, can do wonders to visibly recover volume. When delivered effectively, topical HA not only restores your skin’s natural supply of HA, but it can help to delay any further loss by creating a surplus of HA that stands at the ready to plump and hydrate whenever you need it.

What kind of HA should I use?

We’ve established that you should opt for a product that’s formulated with low or medium molecular weight HA, but there are a few more things to put on your checklist. The first is that while a product with either low or medium weight HA is ideal, what’s even better is a product with both low and medium weight HA.

It’s not just because more is more, it’s because low and medium weight HA in combination do the best job of reaching the deepest layers of your skin where visible plumping can occur. In tandem, they pack twice the plumping punch, which will make a serious difference if you’re after a fuller, totally refreshed appearance.

Ourself HA+ Replenishing Serum has both low and medium weight HA, which is what allows it to provide both an instant and a longer-term plumpness and fullness that you truly can’t get with products that only use one HA weight.

Another thing to consider is that HA on its own is great, but it’s far more powerful when formulated alongside ingredients that can extend and enhance its performance. HA is a somewhat sensitive ingredient, and it’s prone to degradation if left unprotected. HA+ Replenishing Serum is powered by a patent-pending, lipid-rich multiphasic vesicle delivery system, which is essentially a private chauffeur and security guard that get HA molecules safely to their destination so they can go straight to work.

So should you use HA? Absolutely. But if you’re going to incorporate it into your regimen, do it right. HA is only as good as the formula that it’s housed in, so it’s well worth your time to be choosy about which one you reach for. And when you find one that truly does go above and beyond, we can assure you that you’ll be able to see the difference.