Here’s why Hyaluronic Acid is the hardest working ingredient in skincare show business.

Every few months or so, (let’s face it, once a year or so?) you summon the courage to do something you’ve long been avoiding. As Marie Kondo has proven to us all, it’s difficult, intense, and emotionally exhausting: we’re talking about cleaning out your bathroom cabinet. You sort through one impulse purchase at a time, attempting to carefully weigh the merits of each item before issuing your final judgment—does it stay or does it go?

At some point during this spiritual journey, you find yourself sitting on the edge of your bathtub wondering how you’ve managed to collect what some would consider to be a Sephora’s worth of products, but somehow you finish the edit, and what remains is an intriguing mix of old and new. But if you were to analyze labels, you’d realize that a good number of the survivors have one thing in common—time-tested ingredients that actually work. Of those, one that we can almost guarantee made the final cut is hyaluronic acid.

While you’ve no doubt heard of HA and are probably aware that it does something vaguely related to hydrating your skin, we think it deserves more than a passing mention. Sure, it doesn’t carry the same sheen as the skincare world’s trendy favorites —say, CBD or bakuchiol—but it knows its purpose, stays in its lane, and survives the vanity sweep every time, simply because it works. But what exactly is HA, and why does it matter so much to your skin?

So wait, what is hyaluronic acid, exactly?

Hyaluronic acid is a sugar molecule that occurs naturally in your skin. It does many things well, but its specialty is binding water molecules to collagen. In other words, it acts first as a magnet, attracting water from your surrounding environment into your skin, and then as a sponge, absorbing that water and attaching it to your cells, leaving them supremely hydrated. As your skin cells bind to water, they increase in size, making your skin appear plumper, fuller, and generally happier looking.

Any other benefits to using hyaluronic acid?

Oh, so many. First, keeping your skin hydrated is essential to your overall skin health. Why? While the surface-level benefits of plumper skin are obviously smashing (excessive dryness can exaggerate fine lines), the longer-term benefits to the health of your skin (like the moisture needed for cell turnover) are just as important.

Even super oily skin needs proper hydration, and what makes HA such an attractive option is that it works well on essentially all skin types. Because it’s been around for a while and has been the subject of so many clinical trials, the general consensus is that HA is a dependable humectant that even those with the most sensitive, reactive skin can benefit from using.

Another reason to consider using topical HA is that your body’s ability to produce it degrades as you age. As the level of HA in your skin decreases, the surface appears drier, less plump, and less elastic. Again, this is also a big reason why those aforementioned fine lines and wrinkles become more visible with time. If you’re not already convinced, supplementing your routine with HA seems like a pretty solid idea, right?

What’s the best way to use hyaluronic acid?

There are two versions of HA to know about: topical and injectable. Injectable HA is a type of dermal filler commonly used to treat fine lines, wrinkles, and loss of volume in the face. These injectables go by many different names in the industry, but they all have the same basic purpose, which is to restore plumpness to your skin. While fillers absolutely get the job done, one criticism is that the results are hard to control. (We’ve all seen evidence of certain public figures who have been, ahem, overserved.)

Topical HA is delivered via a superficial vehicle, like a serum or cream. What distinguishes topical hyaluronic acid from other humectants is that it’s very good at penetrating the surface of your skin. Essentially, it absorbs quickly and easily, sending hydration straight to your cells instead of sitting on top of your skin.

That said, not all topical options are equal: For example, Ourself Lip Filler leverages patent-pending technology to restore HA straight to the source via the precision-targeted multiphasic vesicle delivery system. The controllable results? Clinical-level, without the clinic.

Anything else I should know?

Hot tip: HA works best when applied to slightly damp skin so that it can more easily attach surface water molecules to your skin cells. (When applied to dry skin, HA will pull water from your skin instead of from the surface or from the environment around you.) You can avoid this by using it directly after cleansing or by giving your face a quick mist.