It’s not a coincidence. Hyaluronic acid helps keep skin moisturized, while vitamin C protects from sun damage and can help fade skin discoloration. Both ingredients can help reduce the signs of aging in skin — especially when they’re used together.
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Our skin gets wrinkled with age thanks largely to hormonal changes that make skin drier and less elastic. Oxidative damage (from the sun’s ultraviolet rays as well as the body’s normal metabolic functions) also impacts the synthesis of collagen, the protein that makes up skin and other connective tissues.
Hyaluronic acid is a molecule naturally produced by the body that’s found in bones, connective tissue, cartilage, hair follicles, and skin. As a humectant, it helps skin retain moisture.
“[Hyaluronic acid is] an effective moisturizer because it can hold one thousand times its weight in water,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, a dermatologist practicing at Shafer Clinic in New York.
“It creates a barrier for the skin, locking in moisture and improving texture,” says Engelman.
“Hyaluronic acid acts like a sponge. It binds [with] water to pull it into the skin outer skin layer,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Department of Dermatology.
Although hyaluronic acid injections are more effective than creams or serums, research suggests that applying hyaluronic acid to the face may help:
- moisturize skin
- decrease the appearance of wrinkles
- enhance skin firmness and elasticity
- repair and regenerate skin
Hyaluronic acid creams may be particularly helpful as skin ages, especially as the levels of hyaluronic acid in the skin drop with age. “Skin loses water and moisture as we age, and this ingredient will help store hydration. The result is a softer, plumper, and even skin tone. It can improve fine lines and wrinkles as well,” Engelman says.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that’s naturally present in high levels in the skin. It helps protect the skin from ultraviolet (UV) sun and other environmental damage.
Studies suggest that skin exposed to high levels of UV light tends to have lower levels of vitamin C.
“Vitamin C is perhaps the best-studied antioxidant we have available for topical application,” says Zeichner.
Engelman and Zeichner say applying vitamin C to the skin may help:
If you’re looking for a pair of skin care ingredients for optimal skin health, choose hyaluronic acid and vitamin C. Combining the two makes for a great all-in-one skin care step.
“Hyaluronic acid and vitamin C are commonly used together because they complement each other to hydrate, protect, and repair aging skin,” says Zeichner.
There’s one more reason the ingredients are often paired: “Too much vitamin C can be irritating, trigger dryness, and even cause acne breakouts in certain skin types,” says Engelman. “Hyaluronic acid is a great addition to vitamin C because it does not overwork the skin. Rather, it nourishes [skin] by helping to create a moisture barrier, and it allows the skin to heal.”
A 2020 randomized controlled trial involving 50 women found that, compared to a placebo, applying a 20 percent vitamin C serum daily for two months improved skin color, elasticity, and radiance while reducing wrinkles.
A 2002 double-blind study found that using a 10 percent vitamin C serum daily for 12 weeks improved skin hydration, reduced signs of photoaging, and supported new collagen formation (as measured with a biopsy of skin cells from the cheeks).
As for hyaluronic acid, a 2014 study involving 33 women found that applying a 0.1 percent hyaluronic acid cream twice daily for 2 months decreased the depth of wrinkles up to 40 percent, improved skin hydration up to 96 percent, and boosted both skin firmness and elasticity.
There aren’t any risks when pairing these ingredients together. But if your skin is sensitive to either ingredient, you should avoid it, says Engelman.
Engelman adds that it’s highly unusual to have a reaction to hyaluronic acid. “Everyone can benefit from hyaluronic acid. There is no tolerance required, and it pairs nicely with other ingredients,” she says.
To maximize the benefits of both ingredients, Engelman suggests using them once daily in the morning on clean skin before applying SPF.
Here are a few skin care products that feature both hyaluronic acid and vitamin C:
- Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum is packed with skin-friendly ingredients beyond vitamin C and sodium hyaluronate (the salt form of hyaluronic acid), including ferulic acid, vitamin E, and antioxidant-rich fruit enzymes.
- Glo Skin Beauty Solar Shade SPF 50 combines vitamin C and sodium hyaluronate into a lightweight mineral SPF 50 sunscreen.
- Glossier Super Pack features three serums, including Super Bounce (which contains hyaluronic acid and vitamin b5 to boost moisture) and Super Glow (with vitamin C and magnesium to nourish and energize skin).
- ISDIN Isdinceutics Flavo-C Ultraglican 30 Ampoules contain potent antioxidants, including vitamin C, along with hyaluronic acid. Engelman recommends the serum to hydrate, brighten, and protect skin.
- Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate contains 12.5 percent Vitamin C and hyaluronic acid to help firm and brighten skin.
- skinbetter science Alto Defense Serum is one of Engelman’s favorites. It pairs vitamin C and E with 17 additional antioxidant ingredients. There’s also sodium hyaluronate to help improve skin tone and luminosity and reduce the appearance of redness.
- SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic with 15% L-Ascorbic Acid is another of Engelman’s top picks. It combines powerful antioxidants, including 15 percent pure vitamin C, 1 percent vitamin E, 0.5 percent ferulic acid, and moisturizing hyaluronic acid.
- The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% is packed with vitamin C and hyaluronic acid to hydrate skin and target signs of aging.
- Vichy LiftActiv Vitamin C Serum this European drugstore brand pairs 15 percent vitamin C with hyaluronic acid to help even skin tone, reduce the appearance of fine lines, and boost hydration.
With age, skin becomes drier and less elastic, increasing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help battle oxidative damage to the skin. It’s often paired in skin care products with hyaluronic acid, a humectant that helps keep skin moisturized.
If you want to maximize your skin care benefits, try using these ingredients together.
Colleen de Bellefonds is a Paris-based health and wellness journalist with over a decade of experience regularly writing and editing for publications including WhatToExpect.com, Women’s Health, WebMD, Healthgrades.com, and CleanPlates.com. Find her on Twitter.