This trendy skincare ingredient is BAD NEWS for dry climates.

March 05, 2024

This trendy skincare ingredient is BAD NEWS for dry climates.

Here at The Potion Masters, we are known for creating skincare that performs especially well in dry climates. As anyone who experiences dry or dehydrated skin while living in harsh conditions will know, many skincare products just don't work the same when there is little moisture in the air. The use of ingredients that help support our skin's ability to retain moisture is critical when formulating skincare for dry climates. JUST as important, is the exclusion of ingredients that don't perform optimally when there is little humidity in the environment. 

There is one ingredient in particular that we are asked about all of the time, and we will never include it in our formulas. It's a popular one. It is EVERYWHERE. When a cosmetic ingredient becomes trendy, you will start to see it pop up in every product on your vanity. It can't be escaped... you are probably using it right now...

We're talking about... Hyaluronic Acid. Duh duh duhhhh......

In this piece we will be discussing both High Molecular Weight (HMW HA) and Low Molecular Weight (LMW HA) Hyaluronic Acid (spoiler alert: they are not created equal).


So, what is it?

Hyaluronic Acid is a humectant, an ingredient that attracts water. Just like the rest of our organs, our skin functions best when it’s well hydrated. HA’s function for the skin is to provide it with hydration from water. You’ve probably heard all of the marketing about this ingredient. “It holds up to 1000x its weight in water” “Its low molecular weight penetrates the skin easily” “Instantly plumps wrinkles” “It is naturally found in our skin!” It’s obvious that brands want to highlight the positive aspects of a product, but marketing rarely gives us the whole story. We are here to discuss HA marketing claims, give you a unique perspective, and offer suggestions for alternative ingredients that we feel are superior. Let’s dive into the beauty industry’s Hyaluronic Acid claims, and the truth behind them.


It holds up to 1000x its weight in water

Maybe. The HA found naturally in our bodies does, but there is scant evidence regarding how much water the HA used in skincare actually holds. We can be sure of one thing though; it is a very thirsty ingredient that holds a lot of water. Sounds great right? Well… that brings us to claim #2…

Its low molecular weight penetrates the skin easily

There is a major problem with use of HA in topical skincare. When it comes to penetration….Size Matters (yeah… we went there 😉). An ingredient needs to be roughly below 500 Daltons in size to penetrate the most superficial layers of our epidermis. But HA’s molecular weight is at least 500,000 Daltons! As a solution, Low Molecular Weight HA was created, but there are TWO big problems with LMW HA.

  1. LMW HA is a broken-down fragment of High Molecular Weight HA. It is not the same ingredient. It has been shown in studies to promote inflammation, and many people (especially with dry, sensitive skin) may begin to experience irritation and redness with prolonged use.
  2. LMW HA is usually between 6,000 and 50,000 Daltons. It is still WAY TOO BIG to penetrate even the most superficial layers of our skin. It just straight up can not penetrate deeply enough to be effective as a good hydrator.

Because HA is so thirsty, it must get water from somewhere. The easiest place for it to absorb water from is the deeper layers of our skin. Over time this can cause further dehydration especially in a dry climate, as the HA pulls water from deep within our skin to the very surface where it easily evaporates *poof*. We don’t think that a temporary solution with long term consequences is the way to go for our precious skin. Which brings us to claim #3…

Instantly plumps wrinkles

It definitely does have an instant plumping effect. It absorbs water and sits near the surface of our skin making it appear plumper and therefore wrinkles appear lessened. It’s really great for providing instant gratification (and we all love that don’t we?). Unfortunately, as with most forms of instant gratification, there is a downside. The longer-term dehydration that can occur from overuse of HA in dry climates can actually increase the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. And putting appearance aside, the inflammatory response, dehydration, and sensitivity that LMW HA can cause just isn’t in the interest of skin health, especially when the same (and better) results can be achieved using other ingredients. Which brings us to claim #4…

It is found naturally in our skin!”

In its original form (High Molecular Weight), HA is very similar to what is found in our skin naturally. Because of this, it is highly unlikely to cause an allergic reaction and is a safe ingredient. But as discussed, HMW HA is not a deeply penetrating hydrator. Low Molecular Weight HA is also not a deeply penetrating hydrator AND is not naturally found in healthy skin. The inflammatory response that can be triggered by this ingredient is most pronounced in people who already have very dry, very sensitive skin or skin conditions. HA is often marketed for dry skin and sensitivity but can often make these issues worse over time. So why are so many brands using it?


Hyaluronic Acid isn’t all bad. It does have benefits that make it desirable for brands to include in formulas.

-As the skincare buzzword of the last few years, it has label appeal that can’t be denied. (How do we get ahold of HA’s publicist???)

-It gives skin an instant plump appearance (though this is a temporary effect).

-In humid climates HMW HA can grab moisture from the atmosphere to keep surface skin looking hydrated and dewy all day.

-HMW HA is unlikely to cause allergic reactions as it is found naturally in our skin.

-It is easier to formulate a hydrating product with less of a tacky or sticky feel than when formulating with other humectant ingredients.

-People with more resistant skin may not experience any ill effects and enjoy the light feel and surface plumping that HA offers.

-It is especially useful in its injectable form for facial fillers, which is the only way to get HMW HA deep into the skin.

- High Molecular Weight HA isn’t a bad ingredient, it’s just more of a temporary “plumper” than a long term “hydrator”, and its very high molecular weight makes it less suitable for dry climates.


If Hyaluronic Acid doesn’t sound right for you, what’s the alternative?

There are many ingredients that supply our skin with beautiful hydration. Some examples are Vegetable Glycerine, Aloe, Honey, Propanediol, Tremella Mushroom, Urea, Algae, and Beta-Glucan. In our revolutionary waterless, all-natural hydrating serums we’ve chosen Glycerine, Propanediol and Tremella Mushroom. These three humectants with naturally low molecular weights work in harmony to create a matrix of DEEP hydration throughout your skin. Let’s learn a bit about them.


The classic…the OG…the Queen hydrator…the skincare staple! Tried and true, supremely effective and with a teensy weensy molecular weight of around 90 Daltons. Glycerine can penetrate more deeply than most humectants, holding hydration where we need it. It draws moisture from both the water on our skin from cleansing or in our products and from our blood supply (which has an endless supply of water when we’re talking about the surface area of your face). It has a very low risk for irritation or inflammation. Glycerine gives skincare products a richer feel and long lasting hydration, so people with dry skin or who find many products are not moisturizing enough will love using this powerful humectant.

Any downsides? Glycerine has a richer feel and slightly tacky finish, which not everyone is fond of. If you don’t love the feeling of dewy products on your skin, Glycerine may not be for you.


This all-natural humectant derived from corn sugar fermentation also has a low molecular weight of around 150 Daltons. It has a beautiful texture that leaves the skin feeling silky smooth and not heavy. When paired with Glycerine it leaves a very natural, light feel on the skin while offering deep, dewy hydration.

Any downsides? Like any ingredient from a natural origin (in this case corn) allergic reactions are possible, but very rare.

Tremella Mushroom

This functional fungi is often touted as the best replacement for LMW Hyaluronic Acid. It offers many of the same benefits, without the inflammatory drawbacks.

With a molecular weight around 500 Daltons, Tremella sits a little bit closer to the surface than Glycerine and Popanediol to provide a similar plumping effect to HA. It is also estimated to hold nearly the same amount of water. Because it is a much smaller molecule than HA, it doesn’t sit as close to the surface of the skin where the hydration can as easily evaporate. The biggest benefit of Tremella when compared to LMW HA is that it is not likely to cause inflammation, irritation or redness. Another great benefit is that it offers more than just hydration to your skin. Tremella Mushroom is a rich source of Vitamin D and antioxidants.

Any downsides? If you have an allergy or sensitivity to mushrooms, Tremella won’t be right for you.

These three humectants with varying Molecular weights work together to encourage a deeply penetrating, long lasting matrix of hydration throughout your skin. With the added benefits of superfood antioxidants and without the side effects that can be experienced with Hyaluronic Acid serums.

In a nutshell, Hyaluronic Acid isn’t evil. It’s just overused, overhyped, and often overpriced. It isn’t the best hydrating ingredient available, and it isn’t the most suitable for dry climates or sensitive skin. If you use it and love it and it works for you, then that’s great! However, if you’ve noticed over the last few years that most skincare is irritating your skin, your dehydration is getting worse, you are experiencing more redness and worsening of skin conditions, or your products work well at first but begin to dry out your skin over time; check the ingredient labels on your products,  Hyaluronic Acid could be the culprit.


CLICK HERE to learn more about our Hydrating Serums and see if an HA alternative serum might be right for you.


*Information contained in our blogs is designated for education purposes only. The opinions are of us, our families, friends, customers and human testers. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.*

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