Sometimes even when we’re following our skin care routines to the letter, we inadvertently may be sabotaging our skin.

We talked about common skin care mistakes a while back, but this is something I’ve experienced myself and a few friends have messaged me about recently.

You’ve probably heard all about the benefits of hyaluronic acid in skin care (serums, especially) to help hydrate skin and give it a really good drink which, in turn, plumps skin up, softens fine lines and improves texture.

However, you may have noticed that, even when you’re using your hyaluronic acid serum, your skin feels tight and drier than normal.

The problem isn’t with your serum itself, but what comes after it.

Hyaluronic acid must be sealed in with a moisturizer to truly hydrate the skin. If not, the hyaluronic acid could backfire and actually dry out your skin even more.

Hyaluronic acid is a humectant aka it attracts water from the air into the skin. There needs to be a layer of lipids — like those found in your moisturizer or facial oil — on top to serve as a barrier, especially if you’re in a dry climate or your skin is naturally dry. Otherwise, the hyaluronic acid will actually start to draw moisture from your skin, which makes it feel tight and dry.

Some moisturizes may contain hyaluronic acid, which is great, but you also want to make sure it’s made with occlusive or emollient ingredients to lock it up. Look for ingredients including olive, avocado or castor oils, shea or cocoa butter, or allantoin and lecithin.

If you’re really looking for moisture and plumping, choose a hyaluronic acid serum. It’s thinner and made of smaller molecules than a moisturizer, which helps the ingredients in the serum to penetrate deeper into the layers of the skin. 

For best results, apply hyaluronic acid serum to damp skin so HA has moisture to pull from. (I like to mist or pat in toner first and immediately apply.) Then, top it with moisturizer or oil. Using a hyaluronic acid serum will deliver that water where your skin needs it.

In skin care, I talk a lot about “sealing” up the steps and making sure to apply moisturizer after a hyaluronic acid serum ensures your serum is doing its job.