Why Using Hyaluronic Acid for Hair Is a Game-Changer

If you're seeking shiny, hydrated strands, you should start looking for hyaluronic acid in hair products.

woman combing long shiny hair in the bathroom
Photo: Studio Firma / Stocksy

On the unofficial list of buzziest skin-care ingredients, you can bet hyaluronic acid (HA) ranks in the top five. The powerhouse ingredient's popularity can be credited to its hydrating and plumping properties and its ability to benefit all skin types. And being that you can find it in a wide range of skin-care products, including serums, moisturizers, and even injectable fillers, you might very well associate hyaluronic acid with, well, skin care. But the star substance is now popping up in various hair-care formulas as well.

Ahead, everything you need to know about using hyaluronic acid for hair, according to experts.

What Is Hyaluronic Acid?

Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance found in certain parts of your body including your skin, explains Ron Robinson, a cosmetic chemist and founder of Beauty Stat. As a humectant, its function is to "bind to water to lubricate and hydrate various tissues," says Robinson. You'll find hyaluronic acid within the extracellular matrix or the space between cells that's also filled with collagen and elastin — proteins that give skin structure, texture, and tone, he adds. As you get older, your body's production of hyaluronic acid, collagen, and elastin decline, resulting in a loss of volume and hydration in the skin, as Shape's previously reported.

The hyaluronic acid you find in beauty products is made synthetically and serves a similar purpose: to draw in moisture. "When used [topically] in skin care, it helps to hydrate the outer skin layer, improve radiance, and fill in lines and wrinkles," says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist. "Think of it like a sponge that grabs onto the water to hydrate and plump its surroundings."

And it does just that when used on your head, where it can benefit both your scalp (which, friendly reminder, is skin) and your strands. Although it's not naturally found in your hair, hyaluronic acid works to hydrate your locks in the same way it does the skin.

Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid for Hair

Topical hyaluronic acid supplements the HA that your body naturally produces, says Jaimie DeRosa, M.D., a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon and founder of DeRose Center Plastic Surgery & Med Spa. Adding it into your routine can help counteract the natural decline in hyaluronic acid with age and "improve the hydration and moisture to one's hair and scalp," she says.

And you can't talk about the perks of hyaluronic acid for hair without noting that it's "an ingredient that can be used daily across all hair types," says Dr. Zeichner. That being said, here are three main benefits of hyaluronic acid for your hair:

Hydrates the Scalp

"Since the scalp is skin, the same hydration benefits apply," says Robinson.

Hyaluronic acid's hydrating properties can be particularly helpful if you're struggling with an itchy scalp and flakes due to dryness, says Gretchen Friese, a certified trichologist at BosleyMD. Using a scalp treatment with the ingredient (e.g. Living Proof Scalp Care Dry Scalp Treatment)can help hydrate dry, flaky areas, fostering an environment for healthy hair growth and leaving your scalp feeling more comfortable, she adds.

Fights Frizz

If you feel like no matter how many hair serums and oils use, you still experiencing flyaways and frizz, seeking out hyaluronic acid in hair products may be helpful.

Hyaluronic acid can draw in moisture, which can help reduce and control frizz, says Friese. Also, the ingredient's plumping properties — again, it's like a sponge — give it the potential to make your hair look more voluminous. And while HA is pretty powerful on its own, following up with emollient and occlusive ingredients, such as oils and butters, can help seal in the hydration, says Robinson. Locking in this moisture can take HA's effects even further and improve softness and shine, adds Dr. Zeichner.

Revitalizes Both Dry and Damaged Strands

As mentioned above, hyaluronic acid can be used (and, in turn, help) all types of hair. But those with dry, frizzy, or brittle locks may gain the most noticeable benefits thanks to HA's superstar hydrating powers, says Friese.

Folks with color-treated or chemically-processed hair may also get "added benefits" from the ingredient, says Dr. DeRosa. Research shows that hair can become more porous as a result of chemical or excessive heat styling. When your hair is overly porous, it can absorb moisture easily but doesn't seal in that moisture because of the cracks in the hair cuticle (the outermost layer), which ironically can result in dry, weak hair, Kari Williams Ph.D., trichologist and celebrity hairstylist, previously told Shape. Enter: hyaluronic acid. HA can help reinforce such damaged strands by filling the cracks and thereby decreasing each strand's porosity, explains Dr. DeRosa.

How to Use Hyaluronic Acid On Hair and the Scalp

Before you start smearing your hyaluronic acid face serum on your head, keep in mind that skin-care products are often formulated with active ingredients that can be potentially irritating for your scalp. Instead, search for hair-care products that are formulated with the ingredient, says Dr. DeRosa. "Since you're usually trying to lock in additional moisture in the hair to combat dryness or frizz, you'll likely see the best results when using a conditioner or a leave-in hyaluronic acid serum for hair," she says. Think: The INKEY List Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Hair Treatment. (See also: The Best Conditioners for Dry Hair)

Hair masks are also some of the best options, says Robinson. Why? Because both types of products tend to include HA and the aforementioned occlusive ingredients to really ensure your locks keep in that much-needed moisture.

"For extra benefits, you can massage [a hyaluronic acid hair-specific product] into your scalp and comb it through the ends of your hair," says Friese. Scalp massages can help improve blood circulation and loosen up dead cells that might compromise scalp health.

So how often do you need to use hyaluronic acid hair products to see results? It depends. "The frequency and intensity of using a hyaluronic acid hair-care product(s) are really going to depend on your hair needs at any given time," says Dr. DeRosa. "Someone who has extremely brittle and dry hair may benefit from a full line of hyaluronic acid-containing hair-care products used daily. I know for myself, in the middle of a cold, dry Boston winter, my hair is begging me for added hydration."

The moral of the story: When it comes to hyaluronic acid, you don't want to limit yourself to skin-care products.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles