Hyaluronic Acid No-Nos: The Ingredients You Should Avoid

Hyaluronic Acid No-Nos: The Ingredients You Should Avoid


Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a naturally occurring substance found throughout the body, especially in the skin. It is a polysaccharide or complex sugar molecule that helps retain moisture and lubricate connective tissues like skin, eyes, and joints.

HA is often used in skincare and beauty treatments because it has excellent hydrating and plumping effects on the skin. It can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water, making it an incredibly potent humectant and moisturizer. Many serums, creams, lotions, and other products feature hyaluronic acid as a key ingredient. It helps improve the skin's elasticity, tone, and texture.

However, hyaluronic acid may not always be compatible with other common skincare ingredients and treatments. In this article, we will provide an overview of what not to use hyaluronic acid with and why. We will cover retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, hydroxy acids, vitamin C, niacinamide, hydroquinone, sunlight, and laser treatments. Understanding hyaluronic acid interactions and incompatibilities can help you safely and effectively incorporate it into your skincare routine.


Retinoids, such as tretinoin, adapalene, and tazarotene, should not be combined with hyaluronic acid (HA) products. Using retinoids and HA together carries a high risk of irritation, redness, peeling, and sensitivity.

Retinoids work by increasing skin cell turnover. This process can strip the skin of moisture and make it feel dry and flaky. HA is a humectant that draws moisture into the skin. When used together, the effects essentially cancel each other out. The HA tries to add hydration while the retinoid works to remove it rapidly.

It's best to use retinoids and HA products at different times of day. Apply retinoids at night and use HA creams or serums in the morning. You may also alternate nights using one or the other if your skin tolerates this routine. Always listen to your skin. If it feels irritated, sore, or dry when combining these ingredients, stop using them together.

Retinoids provide powerful anti-aging and acne-fighting benefits. HA hydrates and plumps the skin. Get the best of both by using them separately to avoid potential irritation and maximize results.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is a common ingredient in acne treatments. It works by penetrating pores and killing bacteria that contributes to acne. However, benzoyl peroxide can also break down hyaluronic acid in the skin. Using benzoyl peroxide and hyaluronic acid together will reduce the effectiveness of both ingredients.

For this reason, it's best to avoid using benzoyl peroxide at the same time as hyaluronic acid. Apply benzoyl peroxide in the mornings and use hyaluronic acid as part of your evening skincare routine instead. You may also alternate days using each product. Allow any benzoyl peroxide you apply to fully absorb before layering on any hyaluronic acid products.

Separating your usage of benzoyl peroxide and hyaluronic acid allows you to get the full benefits of both without reducing their effectiveness. If you are using benzoyl peroxide to treat acne and want hydrating hyaluronic acid in your routine too, try staggering when you apply each product throughout the day or on alternating days.

Acids like Glycolic & Salicylic

Exfoliating AHA (glycolic, lactic, mandelic) and BHA (salicylic) acids work by loosening the bonds between dead skin cells to expedite their shedding from the skin's surface. They have benefits for improving skin texture, radiance, and penetration of other skincare actives.

However, these acids can diminish the efficacy of hyaluronic acid on the skin. The increased cell turnover from acids strips away the upper layers of the skin, which reduces the ability of hyaluronic acid to retain moisture and plump skin. Too much exfoliation may also compromise the protective skin barrier over time, counteracting hydrating and anti-aging goals.

For maximum results from both acids and hyaluronic acid, it is best to stagger their use in your routine - applying acids in the evening and hyaluronic acid in the morning. Alternating nights between hydroxy acids and other skincare products also prevents overuse. You want enough exfoliation for cell turnover without depleting natural hyaluronic acid, collagen breakdown, inflammation or sensitivity. Find a balance to harness the benefits of each ingredient.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the most popular skincare ingredients, and works great alone and with a lot of products. However, using it with hyaluronic acid requires caution.

Some research shows using hyaluronic acid with vitamin C increases absorption of vitamin C by the skin, which helps the product work better. But this combination can also increase acidity and irritation for some people.

Vitamin C is already acidic to aid effectiveness, and acidity helps drive molecules like hyaluronic acid into the skin. Together, this can create skin dryness, redness, tenderness or stinging sensations in some users. Results can vary based on your skin type. Those with the most sensitive skin or existing irritation may be more subject to these issues.

So how can you use vitamin C serums and hyaluronic acid? You can apply them separately, with ample time for the first product to absorb. Using vitamin C in the morning routine and hyaluronic acid at night can work well. Check for irritation by patch testing combined use before applying to the full face. Mild products or buffered vitamin C options may also help manage sensitivities.

##Avoid Using Niacinamide

Hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, or vitamin B3, are two popular ingredients in skincare products for fighting signs of aging and dryness.

They can make a great pairing, but it is important to pay attention to timing when using them together. If applying products containing hyaluronic acid and niacinamide at the same time, the two can interact and decrease each other's effectiveness.

Though safe to use together, it is recommended to allow time between hyaluronic acid and niacinamide application for optimal results from each ingredient individually. The best practice is to apply hyaluronic acid products first. Allow skin to absorb fully, then follow with any products containing niacinamide.


There may be concerns about using hyaluronic acid simultaneously with hydroquinone, which is commonly prescribed for skin lightening/highlighting purposes.

Hydroquinone is a known irritant and may interact with other topical products, exacerbating reactions like dryness, peeling, redness, and burning sensations that can be painful. Using hyaluronic acid at the same times could potentially amplify these side effects on delicate face skin.

Because of the irritant properties of hydroquinone on its own, using hyaluronic acid at the same time as hydroquinone allows for a combined cocktail of sorts against your skin. Essentially, hydroquinone may irritate your skin and hyaluronic acid may exacerbate the impacts or hinder your skin's healing and barrier functions due to its ability to penetrate skin layers. This joint use could possibly make you feel worse before you feel better.

For this reason, dermatologists typically recommend spacing out hyaluronic acid and hydroquinone as part of your skincare regimen. Letting one product fully absorb and work before applying another product allows you to monitor for side effects and determine what is causing irritation. By using each product separately, you give your skin some breathing room and relief between treatments with irritating ingredients.

Direct Sunlight

Laser Treatments

[cite data="report", quote="true"]It's recommended to avoid applying hyaluronic acid (HA) on the skin directly before laser treatments like lasers, IPL (Intense Pulsed Light), Radiofrequency and other heat generating skin procedures. Using HA too soon before these treatments may increase the risk of post-treatment irritation and sensitivity.[/cite]

The reason it's best to avoid HA before laser or heat treatments has to do with how HA works. Hyaluronic acid is able to attract and bind to moisture. When applied to the skin, it pulls water from the deeper layers of skin to the surface. This helps hydrate, plump and smooth fine lines.

However, if hyaluronic acid serum is applied right before a laser or heat treatment, all that extra moisture can potentially intensify the heat delivered deeper into the skin. This makes post-treatment irritation more likely.

To be safe, you'll want to avoid applying hyaluronic acid to your skin for at least 24 hours prior to getting a laser treatment. Giving your skin some time without HA will help prevent potential irritation issues.

Of course, always follow your clinician or dermatologist's specific pre and post treatment recommendations over anything else. But avoiding hyaluronic acid before lasers, IPL and other heat generating skin treatments is generally wise guidance.

Conclusion - Key Takeaways and Recap

As you have read, hyaluronic acid is a beneficial ingredient in many skincare products. It's known for deeply hydrating skin, improving elasticity and plumping the skin to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.

However, it's important to be aware of what ingredients and products hyaluronic acid should not be mixed with. Some of the main things to avoid while using hyaluronic acid are:

Retinoids - Combining retinoids and hyaluronic acid may lead to skin irritation. Better to apply at night before applying hyaluronic acid in morning.

Benzoyl Peroxide - As benzoyl peroxide is drying and hyaluronic acid hydrating, they can counteract each other's benefits. Use them at different times of day.

Acids like glycolic acid - These can destabilize the hyaluronic acid and leave skin red and irritated. It's recommended to avoid using them concurrently.

Vitamin C - For optimal results, it's best to apply vitamin c and hyaluronic acid separately to avoid pH conflicts.

Niacinamide - This popular skincare ingredient can chemically react with hyaluronic acid and inactivate both. Use them at different times of day.

Hydroquinone - Using hyaluronic acid with hydroquinone can result in uneven skin tone. Best to avoid.

Direct Sunlight - Hyaluronic acid can increase photosensitivity, so sunscreen and sunglasses needed.

Laser Treatments - Hyaluronic acid injections or topicals should be avoided right before laser treatments for best safety and results.

In summary, by learning what not to combine with hyaluronic acid products, you can get the best anti-aging, hydrating results from your skincare routine and avoid any negative interactions. Use the guidelines here when layering skincare products with hyaluronic acid.