Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, which means it attracts water into the skin and plumps it with hydration. “Think of the skin as an actual sponge,” says board-certified dermatologist Ava Shamban, M.D., founder of SKINFIVE, about the ingredient category. “When it is dry, it is thin, brittle, not pliable, rough in texture, dull, and sallow in color. Run it under water, and it is instantly plump, dense, and smooth. Even the color is brighter.” 

And in case you need a friendly reminder: Your lip skin is, well, skin. Humectants like HA help pull moisture from the air into the upper layer of that skin to keep the cells hydrated and plump, without any of the stinging or burning that often comes with traditional lip plumpers. 

Hyaluronic acid works so well, in fact, that it has become the workhorse ingredient for many hi-tech topical lip fillers, including the Ourself Lip Filler. Specifically, this formula features multi-weight hyaluronic acid and vitamin B3 derivatives to smooth the look of lip lines and provide instant volume. (I’ve personally tested it, and trust me: It works.)

If you choose to use a balm, just make sure it also has emollients and occlusives (like butters and oils) to keep all that water locked inside—here are our favorite options that provide just the right amount of volume. 

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