IN A WORD: WATER
Water is the basic substance in our skin and throughout our body that transports vitamins and nutrients to skin cells. This keeps them plump, healthy, alive, resilient and younger looking. In order for your skin to protect itself from UV radiation, micro organisms and toxic agents, it must be kept adequately hydrated. Hydrated skin will remain flexible and allow your protective barrier to remain intact. If skin is broken, environmental factors can damage our bodies and cause exacerbated water loss, feeding a cyclical pattern of more damage due to further dehydration.
The primary way one can make sure that their skin is well hydrated is to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water or fluids without caffeine daily. Caffeine should be avoided as it acts as a natural diuretic which takes fluid away from skin. Skin hydration is very important no matter what a person’s age or skin type. This is true even if you have oily skin. Oily skin may have a layer of sebum on the surface, yet could be dehydrated underneath. This lack of moisture in the skin means it’s protective barrier has been compromised. The result is skin that is less able to defend itself against irritation, inflammation and an onslaught of bacteria. So, drink up.
Beyond drinking water, you need to wear a hydrating moisturizer every day. Many skin types get oilier during the summer. This doesn’t mean you can skip your moisturizer, it just means it might be time to change your moisturizing formula. Try a lighter formula that focuses on humectants. These are ingredients that don’t add oil. Instead they have a special talent for grabbing onto moisture and holding it in the skin. Some of the best humectants include glycerin, glycolic acid, sodium lactate, sodium PCA, aloe, honey and seaweed, but the superstar of all humectants is hyaluronic acid.
The reason Hyaluronic Acid is the superstar is because of it’s amazing ability to hold onto about 1,000 times it’s weight in water. Hyaluronic acid is a natural component of the skin’s dermal layer and gives skin a plump, fresh look. It supports all those important skin firming collagen and elastin fibers you keep hearing about. It also supplies a medium for water to feed cells as well as support other master cells that are responsible for the manufacture of collagen and elastin.
In skin care products Hyaluronic Acid is made up of very large molecules that have difficulty penetrating the skin. Studies have shown however, that applied serums containing hyaluronic acid can draw moisture transdermally from the lower layers of the dermis.
Humectants are key ingredients in cleansers, lotions and serums that hydrate the skin by attracting water like a magnet, locking in moisture. Chemically speaking, humectants form hydrogen bonds with water molecules. Humectants are extremely important in keeping skin soft and supple.
Humectants also draw water up from the dermis (the second layer of skin) into the epidermis (the outer layer) and, if humidity is above 70 percent, they can even draw in moisture from the air. Humectants increase the amount of water that the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the epidermis) can hold. This helps repair dry, cracked skin by providing maximum hydration and reducing skin irritation.
Some humectants also encourage exfoliation, by dissolving the glue that holds surface skin cells together. Then they act as a barrier by preventing outside chemicals from making contact with the dermis.
ONE NOTE OF CAUTION
When the weather is dry, particularly in winter or in arid climates, humectants can actually pull moisture away from the skin. Using a moisturizer that contains occlusive ingredients can counteract this loss of moisture. Occlusives are generally richer in texture and more oily by nature. Occlusives help the stratum corneum retain moisture by creating a barrier layer of lipids. Emollients help to soften the skin as well as providing this same type of barrier. Lipids are a natural barrier that helps protect your skin against dehydration. There are ingredients like dimethicone and Shea Butter which mimic the natural lipids your skin should be producing.
Some new ingredients will actually stimulate your skin’s ability to produce more lipids. One such ingredient is a derivative of rosemary extract called ursolic acid, which is also a great antioxidant.
OTHER WAYS TO HYDRATE
Your cleanser, toner, exfoliant and masque can all contribute to hydration or dehydration depending on your choices. Choose your cleanser to match your skin type. How much emollients vs. humectants do you really need? Alcohol free toners that contain Sodium PCA or Seaweed extracts are great hydrators, without adding occlusive ingredients. Moisturizers often contain a mix of emollients and humectants.
If you’re looking for the most effective humectant providing products you’ll find them as serum based. A respectable hydrating serum contains the right dosage of hyaluronic acid. Products that claim 100% hyaluronic acid are just not being accurate. Since hyaluronic acid is a solid, 100% hyaluronic acid would also be a solid which is very difficult to get into the skin. You’ll probably find hyaluronic acid listed as sodium hyaluronate. Sodium hyaluronate is the salt of hyaluronic acid and it has a much lower molecular size. This gives it the ability to penetrate skin when applied topically, which is why it works in creams and other potions.
HAVE A FACIAL
One of the best reasons for splurging for a facial is because this gives you an opportunity to have an expert work with your skin for an hour or more. This way she can make superior recommendations on which products to choose and how to get the best results for your skin.
You just can’t revive or rehydrate dead cells. Having a spa strengthened peel is the best way to exfoliate away those dead or very dehydrated cells on the skin’s surface. This will reveal those younger, fresher, well hydrated cells underneath. For most skin types, peels are the most productive step of the facial. Then your skin is ready for steam, super humectants and valuable repair factors that create that extraordinary complexion we all crave.