HOW TO INCREASE SKIN HYDRATION: HUMECTANTS, EMOLLIENTS AND OCCLUSIVES
An optimum functioning skin barrier is the foundation for an optimum functioning biology. The key to improving skin hydration is by increasing water content of the epidermis and replenishing lipids to reinstate the barrier function and reducing water loss.
Humectants have an affinity for and attract water into the epidermis from the dermis or from the surrounding atmosphere.
One of the most popular humectants is hyaluronic acid known for its ability to draw water to the surface layer from the deeper layers of the skin and to form a film on the skin to reduce epidermal water loss. The relative moisture of the atmosphere matters when using a humectant because if the atmosphere is dry, humectants by their very nature, are going draw moisture out of the skin and into the air exacerbating water loss from the skin. If you have ever noted that your skin feels drier after using hyaluronic acid or another humectant, this may be the reason. A simple solution to prevent this from happening is to bind the moisture at the surface layer by applying an emollient or occlusive on top of the humectant.
The Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF) is known as the water phase of the epidermis containing amino acids and their derivatives for example lactic acid, urocanic acid and PCA that are important for skin hydration. The Alpha Hydroxy Acids, lactic acid and glycolic acid when used in low concentrations 2-5% function as a humectant, increase hydration and enable the natural exfoliation process without interfering with the skin barrier defense. Always remember to use an spf when using Hydroxy Acids.
Examples of Humectants*:
Hyaluronic Acid, Panthenol, Glycerin, Sodium PCA, Lecithin, Amino Acids, Lactic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Algae
Emollients are oils and lipids that help to soften and smooth the skin. They slow water loss by filling in any spaces in the skin with lipids. A balanced composition of lipids includes ceramides, cholesterols and fatty acids to mimic the composition of the natural lipid matrix. Think of ceramides, cholesterols and fatty acids as a necessary trio, using one of them to the exclusion of the others would unfavourably tip the balance in the skin impairing the barrier. There are some emollients that perform double duties and function as occlusives as well.
Examples of Emollients*:
Jojoba Oil, Ceramides, Castor Oil, Shea Butter, Linoleic Acid, Collagen, Dimethicone
An occlusive forms a film on top of the skin to prevent water loss. It functions as a physical barrier achieving superior hydration by keeping water trapped in the skin. An occlusives performance is not compromised by the external atmospheric moisture content.
Examples of Occlusive Active Ingredients*:
Squalane, Jojoba Oil, Ceramides, Castor Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides, Lecithin, Cholesterol, Beeswax, Lanolin, Petroleum Jelly, Mineral Oil, Dimethicone
*examples are not an exhaustive list and there are many more
Our Complete Lipids Serums was formulated with all of this in mind. :)