What does skin hydration mean?
Skin hydration refers to the water content of the skin; both the dermis and the epidermis. The ability of the skin to hold water is primarily a function of the most outer layer of the epidermis; the stratum corneum. Skin hydration is essential for healthy skin.
Lack of moisture in the skin has a negative effect on skin suppleness and softness as well as biochemical parameters in the skin such as enzyme activity and cell signaling activity. The appearance of the skin also changes and micro wrinkles become deeper and more pronounced. Although the body is continually losing water via the skin, a healthy skin barrier system minimizes this loss.
The stratum corneum is the outermost layer of skin and composed mainly of dead cells as well as lipids and proteins that help hold water in the skin. The stratum corneum becomes drier when relative humidity in the air drops.
The water content of skin is related to three things: (1) the rate of water movement outward from the dermis to the epidermis, (2) the rate of water that is lost from the surface of the skin and (3) the ability of the stratum corneum to bind water. When atmospheric humidity goes below 60%, loss of water from the skin increases. Compounds within the skin that help it hold moisture are referred to as the natural moisturizing factor (NMF). This NMF is a combination of water soluble, low molecular weight compounds that bind water. They include amino acids, pyrrolidine carboxylic acid, lactate, urea, minerals, electrolytes and sugars. As the permeability barrier decreases, the skin becomes more susceptible to irritation.
Here are some tips to help keep your skin hydrated.
1. Spritz your face. Use hydrosols / herb distillates or toners based on these distillates. These aromatic waters are directly distilled from herbs and are very skin friendly. They are pH balanced to skin and are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory molecules. Since they are gentle on the skin, they can be used throughout the day. If you know you are going to be in a condition where they air is dry, such as a plane trip, be sure to carry one in your purse.
2. Use a product that contains a humectant such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid. Humectants are molecules that bind water and so they help hold it in your skin. Both hyaluronic and glycerin are naturally occuring in your skin. Hyaluronic acid is a glycosaminoglycan; a very large molecule that forms a scaffold in the skin. This scaffold binds water to retain moisture and turgor to the skin. Additional humectants include aloe vera, urea, and alpha hydroxy acids (from fruit)
3. Use botanical / herb extracts. Herb extracts are typically rich in antioxidants that can counteract oxidative damage that is done to the skin, particularly damage to the skin barrier function. Many also contain vitamins and other nutrients that help revive and repair skin. Some herbs that have been shown to increase skin hydration are calendula, fennel, green tea.
4. Use a moisturizer that contain oil and water. To hydrate skin you need water. While using just oil on your face may have some benefits, it does not hydrate your skin. A perfect skin care product is the right combination of water to hydrate and oil to lock that moisture into your skin. Of course, a good moisturizer will also have antioxidants and nutrients in it as well.
5. Don’t over cleanse. It may seem like soaking in water will add more water to your skin, but what happens in reality is that it can dry out your skin. This is because many of the substances in skin that help to hold water in the skin are water soluble. Soaking too long, or cleansing too long can remove these molecules from the skin. You may have experienced this before when you’ve noticed deep wrinkles on your fingers after coming out of the bath.
6. Of course diet has a lot to do with skin hydration and getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet can help. The most common omega-3 fatty acid is α-Linolenic acid. Linolenic acid can be found in Brazil nuts, flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils.
Drinking water so that you hydrate from the inside out is important. But many external factors also contribute to skin dryness and include weather and environment. I like spending time outside, on the farm and hiking. This exposure to the elements makes me susceptible to skin dehydration. If you too spend time outdoors, you may want to consider these tips, and leave your own tips below.