Are you not happy with your skin hydration? Does it feel tight and uncomfortable, get dull with the season change? - Worry not, a well selected good moisturizer will get it fixed for you.
Before we share the "how to" tips, here is an interesting fact: the term "moisturizer" was developed by advertisers, it doesn’t have a proper medical/ dermatological definition. Good moisturizers don’t deliver water into the skin (while they can do so indirectly), they get the job done by supporting the skin’s barrier function. While water content in the skin plays a big role, there is so much more to it, including the composition of skin lipids, skin's pH (so called acid mantle), shape and size of corneocytes (non-living skin cells in the top layer of the skin). Great products address a few of these factors and strengthen the skin - rather than “quench the skin’s thirst” (while we’ve got to agree, this advertisement language is brilliant).
1. Make sure it contains humectants. Humectants love binding to water molecules. They basically grab them and offer to stay with your skin for a little while. They are better at attracting water molecules than keeping them with the skin over time. You can think about them as a very attractive date who, unfortunately, is not great at supporting an interesting conversation. If you are water, you'll take the date, but might feel like leaving in a bit. Good humectants are: glycerin, hyaluronic acid, sodium PCA, beta-glucans and other sugars. Peptides, marine and many plant extracts are excellent humectants, too. In fact, in many cases the effect of these ingredients is primarily in hydration, rather than other, more fancy properties (like anti-aging) they are often advertised for.
2. Make sure it contains emollients and occlusives. In essence, these are lubricants: they soften the edges of the non-living cells on the surface of the skin making it feel smoother and more flexible (less tight). Occlusives, in addition, help form a film on the top of the skin preventing water molecules from leaving too soon. Different kinds of oils (plant oils, squalane, mineral oil), waxes, butters (shea butter, cocoa butter) and silicones are effective emollients and occlusives. Collagen added to topical skincare products also works as an occlusive: it actually cannot penetrate the skin to become part of its own collagen matrix. Keep in mind that emollients and occlusives on their own are not attractive for water: it won't take a date with them, they can only help make the "date with a humectant" that's happening already last longer. This is why oils on their own, no matter how organic and nice they are, are not sufficient moisturizers for most skin types.
3. Look for special skin barrier helpers: niacinamide, ceramides, low concentrations of lactobionic acid or lactic acid, colloidal oatmeal extract. They support the skin barrier function each in its own way, going beyond attracting and keeping in water. Combined with the immediate dryness relief from the other two groups, they help skin gather its own defences and stay resilient, hydrated and strong long-term.
4. Finally, avoid irritants like fragrance and essential oils in moisturizers: even without causing an acute reaction, they can lead to a low intensity inflammation in skin, disrupting the barrier function. With the same rationale, to help your moisturizer work even better, avoid long showers and hot water: it, unfortunately, universally leads to dryness and weaker skin barrier.
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