The skincare market offers dozens of products which describe their effects by using the term “hydrating”. In reality, a “hydrating product” is mostly a simplified marketing term, while what the skincare brands are actually referring to when describing their product is the prevention of transepidermal water loss from the skin.
Transepidermal water loss (or TEWL) is caused by drying out the skin. Any type of face cleansing, be it a morning wash with just water or makeup removal at the end of the day, will lead to transepidermal water loss. City water is most commonly filled with minerals which dry the skin out, in winter months we take hot showers, every morning we prep the skin for makeup by using gel cleansers etc. All these actions remove the skin’s protective hydrolipidic barrier, visible only perhaps as excess sebum, which represents a natural mechanism for protecting the skin from pathogenic bacteria and irritations, prevents pruritus (itching), and even has an anti-inflammatory function. Through continuous, everyday practices of cleaning the face and body, which are actually more of a cultural habit than a biological necessity, we remove that surface, protective layer which so-called “hydrating” products repair by smoothing and softening the skin and making it more elastic to the touch.
All hydrating products found on the market will have such a subjective positive effect on the skin, to a greater or lesser degree, but not all products have been created in an equally intelligent way which will ensure that the skin is actually provided with the needed lipids and humectants, protective anti-oxidants and repairing ceramides, peptides and amino acids. It is a mistake to judge the capabilities of a skincare product only based on the subjective feeling of soft skin immediately after applying the product and on its pleasant scent. Unfortunately, for most skincare consumers these are the only important requirements when choosing products.
Moisturizing creams are composed of several components: emollients (lipids) which nourish the skin, humectants which moisturize it and occlusive agents which create a barrier for transepidermal evaporation of moisture from the skin.
Although occlusive ingredients such as mineral oil are not comedogenic per se, the rule of thumb is that the higher the occlusive capabilities of a cream the higher its’ comedogenic potential for certain skin types. Oily and acne-prone skin already have a tendency towards clogged pores and excess sebum production so it’s better to avoid creams with a high occlusive potential. A better option would be to use products with light textures and to apply them in layers, adjusting ones skincare routine and the products used on a daily basis depending on the skin’s needs.
The main difference between moisturizing cream and serum or fluid is that creams are usually of a thicker consistency, with a higher content of fatty components (lipids) and thickeners, which is why watery, serum textures are usually used in formulations aiming at maximum absorption of active ingredients. The greasier and thicker the cream, the slower or lesser the absorption of active ingredients (if the product doesn’t absorb completely), and most active ingredients have an optimum effect only in the deeper layers of the dermis.
Dry skin, especially dry and dehydration-prone skin, will greatly benefit from creams with a high percentage of lipids and occlusive ingredients due to the long-lasting feeling of comfort they provide to skin that has been nourished. Fatty acids such as linoleic and linolenic acid, lauric acid, fatty alcohols, cholesterol, ceramides and squalene are popular nourishing ingredients in cosmetics that the skin tolerates excellently. Further, ingredients such as petrolatum and its derivatives as well as heavier silicone occlusives like dimethicone are occlusive ingredients that skin in most cases tolerates well (if it is not prone to clogging), while lanolin is not recommended for sensitive skin due to its allergic potential. Petrolatum in a minimum concentration of 5% protects the skin from as much as 98% transepidermal water loss, which makes it a very beneficial ingredient in creams designed for very dry skin.
A high-quality nourishing skincare product possesses an entire spectrum of beneficial properties targeting numerous dermatological conditions which are manifested as dryness and dehydration. These conditions are mostly caused by different contributing factors such as aging, physiological stress and different forms of eczema and dermatitis, winter environmental conditions, low air humidity levels, exposure to chemicals and microorganisms. Another name for dry skin is xerosis. Xerotic skin is tight, sometimes painful and feels itchy and prickly, resulting in cracks and a very unsatisfactory sensory feeling which may lead to low self-esteem and a reduced quality of life. Application of a good nourishing product increases the level of moisture in the surface layer of the epidermis, smoothes scaly skin and even helps in normalising abnormal desquamation and in strengthening the hydrolipidic barrier, meaning that skin becomes more resistant to outside stressors.
Proper skincare includes finding a good-quality product that moisturizes and softens the skin without feeling heavy, and then applying it properly. Products that contain adequate emollients and occlusive ingredients as well as water-binding components (such as glycerine or hyaluronic acid) are best applied on moist skin – such as Skintegra’s combination of Hydra B serum emulsion + Naro booster. The way in which products are applied is also extremely important. Application must be gentle and under no circumstance include aggressive rubbing into the skin which may prompt further irritation and result in inflammation of the skin’s follicles.
An ideal hydrating product should possess the following characteristics:
- reduce and prevent transepidermal water loss from the skin
- imitate the skin’s hydrolipidic barrier
- be hypoalergenic and provide a non-sensitizing subjective feeling
- be able to be absorbed completely followed by a feeling of comfort on the skin
- include nourishing and reparative components (oat, allantoin, vitamins, polyphenols etc.)
Subjective feeling of irritation and allergic or irritant contact dermatitis may appear when using any product due to personal hypersensitivity to an individual ingredient which is not problematic for the general population (just think of peanuts that cause some people to suffocate while most people eat them without any problems). However, immunological reactions of the skin are especially prominent and very probable when using products that contain internationally declared allergen components (including some types of essential oils and naturally present fragrance ingredients such as eugenol, geraniol, isoeugenol, linalool, limonene etc.). For that reason we advise that, at least on the sensitive and thin skin of the face (especially in the areas around the eyes and lips), hypoallergenic products should be used. In the case of atopic skin, psoriasis and other chronic skin disorders manifested by a weakened skin barrier function, this warning also applies to both face and body and also applies to products that come into contact with the skin very briefly, i.e. products that wash off (such as shower gels).