The Science of Hydration

Many aspects of healthy looking skin rely on optimal moisture levels, so it’s important to keep your skin hydrated. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite as easy as making sure the skin contains enough water; there’s a lot more going on that first meets the eye. Let’s take a look at the science of hydration, how to spot the signs, and how to choose the right ingredients and products for you.

A Lesson in Hydration

Hydration is fundamental to the healthy functioning of skin. When the skin lacks water it negatively affects many processes within that keep it looking smooth, plump and protected. To keep water in and harmful, external elements out, we rely on a protective barrier known as the skin barrier. It’s made of natural, water-loving and oil-loving molecules that work together to maintain optimal water levels.

While water-loving molecules (known as humectants) are often referred to as little water magnets, they don’t actually pull water from other areas of the body. We prefer to think of them like sticky tape, as water molecules “stick” or bond to them as they pass by, helping to hold water within the skin. These include molecules such as amino acids, urea and sodium lactate. They are supported by oil-loving molecules, called lipids, that help to trap water inside and stop it leaving the skin. Ceramides, fatty acids and cholesterol are all types of skin lipids that work alongside humectants to form the skin barrier: humectants hydrate the skin, while lipids moisturize.

What’s the difference between the two?

Although they might sound the same, hydration and moisturization actually have distinct differences. When we talk about hydration, we’re talking about increasing the water levels within the skin using humectants like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, urea and beta glucan. Moisturization on the other hand refers to supplying the skin with both hydration (increased water levels) and lipids to help protect water from leaving the skin. Common examples of lipids used in skincare are triglycerides, ceramides and fatty acids. We refer to them as emollients, which is the collective term given to oil-loving molecules that help hold water in to smooth and soften skin.
Signs of skin thirst - identifying hydration needs
As we’ve discovered, hydration is fundamental to healthy skin appearance and is, therefore, one of the most important considerations when building your skincare regimen. A common sign of skin dehydration is a tight, uncomfortable feeling. Prolonged dehydration can impact the skin renewal process and lead to dry, flaky skin as well as uneven texture and a dull appearance. Dry skin can then also be more prone to irritation and signs of redness.

It’s common knowledge that dry skin types and areas of dryness in combination skin may be dehydrated, but it’s not limited to this skin type; oily skin can get dehydrated too. Research shows that oily skin types often have lower hydration levels than dry, normal, or combination skin, so it’s important to include hydration in your skincare regimen, regardless of skin type.

Ingredients that target Hydration

Now we know the fundamentals of hydration, let’s take a look at some key hydrating ingredients to look for in your products.

Hyaluronic Acid
This is a naturally-occurring molecule found within the skin that helps to attract and hold onto water. It easily bonds with water, making it ideal for helping to hydrate and plump. It can be found in a range of molecular sizes making it great at providing hydration to multiple layers of the skin’s surface.

Pro-Vitamin B5
This ingredient—also known as panthenol—is a humectant (water-loving). It’s commonly used within skincare for its ability to help support multiple elements of skin hydration. Because of its water-loving properties, it’s able to help attract and retain moisture within the skin while also working to support the formation of key barrier components such as ceramides and fatty acids.

These are also naturally occurring molecules found within the top layers of the skin and make up approximately 50% of the skin’s lipids. They help create structures within skin that trap water inside and reduce water loss. They work very effectively in combination with humectants to help keep skin hydrated.

Natural Moisturizing Factors
This is a collective name given to a number of molecules found within the surface layers of the skin. You may have heard of urea, amino acids and PCA. These are types of NMF often used within skincare that work as humectants to attract and hold onto water.
Replenish & Hydrate - Regimen for Dehydrated Skin
Moisturize & Nourish - Regimen for Dry Skin

So now we’ve covered everything you need to know about hydration, you’re ready to be your own skin expert and find out what is right for you! Hydration is important for every skin type, so look for the signs of dehydration and dryness and select the right ingredients and products to personalize your regimen to suit your skin’s needs.