Winter is just around the corner. It’s time to nurture our skin back to health, especially after all the sun exposure during the summer months. One complaint we often hear during this seasonal transition is that skin suddenly becomes dry and flaky, and ‘favorite’ moisturizers that once hydrated skin beautifully seem to lose their magic.

Hydration has been the buzzword in skincare for decades. The skin requires proper moisture not only for a healthy appearance, but also for age defiance. Countless articles and online posts offer tips on how to hydrate your skin. In a nutshell: 1) drink plenty of water, 2) use gentle cleansers that don’t strip the skin and 3) apply products that strengthen the skin barrier and contain water retaining ingredients. To achieve this last goal, moisturizers are filled with hyaluronic acid, aloe juice, vitamins, lipids, natural oils and butters. While such ingredients have certain benefits, they won’t hydrate the skin to it’s optimal potential. Here’s why, and it may come as no surprise — the skin needs water to be truly hydrated.

To find a skincare routine that will leave your skin truly hydrated this winter, let’s take a closer look into the science of how skin retains and loses water. Our skin consists of three layers: the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis. Adjectives commonly used to describe the skin, for example radiantresilient and hydrated, all refer to properties of the epidermis.  Skin loses water through evaporation, which is largely prevented by the epidermal skin barrier. Most moisturizers address hydration concerns by either fortifying the epidermis to trap water inside or use additives like humectant to attract water particles in the air to the skin.

Some of the ingredients that aim to keep water in the epidermis may sound familiar. Here are a few and how they are supposed to work:

  • Natural oils and butters are rich in fatty acids and ceramides, providing lipids needed for the barrier.
  • Propylene glycol, PEG, aloe, honey, hyaluronic acid, glycerin and hydrolyzed proteins”are humectants that attract water particles to the skin.
  • Silicone is a polymer that forms a film over the skin’s surface to lock in moisture.

Moisturizers containing ingredients with these three functions should be able to effectively prevent water loss, and may be sufficient to do so in warmer months. But,  during colder months,  when there is little moisture in the air outside and possibly even less inside because of the drying effects of heating systems, humectants (designed to attract water particles) cannot do their job without some help! And silicones (like dimethicone), which are loaded into many moisturizers to create a smooth and silky application, evaporate rapidly, proving counter-productive when trying to hydrate the skin. They also have the potential to worsen acne in those who are prone to clogged pores.

At DermYoung, we use natural extracts which are scientifically shown to increase the production of barrier proteins to intensify the skin barrier, which won’t clog the pores or evaporate quickly, providing a long-lasting reinforcement to water loss. Learn more about our I-Genesis Collection and how it works.

Now, let’s consider the other side of the equation: how the skin gets water. One unique and critical feature of the epidermis that most articles or posts fail to mention is that the epidermis does not have blood vessels. Why is this so important? Well, the epidermis relies on the dermis (a deeper skin layer) to supply nutrients, oxygen and water. Water reaches the epidermis in two ways — free diffusion from the dermis and active transportation through water channels called aquaporins on the epidermal skin cells. Theoretically, to increase the uptake of water into the skin, we can either increase the amount of water we drink and/or increase the activity of these water channels.

Most of us realize that simply “drinking more” doesn’t seem be enough. So it makes sense that since their discovery, these water channels have been focus of intensive research efforts by scientists and the cosmetic industry. From this research, we now know that aquaporins not only transport water, but are also responsible for transporting glycerol and urea, both of which are also important for normal skin barrier function. Scientists have also discovered that overactive water channels in the skin can lead to excess water loss and eczema. Therefore, one of the biggest questions for skin scientists at DermYoung is how to influence the skin’s water channels to achieve optimal skin hydration.  To do this, our scientists have isolated extracts from common naturals like licorice root that promote but do not exhaust normal aquaporin activity. Also, to optimize blood flow in the dermis, we include a number of natural extracts (for example, from tumeric, ginger, garlic and ginkgo biloba) which have been used for centuries for this purpose. At DermYoung, we rely on the finest natural ingredients to support healthy skin function and you will note many natural extracts in our list of product ingredients.

There are many other factors that influence the status of skin hydration including environmental exposures and UV damage (see our blog post on the art of sun protection). So, to properly winterize your skin, remember to drink a lot of water, choose a moisturizer wisely,  and wear sunscreen. Winter, here you come!

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