Successful beauty brands are always looking for ‘breakthrough formulas’ for amazing results. But how many of us wonder what goes on our skin. Ever asked what the chemistry behind skin care and moisturisers is? For those of you who have, here’s a brief understanding of the science of skincare.
The skin is the largest organ in the human body, and its number one function is protection. Your skin is the first line of defence against harmful microbes, pollution, and UV rays. It acts like a fort, protecting your inner organs. So the epidermis has to be strong enough to defend itself against attack. This is why your skin keeps renewing, making new cells that are plump and juicy -a lot like fresh grapes. As the skin cells travel from the upper layers of the epidermis down below, they lose most of the moisture -resembling a shrivelled raisin.
Hydrated skin can defend itself against attack by external irritants and the elements. This is why you must ensure proper hydration of the outer skin layers, so it does not shrivel and dry up inside like a raisin.
So, here are a few facts about the science of skincare to keep in mind when shopping for skincare products for the body and face.
How does skin stay hydrated?
- Blood vessels bring moisture to your skin, but only to the middle layer of the skin – the dermis. Moisture travels up into the epidermis where it evaporates.
- Technically, your skin is dry when the moisture level falls below 10% which means new skin cells have 90% moisture, but before long the moisture content reduces to 10 per cent.
- Natural moisturizing factor (NMF) allows the skin to draw moisture from the air, retaining it with water-soluble compounds, such as amino acids (40%), sodium PCA (12%) and lactate (12%). The rest is urea, ions and glycerol. It is present only in the uppermost layers of the epidermis. Most of the amino acids come from the hydrolysis of proteins (proteolysis).
- Having an adequate NMF level in your skin keeps it supple, reduces tightness, cracking and flaking. NMF also improves skin’s plasticity, because amino acids and keratin interact.
What are moisturisers?
There are 3 types of moisturisers, according to the science of skincare. They are based on their main ingredients: humectants, emollients and occlusives. When choosing a moisturiser, pick one with both humectant and occlusive ingredients.
- Humectants are what draw water molecules from the air. They include ingredients like hyaluronic acid, panthenol, glycerin, and Sodium PCA.
- Emollients are lubricants, and these oils soften the skin. They include ingredients, such as jojoba oil, shea butter, allantoin, aloe vera, essential oils, squalene and wheat germ oil.
- Occlusives slow down the loss of water and evaporation from the epidermis. They include ingredients like dimethicone, Cyclomethicone and caprylic triglyceride.
If your skin surface isn’t clean, then whatever moisturiser you use will not penetrate well. Most people do not realise that cleansing is as important for keeping skin hydrated as moisturising. The science of skincare is important in this step because of product formulation. You don’t want to strip away too much of the NMF layer in your skin. Pick only mild cleansers that condition your skin while removing impurities and toxins. These cleansers have humectants, hydrolysed proteins, and occlusives like dimethicone, crothix or coco betaine.
The science of skincare has shown that removing dead surface skin cells is essential for effective moisturising, If you do not exfoliate, you leave behind dead skin cells on the surface, which makes it look dull, flaky, and lacklustre. If left untreated, it can irritate your skin, clog up pores, cause breakouts, make skin very dry, and cause skin problems like acne and eczema. It is important to use the most gentle exfoliator for your face because the skin layer is the thinnest.