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by Dr.Chia-Chi Hsu

Moisturization and moisture retention quench the thirst of the skin 

People are placing more and more emphasis on skin care and there is an increasing variety of products available on the market. People also seem to use more and more skincare products. Proper hydration is the most important link of skin care during season change. Skin health and stability has a direct impact on the effects of follow-up skincare routines.  

Q: Why is skin hydration necessary?

The goal of skin hydration lies in a sufficient moisture content of the stratum corneum, accounting for 20-30%. If the skin is well hydrated, stratum corneum metabolism is excellent and the formation of fine lines, blackheads, and acne is less likely. The skin appears delicate, luminous, and glowing.

If hydration is insufficient and the moisture content of the skin falls below 10%, the skin surface becomes coarse and rough and is prone to dryness and tightness. Skin brightness decreases, resulting in dull skin that lacks radiance.

In addition, the metabolism of keratinocytes (cornified cells) is impeded when the stratum corneum is dehydrated, which tends to result in a thickening stratum corneum and scaliness. Dead skin cells are accumulated, and blackhead and acne issues are generated. This can even result in a weakening barrier function of the stratum corneum, which increases the risk of dermatitis, itchiness, pain, and burning sensations. Formation of fine lines in the eye contour and cheek areas is also more likely.   

Skin dryness is associated with greatly decreased skin quality, abnormal metabolism of dead skin cells, and allergic reactions and inflammation of the skin. It is therefore evident that hydration is of paramount importance for the skin.

Q: Is a hydration regimen necessary for every skin type?

Dermatologists often point out that there is no secret to successful skin care. It all boils down to the following three steps: cleansing, hydration, and sun protection with necessary adjustments for different skin types.

Skin types are not static as they can change over time. Key factors determining such changes include aging, season change, and the external environment. Skin types which differ from person to person are therefore affected by seasonal changes. Prior to the selection of suitable hydrating products, users should therefore gain a clear understanding of their current skin type.  

Q: How to select the right hydrating product?

Hydration regimens can be broken down into the following two indispensable steps: moisturization and moisture retention. I recommend application of products with a high percentage of water-based ingredients such as toners or hydrating serums after facial cleansing when the face is still moist, which ensures immediate moisturization of the skin. In the next step, a lipophilic product such as a hydrating lotion or cream should be applied to achieve moisture retention. Simultaneous moisturization and moisture retention is the key prerequisite for effective hydration.

The same logic applies to hydration of the body and hands. Many people tell me that they don’t like the oily feel of lotions and hand cream, but this is sometimes caused by wrong timing rather than by the product itself. Moisture-locking lotions and creams must be applied when the skin is still slightly moist to ensure optimal effects and absorption of effective hydrating components into the stratum corneum. If these products are applied to dried up keratin, they generate a heavy, sticky feel with limited hydration effects. The ingredients contained in these products represent another key factor.

Q: Are there any good hydrating components other than the widely applied hyaluronic acid?

Hydrating components can be divided into the following two categories: moisturizing and moisture-locking ingredients. Moisturizing ingredients increase the moisture content of the stratum corneum, while moisture-locking ingredients help retain the water molecules in the stratum corneum.
Common moisturizing ingredients include glycerin, sorbitol, propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol (PEG), urea, amino acids, macromolecular collagen, and hyaluronic acid. Due to its mild properties and powerful moisturizing ability, hyaluronic acid is the most widely known ingredient. One molecule of hyaluronic acid can bind up to 500 water molecules, which not only helps the skin capture large amounts of moisture but also strengthens the moisture-retention ability and ensures long-lasting positive effects on the skin.

Frequently used moisture-locking ingredients include Vaseline, mineral oil, paraffin, lanolin, squalene, and ceramide. The latter is a lipid found in high concentrations within the cell membranes of the stratum corneum. Ceramide is the most important lipid component of the stratum corneum, accounting for around 50% of all lipids in this skin layer. The stratum corneum of chronic eczema patients or individuals with sensitive or excessively dry skin is characterized by decreased Ceramide concentrations, which weakens the natural hydrating function of keratin. Adequate replenishment of Ceramide is therefore highly conducive to the restoration of the normal hydrating functions of the stratum corneum.

Ceramela, another effective moisture-locking ingredient, is derived from vegetable oil with the aid of yeast fermentation. Just like Ceramide, it is capable of restoring the moisture-locking capabilities of the stratum corneum. In contrast to Ceramide, which is characterized by high fat solubility, it is more hydrophilic and therefore more refreshing and easier to absorb. It can also be more easily combined with other hydrating components.

Q: What skincare product textures are suitable for different skin types?

Moisturizing and moisture-locking ingredients must be matched based on individual skin types. If moisturizing components are not combined with moisture-locking ingredients, the hydration effects for dry skin that lacks oil and moisture are insufficient. For oily skin types with high sebum secretion rates, on the other hand, this is the ideal formula. Hydrating products should therefore be selected based on skin types.

Products with a higher percentage of moisturizing ingredients, a lower percentage of moisture-locking ingredients, and a watery texture are therefore better suited for oily skin. In a nutshell, individuals with this skin type should select skincare products with lighter textures such as toners and gels. Skincare products with a higher percentage of moisture-locking ingredients such as lotions and creams are more suitable for dry skin types.

In conclusion, adequate moisturization and moisture retention is crucial to maintain skin moisture levels. Excellent hydration ensures that natural skin without makeup appears radiant and translucent.