Vampire facials, multi – step skincare routine, intergalactic face masks: as far as innovation goes, the beauty world is on an endless quest for the next big breakthrough. It’s surprising then, that experts and skincare formulators alike are tapping into the powerful benefits of water, the most elementary ingredients of them all, and the back – to – basics protocol of hydration. Cutting – edge? Perhaps not. Necessary? Absolutely. Your best skin may be only be a splash away.
Dryness versus Dehydration
First things first: dryness and dehydration are not interchangeable terms when it comes to describing our complexion. Put simply, dry skin lack oil or lipids, while dehydrated skin lacks water. “Dry skin is a skin type”, explains Armelle Sourand, Chanel’s international scientific communications director. “But dehydration is a condition that anyone can experience”.
To the naked eye, distinguishing between the two isn’t so straightforward. Generally speaking, dehydration shows up as uneven skin tone, itchiness, redness, an overall feeling of tightness and an increase in fine lines, all of which may be symptoms of dryness, too.
Blame The Elements
Some skin woes are the upshot of changes happening internally (hello, hormonale breakouts), while others, like dehydration, present themselves as a by-product of daily life. The effect of the sun, wind, cold temperatures, central heating and air-conditioning – are even using your beauty products incorrectly, or at the wrong time of the day – can all contribute to dehydrated skin. And although dehydration is often exacerbated in the cooler months, it’s not confined to winter. “In summer, the sun damage to the skin’s upper lavers, which become less efficient at storing moisture to keep it supple and smooth. In winter, extreme cold can cause skin lipids to thicken, rendering them ineffective in retaining skin moisture”, explains Richard Parker, founder and director of research and development at Rationale.
And while anyone who travels regularly will attest to the havoc air travel can wreak on skin, it bears repeating: low humidity levels in planes (as little as three per cent) saps the skin of moisture. Mask accordingly.
Up Your Skincare Game
When it comes to keeping moisture in, it pays to know haw the skin’s barrier function works. The lowdown? The barrier is made up of cells held together by lipids, a bit like bricks bound by mortar. Dehydrated skin is prone to “gaps” in that brickwork. “(This) means moisture can escape, but, equally, if there are gaps, things can get in so what you find is that usually the more acute and prolonged the dehydration is, the more sensitive your skin becomes”, explains Emma Hobson, education manager for the International Dermal Institute and Dermalogica.
A compromised barrier means the ingredients in your skincare might not work as hard as they could do. “When the skin carrier is impaired, it affects the skin’s ability to absorb and retain ingredients from the products we are using”, says Helen Robb Lacey, Endota’s senior training consultant, nothing the importance of switching up your skincare routine seasonally to address these environmental changes.
The best approach is twofold: reach for hydrating products (hyaluronic acid is the gold standard) that increase water content in the skin; and moisturizing formulas, to prevent water being lost. “Serums are generally water-based and deliver ingredients deeper into the skin”, notes Robb Lacey. “Layering serums containing hyaluronic acid with a moisturizer that also contains hydrating ingredients helps to prolong skin hydration by binding water in the epidermis and limiting moisture loss”.
The newest in – clinic treatments aim to complement at –home protocols by aiding the skin’s ability to absorb water. While skin needling, which involves tiny pinpricks to the skin, has been called out for being overly aggressive, if administered correctly it creates clear pathways for ingredients to penetrate the skin more efficiently. The same goes for next-gen ultrasound. “Sonophoresis is ultrasound technology that increases absorption of topical ingredients deep into the skin”, says Dr. Joseph Hkeik, aesthetic physician and owner of Sydney’s All Saints Skin Clinic.
Waste No Water
The key to upping hydration levels isn’t only in the products you daily, it’s in the way you use them. Timing, says Hobson, is everything. “After a shower you’ve got three minutes to put on your moisturizer, otherwise the moisture can evaporate rapidly”, she says, adding showers that are too long and too hot can also deplete moisture levels.
Moreover, in the winter months, when dehydration levels typically peak, scale back exfoliating to once a week – any more frequently and the process may strip the skin of its natural stores of hydration. And if you notice dryness throughout the day, consider swapping out your mattifying foundation: it might be absorbing too much moisture and oil from the skin’s surface at a time when you could actually use it.
Can Drinking Water Give You Great Skin?
Everyone knows that drinking water is good for you, but how it truly benefits your skin isn’t so clear. While recent research has found that upping your water intake may increase hydration in the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the skin), a lack of scientific evidence means we can’t definitively conclude that drinking fluids is a fast track to better skin. “We need water for whole body functioning, but that’s not to say that if you drink more water you’re going t have this really plump hydrated skin from the inside out”, Hobos says. “That correlation doesn’t work”. It certainly can’t hurt, through.