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Thursday, 06 September 2012 03:56

Understanding Moisturizers

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An important first step in discussing moisturizers is establishing a clear understanding of what a moisturizer actually is. Several terms tend to be applied when discussing the merits of particular moisturizers. First, is the term hydrating, which means to provide water; contrasted with the term humectant which in skin science means to keep water from evaporating or helping the skin to absorb moisture. Based on these factors, a moisturizer would basically be a product that keeps the skin moist. But in any discussion regarding moisturizers, the terms dryness and dehydration come into play, which people also tend to confuse. Dry skin lacks lipids such as fats and ceramides and dehydrated skin has lost water.

Dry skin can certainly lead to dehydration because the lack of lipids (that form the protective skin barrier) leave the skin "open" to water evaporation.

Taking all these factors into account, an ideal moisturizer should be a product that is hydrating (replenishes water) and humectant (prevents dehydration) while at the same time offering protection against dryness (restores lipids). However, not all moisturizers are created equal and therefore they do not fulfill these objectives in the true sense of the word. So a good quality, basic moisturizer would be a water-soluble product that prevents water loss and replenishes moisture, while softening the skin surface.
In more scientific language, a good moisturizer would be a product that enhances the Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF) of the skin and reduces Trans-Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL). These objectives can be accomplished through the use of specific emulsions, plus the addition of ingredients such as natural lipids, hydrating agents, emollients, filmogenic agents, et cetera. Beyond this most basic definition, many categories exist depending on certain active agents added to the formulas for additional benefits. A few examples include anti-aging ingredients in a moisturizer for a repairing night cream and healing/antiseptic ingredients for acne moisturizers.
Moisturizers have certainly evolved over the years; the latest formulations have improved the performance of these products in regards to the absorption/penetration of ingredients and the duration of the moisturizing effect. Moreover, older moisturizers that included "heavy" lipids to preserve the skin barrier used to leave a tacky feeling on the skin, or in the opposite case, the formulas evaporated too quickly after application leaving the skin feeling dry and tight after a few hours.
In recent years the addition of natural silicones helped to ease the feeling of tackiness and also made the formulas more lightweight. Furthermore, the newest technologies have allowed moisturizers to become an "all-in-one" category of products with many benefits including restoring the water/oil balance to the skin, the addition of high-performance ingredients to address specific skin concerns and offering protection from the sun, environmental free radicals, and harsh climate changes.
One of the greatest breakthroughs in the formulation of moisturizers is the use of triphase W/O/W (water-in-oil-in-water) microemulsions to create advanced formulas. The additional advantages of using these microemulsions to traditional emulsions include providing an extra layer of water, very stable formulas, longer shelf life, silky product textures, and a greatly improved rate of absorption and delivery of ingredients into the skin. These new "green" technologies have guaranteed expedited and visible results to satisfy the most demanding consumers worldwide.
Additionally, the use of time-release encapsulation systems and delivery vehicles like sphérulites have made the latest moisturizers one of the most important components of any skin care routine. Besides water itself, hyaluronic acid currently is, and has been one of the most touted ingredients to increase moisture in the skin and for good reason. Hyaluronic acid can hold many times its own weight in water, acting as a "replenishing sponge" (even more so when encapsulated in time-release sphérulites). Other natural ingredients that help keep the skin moist include collagen macromolecules and polypeptides, elastin macromolecules and polypeptides, lactic acid, honey extract, sorbitol, sodium PCA, mannitol, vegetal squalane, and oil extracts from plants (leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds), et cetera. One of the latest moisturizing ingredients to be used topically is erythritol, a natural humectant for personal and skin care applications. Erythritol is naturally occurring in foods such as grapes, melons and honey, as well as in fermented foods such as cheese and wine.
During the fall and winter seasons moisturizers become even more important as changes in the weather can bring about specific skin care challenges and make maintaining moisture more difficult. Particularly during cooler weather, it is recommended to use a moisturizer that has better barrier protection than, for example, a lighter moisturizer used during the summer time. Depending on the type of formulation, switching moisturizers can be key in protecting the skin. The addition of specific concentrated and hydrating products, like serums used under moisturizers, are also a great way of improving barrier protection to reduce water evaporation and maintain the well-being of the skin year-round. It is vital to re-evaluate the skin care regimen recommended to each client as the seasons shift. Recommending a different moisturizer based on the climate in your area is a great way to further customize the client's skin care and ensure optimum results.
During the cooler seasons it is better to limit exfoliation through products or professional treatments as these can thin out the skin barrier and promote dehydration. The best times for exfoliation are spring and fall, unless you are located where the climate is milder. A collagen based cream, where the collagen ingredient has a filmogenic effect is the best choice to protect and maintain the skin's moisture. Lotions/toners that contain alcohol should also be avoided. Instead recommend a high quality alcohol-free natural lotion/toner after cleansing as this product can further reinforce the skin barrier. Remind clients of the importance of always cleansing, removing makeup at night and applying an appropriate serum and night cream to help the skin repair while sleeping. During the day, moisturizers can be reapplied several times as needed if the climate is too drying, however hydrating mists or lotions to quench skin dehydration are a great year-round addition to any skin care regimen.
Today's moisturizers are far more active than their name implies. If chosen properly, the right moisturizer can provide many benefits beyond simple hydration. Modern moisturizers are truly the centerpiece of skin specific skin care and are integral to addressing everyday concerns such as aging signs, sun protection, and delivering desired results.

Dr. Christian Jurist is a physician that specializes in aesthetic medicine. He received his medical diploma from Venezuela's "UCV," in 1995; and his post-graduate diploma from the International Union of Esthetic Medicine (U.I.M.E.) headquartered in Paris, France in 1998. Jurist has belonged to several International aesthetic medicine professional associations and his long-term experience has comprised multiple face and body therapies, years of teaching experience, published author of professional articles, numerous educational seminars, professional trade show conferences, school classes, and special events throughout the U.S. and worldwide. Since joining Pevonia and Medicalia International as medical director of global education, Jurist has been working side-by-side with renowned biochemist and founder of Pevonia Botanica, Mme. Sylvie Hennessy, to direct and develop new and effective superior educational programs to provide skin professionals with an easy-yet-scientific approach to clinical skin care, and the medical aesthetics practice.

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