Skin dehydration is a host for a plethora of issues and could be a sign of over-exfoliation, over-cleansing, or damaged barrier, which results in skin losing too much water. When skin is dehydrated, aka feels rough and dry, it must be addressed ASAP with the right skincare actives that specifically target the causes. Though most would run to pretty much any type of emollient for quick moisture relief, this brings no more than a temporary solution. Looking for answers to save you from skin dehydration? Then you’ve landed on the right post. In this article, we’ll delve into the best ingredients for dehydrated skin to finally get your complexion off dehydration. All these ingredients have been scientifically proven to address various causes of dehydration, so adding them to your routine is definitely going to pay off.
Which are the best ingredients for dehydrated skin?
It’s important to point out that dry skin and skin dehydration are two different things. While the first results from the lack of sebum, the latter has to do with the lack of water in the skin. Because excessive water loss is the cause, humectants and occlusives work best for dehydrated skin. Humectants are compounds that help skin retain more moisture by drawing water from the environment, and occlusives help seal that moisture into the skin by creating a protective film over the surface. As such, the best ingredients for dehydrated skin are hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and urea, which are humectants, as well as occlusives such as squalane, shea butter, and petrolatum. To them, we can add ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids — emollients that help reinforce the protective barrier and soften skin.
The following active ingredients work deep into the skin to boost its natural water-retaining abilities and relieve dehydration:
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a type of humectant, a substance that attracts and retains water in the skin. It naturally exists in our body and is a major component of the natural moisturizing factors, which are fundamental to the skin’s ability to retain moisture. This is one of the reasons hyaluronic acid is often recommended for dehydrated skin. As it is already present in the body, our system doesn’t have to make drastic adjustments to absorb and process it, which means it gets straight to the job once it enters the epidermis. Studies have repeatedly proven that using hyaluronic acid-containing products leads to plumper skin, diminished wrinkles, and boosted hydration levels.
To be noted that there are multiple forms of hyaluronic acid used in skincare formulations. Of all, sodium hyaluronate is the most suitable for parched skin. It’s the salt form of hyaluronic acid, and compared to its counterparts, it has the smallest molecular weight, which allows it to travel in deeper skin layers to hike up moisture levels.
Ceramides are also game-changing ingredients in terms of relieving dehydrated skin due to their exceptional ability to retain moisture and strengthen the protective barrier. If you’re not familiar with them, ceramides are a type of lipids that majorly composes the outer skin layer (up to ~50%). Their role is to hold the cells together and keep the skin’s barrier intact, which in turn increases moisture retention, reduces water evaporation, and fortifies the skin’s defense against pollutants and irritants. As a matter of fact, it was confirmed that the first stage of skin dehydration is the loss of epidermal lipids, particularly ceramides, which cause a weakening of the protective barrier and an increase in water loss. This is why ceramides are a savior for dehydrated skin.
Luckily, ceramides can be easily spotted in skincare products and oral beauty supplements. These can either be natural plant-based ceramides or synthetic ceramides. While both have the same function, synthetic ceramides are specifically created to be more stable; they are more common in skincare products. Still, a study on natural ceramides shows how the oral intake of ceramide capsules (derived from the Konjac plant) resulted in a major decrease in dryness, dullness, and excessive oil.
Have you ever wondered why it’s a common sight to spot glycerin in almost every skincare product you have? It’s because it’s one of the most effective humectants that draws and retains moisture — a highly essential property to maintain proper hydration balance. It’s odorless and has a slightly viscous consistency, making it very easy to bind with other ingredients. Besides, since it’s a molecule naturally found in the body that’s basically fats, oils, and lipids, glycerin quickly gets absorbed and adapts to the skin.
Studies also show that applying products containing glycerin could significantly improve certain conditions involving moisture deficiency and irritation (i.e., atopic dermatitis, dehydration).
Squalane is one of the best ingredients for dehydrated skin because it’s a major sebum component, crucial in moisturizing the skin and protecting against environmental aggressors. It has both emollient and occlusive properties, meaning it coats the skin’s surface with a protective film to reduce water loss as well as soften and restore the barrier. More interestingly, though, studies found that topical application of squalane can provide a soothing effect on severely dehydrated skin caused by seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, or atopic dermatitis.
We know that this ingredient may not sound very pleasing at first. After all, urea (also known as carbamide) is produced through metabolism processes and is mostly found in urine. However, in skincare, urea is synthetically made and makes an excellent humectant that packs all the good stuff to improve aging and dehydrated skin. According to studies, at 10% concentrations, urea can provide long-lasting moisturizing effects that can last up to 6 hours in just a single application. It can also increase moisture levels at a steady pace as long as it’s regularly applied.
Shea butter is a savior when it comes to fortifying the natural moisture barrier and quenching skin dehydration. It’s a type of fat rich in fatty acids such as oleic, stearic, linoleic, and palmitic, as well as antioxidants and vitamins. It’s super emollient, meaning it softens and nourishes, and also traps moisture in the skin for long-lasting hydration and protection.
Niacinamide, also known as nicotinamide, is a form of vitamin B3 that works in complete synergy with the natural substances found in the skin to build proteins, maintain hydration, and consolidate the defense against external stressors. Niacinamide does that by upregulating the synthesis of ceramides and fatty acids known to play a major role in the proper function of the skin’s moisture barrier. Besides, niacinamide stimulates collagen, which in turn increases the production of hyaluronic acid and boosts the skin’s ability to retain moisture. Given its moisturizing benefits, niacinamide is one of the best ingredients to restore hydration in dehydrated skin.
Using occlusives is imperative to prevent water loss and relieve dehydrated skin, and petrolatum is one of the best of them. According to studies, when topically applied, it can reduce transepidermal water loss by nearly 98%, helping seal moisture into the skin by coating the surface with a long-lasting protective film. It also has emollient properties and can penetrate the epidermis, where it increases the levels of barrier-related proteins, softening and restoring moisture in cells. To reap its benefits, you can either use an occlusive moisturizer or slug your face with pure petrolatum (Vaseline) as the last step of your nighttime routine.
Lactic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid, a chemical exfoliant that works great on dehydrated skin to slough off dead cells and hike up moisture levels. Since it’s a humectant, lactic acid draws water from the environment into the skin to boost hydration while eliminating surface buildup to reveal a fresher, brighter, and firmer complexion. For maximum results, trap the moisture pulled by lactic acid with an occlusive, so it doesn’t evaporate.
There are a number of factors behind skin dehydration. It’s not just about the dry winter air or forgetting your moisturizer. The issue goes way beyond that. But once you have pinned the main reason down and added the right ingredients into your skincare routine, your dehydrated skin may finally restore its moisture and glow.
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