Updated: Mar 31, 2021
Welcome to my website! I'm Heidi, I'm a Skincare Coach, and I want to help you achieve the skin you've always wanted. BEGIN HERE to find out all about me and what a Skincare Coach can do for you. I love helping my buddies with Skincare, but I'm not a healthcare professional, an aesthetician, an influencer or a guru - I'm more of a nerd who loves to chat all things skincare. I work independently: I don't accept gifts from brands or have affiliate links. All my followers are real people, and I'm no one's ambassador. I don't use filters or fillers (but I don't judge those who do). If you like what you see and you want to support me, you can JOIN my community or HIRE ME to be your coach. Or just read, share and enjoy!
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PLEASE NOTE: This article represents my own method - the information and techniques in this article may not be suitable for everyone - please do not substitute anyone else's judgment for your own. Always Patch Test and always take the time to allow your skin to gradually acclimate to any new product.
Hello Skincare Buddies!
Today I'm going to take a close look at a part of skincare that is very near and dear to my heart: HYDRATION.
We all know that our bodies, and therefore our skin, is made up mostly of water. Your skin wants to be juicy, plump and well hydrated. This post reviews the separate steps that work together to get that water into your skin, and how to hold it there!
The HYDRATION EQUATION:
Humectant + Moisture (water) + Occlusive = plump, toned & even skin
Yes, that's it! The secret to skin that bounces back when you poke it, that's free from fine lines, that's elastic and toned, that's comfortable, and is the best version of itself.
If your skin is dehydrated it's unlikely you'll ever feel completely happy with your skin. Hydration provides a cushion which gives a smooth appearance.
Hydration isn't just a single step like an active or even a moisturiser. It's more of a way of looking at your skin and understanding where you're at - what I call ASSESING YOUR SKIN. And then it's a matter of finding the right products and technique for getting the moisture into your skin and making sure it stays there!
I've covered the difference between dryness and dehydration already, but mostly everyone can benefit from having a good plan for hydration, whatever the state of your skin. Let's go ahead and take a look at the individual components of the hydration equation.
Humectants are ingredients that help to hold water within the skin. Humectants don't provide the hydration, they hold the hydration. You can think of it as a sponge, or as dry spaghetti - not much good until you get that water into it! Basically, these molecules attract water. If you want your skin to hold onto the hydration you add to your skin, it will last longer if there is a humectant holding it in place. There are lots of ingredients with humectant properties, but here are the ones you'll commonly see in your skincare:
💦 The most obvious example of a commonly used humectant is Hyaluronic Acid (HA). HA is naturally occurring within the body and comes in various forms: gels, serums, and, if you read your INCI, you'll find it hiding in many of your skincare products. You may be aware that it can hold up to 1000x it's own weight within the skin, meaning that one drop of 2% HA serum can hold about 20 equivalent drops (roughly 4-5 skins) of hydration within the skin. This goes to show that you really don't need to go overboard with this ingredient to get great hydration.
HA can be irritating for some, so keep that in mind if you're having any barrier issues.
💦 Other common humectants are Glycerine and Urea. These are gentle ingredients that are also good value so they can be found in many products, especially Glycerine. Both of these will help to hold onto hydration within the skin.
💦 The Ordinary (TO) also offers Marine Hyaluronics (MH), a humectant with less potential for irritation than HA, and a nice watery formula. TO claim that MH functions in the same way as the HA serum, although it's not as clear how to calculate the amount of hydration it holds. I would judge a *dose* to be the standard TO 3-4 drops. It is lovely because it's not just humectant, but hydrating as well, so it's okay to use more than one dose, unlike HA serums, which tend to get sticky.
💦 HYDRATING TONERS/ESSENCES. These are mainly Korean or Japanese Beauty products that are formulated with humectants to hold the water within the skin. Some are more concentrated and you only need to use a small amount and most, but not all, contain humectants. You need to check the ingredient to see if you need to add moisture elsewhere in your routine. The formulas can vary from watery to serum-like, to light emulsions. These are the products that are most closely associated with the 7 Skins Method - a Korean technique for adding multiple layers of hydration into the skin.
H2O. WATER. Aqua. Yes, that's what hydration means: Water content within the skin. It fills your cells, lubricates the tissues and helps actives to penetrate. Water helps products to do their job more effectively by drawing them into the skin rather than sitting on the surface of the skin. It will also plump fine lines, and it makes your skin more comfortable in general.
💦 WATER. Water can be just that: the water that gets into your skin from cleansing or bathing. Thermal water sprays. Water-based hydrators and mists. And yes, tap water - although you should consider the hardness/softness of the water where you live (London has particularly hard water, I had to be careful using tap water on my face when I lived there and I always rinsed with Rosewater). You can check your water hardness online in most places.
💦 ROSEWATER. The best Rosewaters are pure distilled rosewater and nothing else. Rose petals are macerated, soaked in water and then distilled (boiled and the steam is collected) which yields a very pure product. I love Rosewater so much that I wrote A Love Letter to Rosewater. This article details how to find and use pure, inexpensive food-grade Rosewater.
There are also *beauty* type Rosewaters that have added ingredients, sometimes glycerine (ok) or perfumes (not great). I generally avoid these anyway as they are more expensive and don't really offer any additional value. The beauty of rosewater is that it's cheap and you can splash it with abandon without counting the pennies.
💦 HYDROSOLS. Rosewater is a Hydrosol, but they can be made from other botanicals as well. Orange Blossom water is often for sale alongside Rosewater. Personally I use both interchangeably but some people with sensitive skin can find Orange Blossom more likely to cause reactions. Other flower waters, or Hydrosols, are available at specialist stores and can also make a lovely addition to your routine.
💦 OTHER HYDRATING PRODUCTS: - The Ordinary Amino Acids is another one that's great for supporting hydration
- Aloe Gel, available from health food stores or fresh from a plant! - Hydrating mists and spritzes
- Many serums are hydrating as they are generally water-based for better absorption - Hydrating face masks (sheet masks) - Face gels and jelly-type moisturisers
Occlusives are products like creams (emulsions) and oils that seal in the hydration by creating a lipid layer on top of the skin that seals hydration within the tissues. After you've got all that hydration into your skin you don't want to let it escape! Occlusives are the final step in preventing TEWL (trans epidermal water loss).
💦 MOISTURISER. If your moisturiser is a cream-style emulsion then it almost certainly has occlusive properties (unless it's a gel or is very light). But there is no general rule for knowing how well it's doing its job, you have to evaluate that for yourself by experimenting and seeing what works. Some people need a really thick heavy cream to hold onto hydration, others don't. For some, a moisturiser on it's own isn't ever going to be enough. Emulsions are creamy because the water and lipids in the formula are hydrogenated in order to transform them into one uniform product, like mayonnaise. Although emulsions contain water, usually as a primary ingredient, the water is bound to the oil and not available to the skin as hydration.
💦 OILS. A great way to make your moisturiser more water-resistant is to enrich it by pairing it with an oil (or two!) There is no definitive rule that will cover every oil and face cream when it comes to layering. Oils could go before, after, or mixed into creams. Find what works best with the products that you use by experimenting and assessing your skin. There can be a big difference between a light layer of 2 drops of oil before a cream, or 5 drops of oil mixed in. But it's fun to play around. Sometimes I do it before, mixed in, and again after! Especially in the winter, when I need oodles of that lovely lubrication in my life.
💦 EMOLLIENTS. These are ingredients with skin softening properties. They act in the same way your natural lipids act, so this can be very beneficial to skin that is stripped as they replace the missing function. However, by definition, emollient creams will be thicker and more likely to block pores. Double Base and Vaseline are common emollients.
Emollients aren't always very popular, as they are quite basic, and also more likely to contain ingredients that are less environmentally friendly, such as mineral oils and paraffins (because these ingredients work really well and are inexpensive). But if your skin is dry, as well as dehydrated, they can be a godsend because they replace your skin's natural barrier when your skin can't do it alone. If your skin is REALLY dry and sensitive, you can also use Emollients to cleanse. In some situations you can use Emollients as your only product.
💦 BALMS & SALVES: often ignored and forgotten, balms and salves are the unsung heroes of my routine. I do a final layer with a salve almost every night, especially in the winter. In the summer I use a balm when I just want to pamper my skin without any actives or too many different layers, or if I feel like I've had any sun exposure. And, of course, whenever your skin is sensitive, it's the perfect time to layer on a salve.
ENHANCE HYDRATION BY SUPPORTING BARRIER FUNCTION
Occlusives are great, but at the end of the day, it's your own skin barrier that's going to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to preventing TEWL. If your skin is functioning well, then you may not need to work so hard to keep the water in place. But, if you're compromised, then it can be such a challenge.
Certain products can enhance hydration by supporting the barrier so that it's able to maintain it's water content more efficiently.
- Face creams. Not every moisturiser will add hydration but most face creams are emulsions (an oil suspended within a water formula) which will help to keep water within the skin. This is why aqua is listed as the first ingredient in most face creams although they don't actually provide much moisture - the water is in the formula to suspend and deliver the oils.
- Barrier support formulas like the TO Amino Acids. This type of product helps to enhance the skin's function and help it to retain hydration within the skin.
- Niacinamide is also known for barrier support, as are ceramides, cica and centella.
- Increasing Omega oils within your diet may also improve your skin's ability to hold water.
That's a lot to absorb! (see what I did there? hahaha)
💬 SHARE: What's in your hydration wardrobe? What have you tried? What do you want to try? What results have you had? What was the lightbulb moment for your personal hydration journey? Feel free to add any relevant links to your favourite hydration tips!
💦 Have a wonderful, glowy day! 💦
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I'm Heidi. Skincare is not just some passing trend to me – I do skincare every single day! I’m 46, and I’ve been caring for my skin daily since the age of 14. In that time I’ve collected a lot of skincare knowledge and I want to share it with you. I also want to inspire and empower you to take control of your skin. I believe that anyone can improve their skin if the effort and patience is there. Everyone is invited to explore my Skincare Circles; a step-by-step system for getting the skin you always wanted.