Skin Health

Hydration vs. Moisturization

Rethinking the One-Size-Fits-All Skin Care Regimen

Cleanse, tone, moisturize–it is a process skin care companies have engrained in our minds. And with the onset of the cold, dry winter months, it seems more emphasis is placed on the final step than ever before. While most simply accept this three-step formula as gospel, others seek a better solution. With an emphasis on correction, these professionals and their products work with the skin’s natural physiology to restore balance and encourage healthy, normal hydration free of unnecessary assistance. After all, if everyone’s skin is different, how could one method fit all?

It all begins with moisture balance. In normal skin, the sebaceous glands—oil-producing glands that naturally lubricate the skin—maintain a healthy level of sebum, or natural oil. This serves to keep the skin properly hydrated by preventing excessive water loss or absorption. Marked by a supple feel and moist (but not greasy) appearance, normal skin gains little, if anything, from added moisture.

But what about other skin types? While oily, dry and sensitive skin types can and do benefit from topical hydrators, a moisturizer can only do so much and is not a solution to any condition by itself. According to Donna Killian, national director of education for CosMedix, “If your skin is properly balanced, it really shouldn’t need a regular moisturizer.”

Moisturizers generally work in two ways. Many prevent water loss by coating the skin with an oil-based substance to trap moisture in—essentially replicating what a healthy sebum balance already does. Common among store-bought brands, staple ingredients include petroleum, mineral oil and lanolin. While somewhat effective, such products run the risk of clogged pores and contact irritation due to their oil content. Other products attract moisture to the skin using hydrophilic (water-friendly) substances like glycerin, lactic acid and certain vitamins. In addition to replacing moisture already lost, products containing these ingredients are enjoyed by more skin types for their non-greasy, non-irritating properties.

Killian explains how topical hydrators should support the skin’s natural hydration process rather than simply supplement moisture, which sidesteps the real issue at hand—the condition. “A moisturizer is only useful if it effectively targets the source of a condition. If you’re constantly applying and reapplying moisture, you’re only covering up the condition, not working toward correction.”

Consider chronically dry skin. When combined with a condition-specific skin care plan, a moisturizer can play an invaluable role in restoring epidermal equilibrium. By aiding a return to normal sebaceous activity, it can help restore past damage, soothe inflammation and encourage healthy hydration in budding, new skin cells. However, only by working effectively with other elements of the program can it help alleviate the condition as a whole. Used alone or as part of a one-size-fits-all regimen, moisturizers do little more than mask a symptom of a much bigger problem.

That bigger problem could be the result of any number of things. From poor dietary and lifestyle choices to hormonal imbalance and UV over-exposure, skin conditions arise in different people for different reasons. Dry skin arises from distress or damage to the skin’s lipid barrier—a permeable outer layer of fatty substances that shields skin cells from harmful elements while allowing in moisture and nutrients. Combined with a decrease in sebum production, this structural deterioration exposes skin cells to external threats and contributes to what is known as trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) as cells become dehydrated and the skin visibly starts to suffer. While a moisturizer may offer temporary relief, until the source of the cell disruption is isolated and corrected, dry skin will continue to be a problem.

However, dry skin is not the only casualty of moisture imbalance. Oily skin occurs when sebaceous glands are prompted to produce more sebum than normal, causing the skin to appear shiny or greasy. Although nearly opposite in appearance, oily and dry skin often arise from many of the same core causes. In fact, most oily conditions are really issues of dehydration in which the skin counteracts with an increase in sebum production.

While intuition may suggest a needed decrease in hydration—a notion echoed in the wealth of “lightweight” moisturizers marketed specifically to oily skin—this thinking often does more harm than good to the skin. Combined with daily degreasing efforts and harsh topical agents that strip away the skin’s lipid barrier, weak moisturizers are merely an attempt to control the symptoms of a condition through chemistry and do not target their source.

The goal, therefore, should not be to replace the skin’s natural hydration process, but to regain balance, Killian explains. “A skin care program should be focused on correcting the problem at hand. Moisturizers play a part, just as cleansers and balancers do. Together, their goal is to correct the core of a condition and return the skin to a more normal state.”

For this purpose, it is important to consult with a skin care professional to determine the source of the condition and create a treatment strategy customized for your skin. “Don’t self-diagnose,” Killian urges, alluding to the trial-and-error approach of many consumers, often at the expense of time, money and skin health. “Skin care professionals know the skin best and know which steps need to be taken on a case-by-case basis to improve the overall health of the skin.”

Recognizing the key supporting role moist-urizers play in combating skin conditions, CosMedix has developed a collection of advanced hydrators, each designed to address different skin concerns and work cohesively within a personalized skin correction program. “CosMedix products are designed to treat by condition, not by skin type,” Killian explains. With ingredients that have been chirally corrected—filtered in their most elemental form for optimal ingredient communication—each interacts flawlessly with other regimen components to complete your unique skin care strategy and put you on the path to correction.

Treatment Zone

Hydration Solutions by Condition

Usually the result of poor dietary/lifestyle choices, UV damage or lipid-stripping topical agents, dry skin occurs when the skin loses moisture faster than it’s able to naturally hydrate itself.

Solution: Emulsion
A soothing blend of jojoba oil and shea butter in a unique liquid crystal formula.

Often triggered by hormones, excessive dryness, dietary and/or mental stress, oily skin occurs when the skin’s sebaceous glands produce more natural oil, or sebum, than normal.

Solution: Mystic
A refreshing, oil-free moisture spray that won’t clog pores.

Whether caused by nutritional deficiencies, stress or skin injury, reactive skin responds adversely to even minor topical irritants with redness, inflammation, hives and/or breakouts.

Solution: Rescue
An all-natural balm that soothes irritated, inflamed and post-procedure skin.