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The natural skin hydrators you need to top up on this winter

December 1st 2016 / Judy Johnson Google+ Judy Johnson

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The science of good skincare is to boost what Mother Nature gave you - we find out which ingredients we can top up on and where to get them

Never does skin need more support than in the colder months; those with sensitive skin or conditions such as rosacea and eczema will find the dramatic drop in temperatures and humidity at the very least uncomfortable and at the worst painful, and even those with minimal skin complaints will find they’re crying out for some TLC. But when it comes to supporting your skin and getting your glow back, where do you even begin in finding products that nurture it back to good health?

There’s no doubt the beauty market is growing, and new innovations claiming to contain the latest wonder ingredient hit the shelves every day; but the quest for a better complexion needn’t involve mad science. In fact, take a closer look at some of the best anti-agers and hydrating skincare on the market and you’ll see that some of the ingredients are very familiar - some of the smartest products you can use look to the skin’s own composition in order to give us younger, brighter looking skin.

When it comes to radiant, resilient skin there are few things cleverer than the organ itself

When it comes to radiant, resilient skin there are few things cleverer than the organ itself; it’s composed of all kinds of oil and fat components that hydrate us from the inside out. But with age and environmental factors against us, our natural defences are not enough to keep us that way - which is where good skincare comes in.

Ingredients that mimic the skin’s natural substances are known as Natural Moisturising Factors (NMFs); from amino acids to glycerin, lanolin to squalane, these building blocks help to keep the upper and outer layers of our skin healthy. It makes sense, then, to look at NMFs as a first defence in this chilly weather and to ensure there’s plenty in our skincare regime. Here are just a few of the key skin-supporting ingredients that we could all do with topping up on…

UREA

Rather unappealing by name, but powerful by nature, urea is an essential factor in better-looking skin, as Cosmetic Dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting tells me. "Urea is a significant component of Natural Moisturising Factor, the water-holding component of skin cells in the outermost part of our epidermis. It works together with lactic acid to ensure the even exfoliation of our skin, playing a role in ensuring cell turnover occurs smoothly. The amounts of urea in our skin reduce as we age, which can contribute to dry skin."

Yes, it’s hard to believe that synthetic versions of a urine component could do our skin good, but in small concentrations such as Eucerin’s 5% Urea Replenishing Cream, £9.75 and Eucerin 5% Urea Replenishing Face Cream, £11, this natural wonder can help to bind moisture to the skin. Combined with other super skin ingredients such as lactate and glycerin, the two creams lock hydration in and relieve dry, chapped and scaly areas so as to reduce skin tightness.

HYALURONIC ACID

This hero ingredient needs no introduction; a component of connective tissue throughout our bodies, it’s renowned for its moisture-grabbing properties. "Hyaluronic acid (HA) is part of the deeper layer of the skin's mechanism for maintaining good hydration, which equates to smooth, plump skin - it's a sugar molecule that attracts 1,000 times its weight in water,” explains Dr Bunting. "Again the levels of HA produced by the skin's fibroblasts decline as we age.”

Which is why you need to top up. Sodium hyaluronate, the salt form, is more widely produced than hyaluronic acid and considered most effective as it’s more compatible with the skin and more easily absorbed (hyaluronic acid molecules are often too large to reach the dermis and work only at the surface). Look for it in products you leave on the skin such as Eucerin’s DermatoClean 3 in 1 Micellar Cleansing Fluid, £9, a cleanser, eye makeup remover and toner in one which is free from ingredients that could potentially cause allergies such as fragrance, alcohol and parabens, and full instead of skin-loving glycerin and sodium hyaluronate; it softens and rehydrates while swiping all traces of makeup gently away.

OMEGA OILS

We all know we should take omega supplements and eat plenty of oily fish, but why? "Omega 3 fatty acids contribute to healthy cell membranes in the skin's epidermis,” Dr Bunting explains. "This ensures they hang on to water effectively, leading to moist, supple skin. They also ensure good upkeep of the cell membranes, ensuring the texture and quality of the skin.”

Known as Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), omegas are an anti-ageing must-have; they are a component of the fluid lipid film that coats the skin’s surface, helping to keep the skin’s elasticity and moisture levels high, but as with the other natural skin hydrators, secretion of EFAs decreases as you age. A deficiency will show in your skin either as a form of dermatitis or in slow healing capabilities.

As well as supplementing through your diet with the likes of oily fish (e.g. mackerel, salmon or tuna), flaxseed, and avocados, you can top up with capsules if you feel you’re lacking. But what of topical applications? Boosting the lipids in your skin from the outside in can work wonders; using products rich in omegas such as Eucerin’s AtoControl Bath and Shower Oil, £15 will help to repair the skin’s outer barrier, which in turn will keep your body’s skin hydrated for longer. Atopic skins stand to benefit the most in terms of soothing away dryness and irritation, but with this chill in the air, who doesn’t want softer skin?

This feature was written in partnership with Eucerin

For more skin advice and tips check out Dr Bunting’s YouTube channel here

All prices correct at time of publishing and are at sole discretion of retailers

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