The feel of the warm sun on your face, the touch on your hand of a loved one, the coziness of a super soft fuzzy sweater – these small joys are just a few ways that your skin links you to the outside world. The largest organ in the human body, the skin is one of our primary sources of connection and our first line of defense against everything that comes with that outside world. With all our skin does and all it faces, there’s no wonder it sometimes shows the signs of hard work, exhaustion, and exposure.
The main factor impacting how your skin looks and feels is your level of skin hydration. In simple, straightforward terms, exactly how much water content is there really in your dermis and epidermis, the immediate surface layers of your skin? As water content decreases skin can become irritated and flakey, red or inflamed, and can lose the ability to hold it’s shape and remain elastic which can lead to the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.
To some degree, this is out of our hands and your genetics and the inevitable passage of time will lead to your skin being less able to maintain moisture. One reason is the loss of hyaluronic acid (or HA) in the dermis and epidermis, which acts to bind water molecules, maintaining your skin’s natural moisture. HA is constantly being produced and lost by our body, but our ability to create new HA decreases over time. For this reason, HA is often found as a key ingredient in a variety of anti-aging products such as pills and lotions.
The good news is there is plenty we can do to protect our skin and keep it hydrated! Eating well, getting plenty of sleep, drinking and smoking less (or even better, not at all!) all make a huge difference and help your skin to maintain it’s moisture over time.
And of course, we can’t forget the sun itself. Many of us are aware of the long-term consequences of sun exposure including an acceleration of your skin’s aging process, damage at the cellular level (even in some cases impacting and causing mutations in your very DNA) and of course skin cancer. Sun damage also has several short-term consequences for skin hydration and skin tone. Getting too much sun can cause the release of oxidative reactive chemicals in your skin cells, leading to inflammation, thus leaving your skin parched and splotchy. Some lotions or cosmetics containing anti-oxidant or anti-inflammatory ingredients can help protect your skin’s tone and hydration from damage and ageing caused by UV rays. To help combat these affects on your skin’s hydration, try using a daily lotion with broad spectrum protection – make sure whatever you use shields against both UVA and UVB rays. For added protection throughout the day look for mineral powders that contain zinc. Touching up your powder throughout the day will then freshen your complexion while helping to protect your skin from harmful rays.
Despite taking all these steps, your skin will still become dry and uneven and fighting this will get harder overtime. Any quick trip to the pharmacy or shopping mall will reveal a sea of products claiming to keep your skin young, smooth, even, and moisturized. Many of these products make claims of dramatic results. Often it is difficult to evaluate these claims yourself and know exactly how much of an impact the products will have in the immediate or long term.
In a recent clinical trial conducted by the scientists at Minerva Research Labs and published in the journal Cosmetics, on such product – a temperature-sensitive facial gel called Gold Collagen Hydrogel Mask – was rigorously tested and evaluated across two studies. During each trial, scientists measured the impact on skin hydration, skin tone and evenness as well as the feelings of the participants themselves. The study looked at each of these measures before using the hydrogel, after one use, and then later after having used the gel four times over the course of a month.
The results of this study were rather impressive. Participants reported that they felt their skin was smoother, softer, more supple, healthier and more radiant than before. Researchers did not just take their word for it either; they backed up these reports with specialized meters designed to precisely measure skin evenness, luminosity and hydration. Across the board, use of this hydrogel mask helped rehydrate skin and lead to improvements in skin tone for younger, firmer looking skin.
When looking at products that might help with skin hydration and tone, it’s worth considering what about this product made it so successful. When considering how important skin hydration is to looking younger and healthier, its no surprise the hydrogel mask had such a huge impact. The ingredients included in the gel are ideal for getting to the root of the problem. The glycerine base has been shown to have humectant properties – water is attracted and retained by this compound. The gel also contains the all-important hyaluronic acid. As we discussed early, this compound is not only one of the most important produced by your body naturally in order to bind and maintain water in the skin, HA also is able to be quickly and easily absorbed into the skin itself. And because of its natural binding properties, this means it is an effective vehicle for the other ingredients in the gel – helping to pull all of those helpful compounds into the skins where they are able to really help.
On top of these critical properties, the gel includes several ingredients that help to combat problems that result from dehydrated and uneven skin. The gel includes extracts from natural sources such as fruits, green tea, pearls, and roots that are shown to reduce inflammation, act as anti-oxidants, and even speed the wound healing process. Green tea extract not only improves skin moisture and smoothness, but actually leads to an increase in skin elasticity after 60 days. In a study of green tea’s wound healing properties, it was found that the new tissue formed actually contained more collagen fibres and had fewer of the cells associated with inflammation. The Scutellaria baicalensis (aka baikal skullcap) root extract is a powerful anti-oxidant and helps protect against UV damage, including the potential damage that the sun can do to your DNA. As these ingredients are pulled into the skin by the HA, they are able to begin to undue some of the damage already done to skin that was lacking in hydration or suffering from the oxidizing damage of the sun.
While many skin masks and products have some or several of these ingredients, this hydrogel mask seems to have found an extremely effective way of combining them in order to increase potency. The whole product certainly appears to be greater than the sum of the parts!
It’s important to remember that there is no magic elixir for improving the look and feel of our skin. Living a healthy lifestyle and taking care of one’s self (skin included!) are all part of a larger strategy for not only looking our best, but also feeling our best. If you feel like giving your skin a nice thank you though, you now know what to look for in a face mask in order to give your skin hydration a nice boost!