Can you 'Hydrate' your skin without water?

The skin provides an effective barrier between our bodies and the environment, preventing the invasion of pathogens, the occurrence of both chemical and physical invasion, as well as unregulated loss of water. The skin contains approximately 30% water, which contributes to plumpness, elasticity, and tone. The overlapping cellular structure of the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the skin) and lipid content of the skin serves as “waterproofing” for the body. Loss of water through sweat is carried out by sweat glands, which are evenly distributed over most of the body surface.

Skin dryness is associated with:

  • Exposure to dry air
  • Prolonged contact with hot water (strips oils from the skin)
  • Scrubbing with soap (strips oils from the skin)
  • Medical conditions 
  • Medications

how can you 'hydrate' your skin? 

Adequate skin hydration, is not sufficient to prevent wrinkles or other signs of ageing, which are related to genetics, sun and environmental damage. Serious levels of dehydration can be reflected in reduced skin turgor (the term used to describe the loss elasticity of skin when dehydrated) In this circumstance drinking extra water, can improve skin thickness and density. However, there's a lack of research showing that drinking extra water (other than when you are suffering from dehydration) has any impact on skin hydration or appearance.

Symptoms of an impaired skin barrier 

  • Flaking - A typical sign of dehydrated skin
  • Tightness - Is often associated with a dry skin
  • Redness - Due to the barrier being unable to protect against irritants causing Inflammation
  • Itchiness - The damaged barrier can affect nerve endings which leads to itching, when the skin is scratched to relieve the itching, the barrier function is injured causing inflammation and redness.


The use of topical emollients will improve skin barrier function prevent transepidermal water loss, and improve the look and feel of dry skin. Emollients are agents that serve two functions - they prevent dryness and protect the skin acting as a barrier and healing promotor. They work by moisturizing the skin and protecting it from drying, both soothing and softening the skin. Emollients are fats and oils, botanical emollients actually nourish the skin are recognized and metabolized by the skin’s own enzymes and absorbed into it. Linoleic acid is one of the most significant lipids for the maintenance of barrier function. These ingredients are provided by nature, thus readily biodegradable.

Bioactive emollients with proven clinical efficacy
  • Jojoba Oil - Is a stable, liquid wax ester produced from a shrub native to southern Arizona, southern California, and northwestern Mexico. The oil makes up approximately 50% of the Jojoba seed by weight. Jojoba oil enhances barrier repair properties and skin’s healing ability
  • Shea Butter - Obtained from the kernels of the shea tree. Unrefined butter is better since they have the highest concentration of unsaponifiables (6-17%) Its high unsaponifiable lipid content makes it a valuable source of bioactive triterpene esters (may give protection against effects of environmental aggression, skin ageing and resulting loss of skin elasticity and firmness)
  • Sunflower Seed Oil - Has been shown to strengthen skin barrier function by stimulating epidermal lipid synthesis and reduce skin dryness, roughness and desquamation (skin peeling)
  • Avocado Oil - Has been shown to help repair skin barrier function
  • Sea Buckthorn (Berry) oil - Is a rich source of vitamin C (and or Vitamin C like actions) that contains healing properties
  • Evening Primrose Oil - Has significant anti-inflammatory and emollient properties 
  • Rosehip Seed Oil - Improves texture and quality of the skin, essential fatty acids (emollients - which improve the permeability and flexibility of the skin) and vitamins help to keep damaged skin hydrated so that a wound can heal quickly.

Botanical Oils high in Linoleic acid

Known as Vitamin F but is better classified as a fat – a fat that is absolutely essential to our biological process, but which our bodies do not synthesize. Linoleic Acid (omega-6 fatty acid) has the ability to heal, hydrate and plump the skin, with anti-inflammatory, moisturizing and healing support. It also helps fight acne, softens the skin, and keeps it supple and youthful. Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) can also help facilitate the penetration of other active ingredients like antioxidants, because of their ability to permeate the skin barrier.

Botanical oils rich in Linoleic Acid include: 

  • Safflower Oil   
  • Prickly Pear Seed Oil 
  • Borage Seed Oil
  • Sunflower Seed Oil
  • Hemp Seed Oil
  • Evening Primrose Oil
  • Rosehip Seed Oil

OCCLUSIVES - Create a thin film over the skin, helping to create a barrier against water loss, preventing the skin from losing moisture. They don’t increase the moisture levels of the skin but can help prevent water reserves from being drained by external stressors. 

  • Allatoin: This is a substance extracted from comfrey root that is very soothing and calming helping to soften and protect the skin.
  • Beeswax: Provides a physical barrier, sealing moisture into the tissues whilst preventing water loss.
  • Avocado Oil: Prevents the evaporation of the water from the skins surface, contains Lecithins which help to prevent moisture loss
  • Cocoa Butter: The rich natural fat derived from the cacao beans contained inside the pods of the Cocoa/Cacao Tree. High in fatty acids which penetrates the skin for deep hydration
  • Mango Butter: A rich natural fat derived from the seeds contained inside the pits of the Mango fruit, offers anti-inflammatory properties that can treat inflamed, dry, itchy skin caused by eczema or psoriasis
  • Shea Butter:  Fatty substance obtained from the nuts of the shea tree from West Africa, is extremely moisturizing and very hydrating, when applied to the skin, it provides immediate softness and smoothness. 
  • Jojoba Oil: Technically although resembling an oil it is in fact a wax. It provides a light film on the skin that maintains and attracts moisture.
  • Squalene: Oil high in Squalene - Olive Oil // Wheat Germ oil // Rice Bran Oil // Argan Oil // Camellia Oil // Macadamia Oil

HUMECTANTS - Are water rich, they mimic the skin’s sweat, and work by hydrating the skin. They have been specifically designed to prevent water loss, and protect the stratum corneum, the outer layer of skin from becoming dry and parched. Some humectants, are capable of holding up to 1000 times their own weight in water, acting as moisturisers for the skin:

  • Aloe: Penetrates skin deeply and quickly, hydrating at the surface and at the lower levels. Due to its gentle properties, aloe is great for hydrating dry skin that is also sensitive.
  • Honey: With the ability to hold onto water, hydrating without creating an oily feel. It’s also a natural source of alpha hydroxy acids, which encourage exfoliation. This makes it even easier for skin to absorb the moisturizing elements.
  • Hyaluronic acid: A natural molecule present throughout the body that helps hydrate and cushion joints, eyeballs, and skin. It has a natural ability to hold onto water, and seems able to adjust according to humidity levels, helping your skin cope with even dry climates. Antioxidant properties and an impressive ability to hold up to 1000 times its weight in water makes this a popular addition to many skincare products.
  • Glycerin [Vegetable]: It occurs naturally in every living cell so it's easily absorbed by the skin. It holds water really well and it works by finding an equilibrium between the water content in the air and in the skin. Along with the benefits of deep hydration, the texture of glycerin makes it perfect for skin care because it glides on smoothly and evenly. It is derived from plant-based oils, and is a wonderful ingredient for keeping the skin soft, as it continues to work even after it has been rinsed off. Glycerol is colorless, odorless and very gentle on the skin, making it safe for sensitive skin.
  • Lecithin [from soya beans] Hydrophilic ingredient - It attracts water to the skin, working to prevent moisture loss from deep within the skin tissues.
  • Seaweed + Algae: Creating a moist film over the surface of the skin, helping to retain water in the skins upper layers.

Steps you can take to maintain hydrated skin:

  • Apply a topical face oil // serum // moisturiser to protect from transepidermal water loss
  • Avoid exposure to dry air 
  • Avoid prolonged contact with hot or chlorinated water
  • Use a gentle Cleansing Oil instead of soap
  • Avoid using skin care products that contain alcohol
  • Moisturize immediately after a bath, shower or washing your hands and regularly throughout the day
  • Use a humidifier
  • Wear a scarf and gloves when going out in cold weather.
Until next time...







be human | be kind | be you





  • Barrier function of the skin: "la raison d'être" of the epidermis. Madison KC J Invest Dermatol. 2003 Aug; 121(2):231-41.
  • Drink at least eight glasses of water a day. Really? Is there scientific evidence for 8 x 8? Valtin H Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2002 Nov; 283(5):R993-1004.
  • Just add water. Negoianu D, Goldfarb S J Am Soc Nephrol. 2008 Jun; 19(6):1041-3.Hydration disrupts human stratum corneum ultrastructure. Warner RR, Stone KJ, Boissy YL.
  • Role of topical emollients and moisturizers in the treatment of dry skin barrier disorders. Lodén M Am J Clin Dermatol. 2003; 4(11):771-88. J Invest Dermatol. 2003 Feb; 120(2):275-84.
  • Natural based emollients:

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