How Our Skin Maintains Moisture

The skin contains many layers. The outermost layer of the epidermis, known as the stratum corneum, is responsible for regulating water loss and retention. Many factors influence the level of hydration in the stratum corneum: fat (intracellular laminar lipids); the natural moisturizing factor, or NMF, which is comprised of the components that make sure the structure of the epidermis is intact; and the structure of the skin layer itself.

Additional components that help maintain proper moisture are hyaluronan, a compound involved in tissue repair and natural humectants, such as glycerol, that draw water from within the skin to the surface. (Many cosmetic products contain glycerol because it helps skin appear well hydrated.) Conversely, the body’s ability to create NMF and intracellular laminar lipids depends on the moisture level in the stratum corneum.

This means that if the skin is dehydrated, it is less able to produce the hydrating compounds that inhibit water loss from the skin. It becomes a vicious cycle. Therefore, keeping the skin hydrated is of utmost importance. As the temperature rises in the summer, for example, be sure to drink more water and eat more fruits and vegetables to protect your skin from dehydration.

In the winter, eating foods with high water content and drinking lots of water is equally important, particularly if you live in regions of the world where most of your day is spent in furnace-heated buildings, which can be dehydrating to the skin. Keeping your skin moisturized is important not only for having a desirable glow but also for proper wound healing, particularly with acute injuries.

The health and beauty of your skin requires that these injuries be repaired properly and quickly, and moisture is a must for that to happen. Without it, skin can become dry, crack, and break. Sunlight can further damage and burn skin cells. There are multiple ways we can eat our way to moist, beautiful skin. Water is the most obvious way to hydrate the skin, but what else can help?

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