Our skin is the biggest organ we have, and undoubtedly the hardest working. Not only does it have to combat daily environmental stresses, such as pollution, UV rays and bacteria, it can also be affected by hormone imbalance and show signs of when we are stressed, run-down or unwell. All of this whilst having to protect itself and our vital organs, I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
But what does this have to do with the natural moisturising factors or NMF, and what do they do for the skin? Let’s find out more!
What is a Natural Moisturising Factor?
Natural moisturising factor is a skin system that is created in the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin) and helps to create enough moisture to keep the stratum corneum, which is the outermost part of the epidermis hydrated. This may sound simple enough, but the NMF plays an important role in the overall health and welfare of the skin and is responsible for protecting it in a few various ways:
- Supports the protective barrier of the skin
The skin needs its protective barrier to fight against daily aggressors, such as free radicals. If the barrier is damaged or not able to function properly cause a lot of concerns that will occur on the skin. Signs of ageing like fine lines and wrinkles will become more prominent and the complexion can appear dull, uneven in texture and areas of pigmentation. With the NMF keeping the barrier hydrated and working your skin is protected from all of the previously mentioned and protect any underlying cells from potential infection, damage and dehydration.
- Helps to maintain the elasticity of the skin
As we age the elasticity production in our skin begins to decrease making the skin more prone to damage and visible ageing. The more elastin the skin has, the younger it will look. Thankfully the natural moisturising factor keeps the production ticking over, leaving you with a plumped, hydrated, youthful-looking face.
- Helps shed dead skin cells
NMF has the ability to activate hydrolytic enzymes, which are able to cut large molecules, such as dead skin cells, into smaller pieces making them easier to remove during the 30-day cycle of dead skin cells shedding away from the epidermis. The desquamation process sometimes does not always work as smoothly as it should with a build-up of dead skin cells creating some skin problems like dry patches, blackheads and spots, to name a few. This is why NMF activating the enzymes to give the process a boost is a highly important role for your skin’s functionality whilst keeping your skin glowing and healthy.
There you have three main benefits NMF delivers to your skin. You may find it interesting to know that the natural moisturising factor of the skin is not just one substance but in fact a complex blend of hydrating factors and powerful humectants. All of which are naturally found in the skin and some even making their way into some of your favourite skincare products, such as hyaluronic acid. Find out more about this well known AHA in our dedicated blog post about the skincare benefits of hyaluronic acid and why it's good for the skin.
What do natural moisturising factors do for the skin?
Apart from the above-mentioned benefits of NMF, you will also find that it has the ability to keep the pH, mainly acid levels of the skin balanced. Our skin is generally more acidic and can easily become imbalanced by a number of skin stressors that can penetrate through the epidermis causing a tidal wave of damage in their path. NMF is able to keep the acidity of the skin to the correct level and therefore keeping it protected.
What happens if the skin doesn’t have a natural moisturising factor?
Now that you have a better understanding of the role of NMF you may know that any skin that is lacking in natural moisturising factor will suffer from persistent dryness and dehydration, especially as we begin to age and the epidermis begins to decrease its production of natural moisturising factor.
Luckily, the skincare industry has focused a lot of time and energy on formulating potent blends of ingredients that are able to mimic the same traits and hydrating benefits of NMF. Hyaluronic acid, urea, and lactate being some of the most popular and regularly used in skincare products.
With all skincare ingredients, there are a couple of side effects and risks you must consider when first introducing them to your daily routine. Though lactate and urea naturally occur in the skin it is very potent and when synthetically added to a formulation the level of dilution needs to be high to prevent any skin reactions, irritation or burns. If you are introducing a product containing these ingredients into your routine it is best to perform a patch test 24 hours before applying it to your face. You can also seek the advice from a dermatologist if you are still unsure.
It is truly remarkable how hard our skin works on a daily basis, especially in the day to day battles it has to endure in this modern world and busy environment. Thankfully for us, there are continuous studies and formulations taking place in various laboratories developing skincare products that are able to protect and repair the skin in the same way as NMF. Having said that we wouldn’t say no to a trip to a tropical island to give our skin some well-earned rest!