simple skincare science decoded skin chemistry

Simple Skincare Science Decoded

Let’s delve into the function & chemistry of skin to better understand skincare needs.

Let me ask you this. Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of skincare products available, each promising miraculous result? With shelves lined with serums, creams, and masks, navigating the world of skincare can feel like a daunting task. Fear not, we are going to start using this blog to answer that. To start, let’s focus on understanding the simple science behind skincare to demystify skin chemistry and empower you to make informed choices about your skincare routine.

Skincare is not merely a cosmetic regimen; it is a vital aspect of maintaining your body's largest organ: your skin. In this blog, we'll delve into the intricate functions, structures, and chemistry of the skin, laying the foundation for understanding what makes a good moisturizer effective.

Are you ready to unlock the secrets of skincare science? Let's dive in!


Function of the Skin:

The skin serves multiple crucial functions, primarily acting as a protective barrier against external factors. It regulates body temperature, prevents dehydration by controlling moisture loss, and houses sensory receptors for touch, temperature, and pain. Additionally, the skin plays a role in immune defense and synthesizes vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Simply put, the skin is not only a physical barrier, it is also a chemical barrier as well as an immune barrier and its overall health and proper function is dictated by a myriad of elements from environment, to diet, to hormonal imbalance and more.


Structure of the Skin:

The skin consists of three primary layers: the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis (subcutaneous tissue).


Epidermis: The outermost layer of the skin, primarily composed of keratinocytes, which produce keratin—a fibrous protein providing structural integrity. Melanocytes within the epidermis produce melanin, responsible for skin pigmentation and UV protection. The epidermis also contains Langerhans cells, contributing to the skin's immune response. At the top of the epidermis is the Stratum Corneum, the outermost layer.

Dermis: Situated beneath the epidermis, the dermis is rich in collagen and elastin fibers, providing strength, elasticity, and support. Fibroblasts within the dermis produce collagen and elastin, crucial for maintaining skin integrity. Blood vessels, nerve endings, hair follicles, and sweat glands are also housed within the dermis.

Hypodermis (Subcutaneous Tissue): Composed mainly of adipose (fat) tissue, the hypodermis acts as insulation, cushioning the body, and storing energy. It connects the skin to underlying tissues and organs. Most cosmetics act on the epidermis at the top layers.

Let’s zoom in on skin cells: the cells are composed of moisturizing factors that bring moisture surrounded by a protein wall that floats in a somewhat oily cementing ocean. Together, this complex forms the skin. Let's delve into more details and the chemistry behind that complex we call skin.


Understanding Skin Chemistry:

The skin's chemistry involves multiple interactions between various molecules and compounds, contributing to its structure, function, and maintenance.

Skin Cell Chemical Components Simplified

Lipids: Lipids, including ceramides, triglycerides, fatty acids, and more, form the skin's barrier, preventing water loss and protecting against external irritants. These tend to have long carbon chains.

Proteins: Collagen, elastin, and keratin are essential proteins in the skin, providing structural support, elasticity, and strength. Proteins are simply long sequences of amino-acids which are small molecules composed of an amine group and an acid group and constitute the building blocks of life.

Natural Moisturizing Factors (NMFs): Skin's Hydration Heroes, such as amino acids, sodium PCA, and more, maintain hydration by attracting and retaining water in the skin.

Furthermore, there are other components as the cell is alive and has multiple on-going chemical reactions. You can find other actives molecules and nerves for instance:

Antioxidants: Antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E neutralize free radicals, protecting the skin from oxidative damage and premature aging.
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Sensory Nerves: The skin houses sensory receptors that enable us to perceive touch, temperature, and pain, allowing us to interact with our environment and respond to stimuli. Nerve endings embedded within the skin transmit sensory signals to the brain, allowing us to experience tactile sensations and respond to external stimuli. Research is showing that hypersensitive nerves are likely the root cause of your sensitivities, more about this on another blog.

We have some simple foundations to better understand how moisturizers are formulated to supplement the skin barrier and help prevent water loss and maintain a healthy function.


Deciphering Moisturizers: Essential components needed

Contrary to popular belief, it is not about understanding your skin type, it is also about understanding your products and above all your environment and internal factors like hormonal imbalance, that will help you tailor a simple skincare routine that works for you. The focus today is chemistry so here is a quick overview of the essentials your moisturizer should contain.

So, the role of a moisturizer is mainly maintaining optimal hydration, restoring the skin barrier, and preventing moisture ideally by imitating skin chemistry, also called biomimetic.

Humectants to complement your NMF: Humectants, such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid, draw moisture into the skin, replenishing hydration and promoting a soft, plump complexion. These water-loving ingredients attract water molecules from the environment and deeper layers of the skin.

The skin-softening agents to complement your lipid barrier: Emollients, like oils, penetrate the skin's surface, filling in cracks and crevices to make it feel smooth and supple. These lipid-based substances prevent water loss and improve skin texture.

Reducing trans-epidermal water loss with occlusives and forming a protective barrier: Occlusives create a barrier on the skin's surface, sealing in moisture and preventing dehydration. These heavyweight champions are highly effective at retaining moisture.

On top of humectants, emollients, and occlusives, additional actives such as antioxidants and functional molecules such as vitamins are often added to support very specific concerns such as aging, hyperpigmentation, and more, delivering concentrated benefits for visible results.


Additional Actives and Functional Molecules

In addition to humectants, emollients, and occlusives, moisturizers often contain antioxidants and functional molecules like vitamins to address specific skin concerns such as aging and hyperpigmentation, delivering targeted benefits for visible results.

Sun Protection: Your Skin's Best Defense
Incorporating broad-spectrum sunscreens into your daily skincare routine shields the skin from both UVA and UVB rays, preventing premature aging and reducing the risk of skin cancer. Prioritizing sun protection is essential for maintaining healthy, youthful-looking skin.


Healthy Habits for Radiant Skin

Are skincare products really needed? Well at the end of the day, nothing beats cultivating healthy lifestyle habits—including hydration, a balanced diet, stress management, and regular exercise. Skincare really is a complement to promote overall skin health and vitality.

To summarize on simple skincare science:

You are now armed with a deeper understanding of simple skincare science. You can navigate the vast array of products and ingredients with better confidence. By crafting a personalized skincare routine tailored to your skin's needs, you can achieve radiant, glowing skin effortlessly. Understanding the components and chemistry of the skin lays the groundwork for selecting effective skincare products.

Frequently Asked Questions About Simple Skincare Science

Question 1 - What is skin structure for dummies?

The skin has three layers and each serves a specific purpose.
1 – The Epidermis (outer layer) - Protects against outside harm.
2 – The Dermis (middle layer) - Provides strength and elasticity.
3 – The Hypodermis (inner layer) - Stores fat and connects to tissues.
Each layer has its own job, like protecting, feeling, and regulating temperature. Together, they form our skin, our body's armor!

Question 2 - What are the 3 pillars of skin care?

The 3 pillars of skincare supported by scientific evidence are:
1 - Cleansing: Effective cleansing removes dirt, oil, pollutants, and dead skin cells from the skin's surface, promoting a healthy skin microbiome and enhancing the absorption of skincare products.
2 - Moisturizing: Moisturizers containing humectants, emollients, and occlusives maintain skin hydration, improve barrier function, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
3 - Sun Protection: Sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection and a high SPF shields the skin from harmful UV radiation, preventing premature aging and reducing the risk of skin cancer.

Learn More

Our goal is to simplify your routine and get results effortlessly while elevating your beauty ritual with lush textures and delightful scents.

Lancolia products are science backed and multi-benefit with ingredients that have been proven safe and effective for decades. Explore Lancolia’s best-sellers today!


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Rawlings, A. V., & Harding, C. R. (2004). Moisturization and skin barrier function. Dermatologic therapy, 17(S1), 43-48.
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