Top Up Your Moisture Tank

It is not news that hydration is the basis of healthy, youthful skin. Moisturizing is a basic component of everyday skin care. It is one of the 2 basic processes (the other being cleansing) which maintains overall skin health and function. The act of moisturizing protects our skin’s epidermal barrier, which can get disrupted by environmental factors such as low humidity and strong winds or underlying skin problems such as eczema. The result – dryness, scaling, roughness, fine fissuring, and dull, tired skin.

Fast-forward a few decades, effective skin hydration is now seen as a key to dermal time-travel for those looking to turn back the hands of the clock. A recent study found age-related dehydration a common problem in women all around the world. Age-related dehydation can affect anyone, regardless of your skin type (yes, even those with oily skin!), and can strike relatively early for some, even in your 20s.

As we age, the concentration of moisture-binding molecules within the skin is reduced progressively, allowing increased loss of life-bestowing aqua to the environment. To compensate for the loss of essential moisture, water is drawn up from the deeper layers to the surface, creating an imbalance in the water equilibrium within our skin. This leads to dull, rough and listless-looking skin with more visible fine lines which will make you appear older than your chronological age.  To add, Asian women are generally more susceptible to moisture loss as our skin barrier is more easily disrupted by factors like temperature fluctuations.

Keeping skin well-hydrated will not only light your face up instantly with a fresh-from-shower glow or plump up the skin for extra spring and smoothness now, it can also affect how it looks in the future. Maintaining good skin barrier function with proper hydration will fend us from daily environmental insults by reducing the penetration of skin-ageing molecules that can set off free radical damage to our cells and collagen. And that translates into a healthy, beautiful complexion for many more years to come.

When it comes to hydration, not all ingredients are created equal. Keep watch for these moisturising stars to ‘plump’ youth and vitality back into your skin: 

The role of humectants is to help hydrate the skin by attracting and binding water into the skin—they are like the liaison between your skin and moisture in the air. Everyone should look for powerful humectants that attract and hold water in the skin such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid. Most of these hydrators are lightweight and agree with all skin types. Lactic acid and urea which are components of the skin’s natural moisturising factor (NMF) also act as moisture magnets, while gently exfoliating away rough, flaky surface dead cells. Humectants are not heavy oils, therefore they are ideal for all skin types—including oily and acne prone skin. 

The role of emollients is to help the skin hold water and to prevent transepidermal water loss. Emollients smooth and strengthen skin by filling the spaces between skin flakes with droplets of oil. Examples are Mineral Oil, Lanolin and Aloe Vera. Other commonly used emollients to fortify the skin barrier include squalene and fatty acids derived from various plant oils (e.g. coconut oil, grapeseed oil).

Occlusives are responsible for sealing moisture into the skin—almost like a barrier on the skin. They tend to be the heaviest type of moisturizer and are ideal for very dry skin types. Rose hip, Beeswax and Mineral Oil are examples of occlusives. 

Ceramides are natural fats that are depleted in the disrupted barrier of dry, flaky, itchy skin, so these lipid molecules that form part of the natural cement between skin cells are great for more dehydrated, dry or mature skins that need some extra help . 

In our tropical humid climes, it’s hard enough to keep blackheads and pimples off and keep the makeup on our faces on a good day. With the recent soaring summer temperatures, most face creams would be suffocating our pores and laughing at the streaky mascara. The secret to keeping skin hydrated and healthy through the heat and preventing a disastrous makeup meltdown is a refreshing crop of oil-free lotions/ serums/ moisturisers that feel light as air and sink in quick to deliver the life-giving aqua, rather than burdening the skin with a goopy mask. My skin is combination (oily tzone, dry cheeks) by default but monthly hormonal changes can give me dry and sensitive skin.

Here are some of my tried- and tested faves for all skin types.

First things first, conventional wisdom tells us that we should cleanse, tone and moisturize at the very least. However, do you know that layering stuff works better at keeping skin hydrated? If you can, incorporate a pre lotion or serum before topping off with your moisturizer to seal in the hydration benefits. Of course, look for products which cater to your individual skin type. When my skin on the oily side, I use a hydrating serum, followed by a lightweight gel moisturizer. Remember, you should never scrimp on hydrating products even though you have oily skin. The trick is to find something that is catered to your skin. On the other hand, when my skin is drier, usually after I get my water binders in, I slap on the creamier stuff. These creamier thicker creams will form a barrier over the skin, lock in the hydration from the serum earlier and also help minimize moisture loss for hours.

Estee Lauder Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion

Now, this product made a debut sometime last year. This is not a toner. Estee Lauder Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion is actually a high-performance "essence-in-lotion" that can go deeper to repair and strength skin, to repair micro damages before it turns into future skin problems. It helps to preempt skin vulnerability through a 3-pronged Micro Repair power to repair, rejuvenate and strengthen unlike a toner that simply balances pH and wipes away any other debris after cleansing. Technically, it helps to reset your skin and repair cellular damage all thanks to its composition of peptides and micro-nutrients. What I like about this product is that it is extremely lightweight and helps to prep my skin for optimal absorption of my skincare products after. 

Price: $140

Kiehl's Hydro-Plumping Re-Texturizing Serum Concentrate

Kiehl's Hydro-Plumping Re-Texturizing Serum Concentrate is their latest product launched last year, and already this has been getting a few raves online. Kiehl's bills this as a serum which "utilizes next generation liquid-to-serum technology to intensively hydrate skin's deepest surface layers", and "correct the signs of age-related dehydration". So naturally, with plump, moist-looking skin a popular thing here in Asia (and elsewhere in the world), this product is definitely bound to catch the attention of any. One of the things that the Hydro-Plumping Re-Texturizing Serum Concentrate boasts is 15% glycerin, along with Shiso Leaf Extract. Glycerin isn't really a moisturizer itself. It's a water binder aka humectant. The gel is lightweight and turns into little water droplets when you start rubbing it into your skin.

The main ingredients doing the work in this case are the humectant ingredients (Glycerin in this case), and the emollient ingredients (Dimethicone, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, and Propanediol, which also has humectant properties). So the product is mainly a good moisturizer that will both bring water to your skin (thanks to the humectants) as well as form an occlusive layer on your skin to prevent further TEWL (transepidermal water loss, or simply, water loss from your skin) and further dehydration of the skin (thanks to the emollients). So yes, it's a light moisturizer and will hydrate your skin without feeling oily, greasy or tacky, but beyond that, if you are looking for optimal hydration, you cannot rely on this entirely. Remember, layering helps to keep your skin hydrated for a longer period of time. I use this in the mornings after my pre lotion step because it is lightweight enough. I don't really like to layer the heavyweights before applying makeup. 

Price: $80

Chanel Hydra Beauty Micro Serum 

For any skincare to be effective, it has to deliver the benefits literally – from being able to permeate the skin to making sure its benefits are distributed to wherever it’s supposed to go, and if need be, time-released. Chanel's Hydra Beauty Micro Serum is the first of its kind that has stabilised micro-droplets of active ingredients without any encapsulation. This means, the carrier doesn’t need a membrane anymore. This is important for several reasons. Firstly, when you don’t have a membrane, as soon as you apply the product, the active ingredients are immediately available to your epidermis, which improves its efficacy and efficiency. Secondly, Without a membrane, you can get textures that are as fresh and light as a wave. And lastly, and perhaps the most important for sensitive skins, no membrane equals less irritation.

This reformulated hydrating essence has micro-droplets of camellia oil extract to plump up dry/dehydrated skin. The oil micro-droplets are suspended in a gel-water phase, which has blue ginger and camellia extract to intensely hydrate skin reportedly for up to 24 hours, as well as fight free radicals. It also has an evolving texture that is very interesting. When it first touches the skin, the watery-gel feels very fresh and light. However, as it gets absorbed, it leaves a velvety feel similar to that of a cream. Whether you have dry or oily skin, this hydrating serum will give you a boost of intense moisture and leave your complexion feeling softer and smoother. By the way, it’s alcohol-free as well, so even sensitive skin gets to benefit from the unprecedented levels of hydration bestowed upon  by the Micro Sérum. The texture of the Micro Serum is slightly thicker than Kiehl's, so I prefer to use this at night. 

Price: $125

Sloane Inc Aqualicious S8.8

One big complaint many have is that moisturzers out there are too oily for their skin, especially in sunny Singapore, clogging their pores, leaving them shiny by mid day. Sloane Inc’s latest moisturizer was created with this in mind – to allow people with oily and combination skins reap the best benefits from moisturizing their skin.Sloane Inc Aqualicious S8.8 uses pure, encapsulated water to bring hydration where it is supposed to be: into the cells, without using any ingredients which may cause oiliness or shine. Specially formulated to replenish intra-cellular water, it is instantly absorbed, restoring balance to the skin surface and regulating dry and oily areas in the skin. The result? Improved texture, plumber skin, less fine lines – generally, happier looking skin.

Price: $128.40, 30G

Sloane Inc Luminizing II S8.6

For drier or sensitive skin in need of extra TLC, layer on Sloane Inc. Luminizing II to repair your skin barrier with ceramides and other natural skin lipids for improved moisture retention, better skin healing, and strengthened defense against ageing environmental forces. If you are going to a cold country with dry, harsher temperatures, take this along with you. This helped to keep my skin thoroughly hydrated during my last snowboarding trip. 

Price: $128.40, 30G

Dermalogica PowerBright Trx Pure Night Cream

Another one of my favorites. Dermalogica's PowerBright Trx Pure Night cream contains copious amount of antioxidants, cell-communicating niacinamide, and skin-conditioning emollients. The active blend of skin brightening & collagen stimulating agents like (Vitamin C, Oligopeptide etc) helps to restore skin luminosity and fight signs of aging. The inclusion of Cranberry and Raspberry Seed oils in the product help restore critical barrier lipids, optimizing 
skin hydration and reducing the appearance of fine dehydration lines. Formulated without artificial fragrances, colors or parabens.
I usually use this at night. Just because you’re resting doesn’t mean your skin is off the clock. In fact, night time is the right time to dial up your brightness and pare years off the face since your skin is at its restorative best.

Price: $125 for 50ML

Laniege Water Sleeping Pack Ex

LANEIGE'S cult favorite overnight hydration mask, the Water Sleeping Pack, is one of the brand's bestsellers. 

If you've never tried it before, it's a fresh gel moisturizer that you apply over regular skincare right before bed, it's designed to deliver continual non-greasy hydration to help perk up dull, tired skin. This can be used as an extra boost over your existing products every other night.

The concept of using sleeping masks is based around the skin's repair and detoxification cycle. At night is when skin regenerates itself and skincare has the biggest effect. However, it's also the time where your pores are open and you lose the most water. So sleeping masks are designed to help boost that repair cycle while minimizing moisture loss.

The Water Sleeping Pack formula has been updated this year, so it is now called the Water Sleeping Mask and works in three ways:

    1. Detoxify and repair with Hunza apricot extract and Evening Primrose Root. Both ingredients are antioxidants and also help the skin to discharge contaminants that accumulate during the day. According to a clinical study done by LANEIGE, the product supposedly reduces pore size and boosts radiance after a week's use. 
    2. Hydrate without being heavy or occlusive, with a beta-glucan mineral complex. Apparently, tests showed that after a week of use, this had a more noticeable effect on those who had had a bad night's sleep. Not that you should be using a sleeping mask to replace sleep, but if you don't have a choice, then slap this on you won't look quite as bad as you usually do without rest.
    3. Aromatherapy with natural orange flower, rose, ylang ylang, and sandalwood oils to prolong deep sleep by 36% (according to LANEIGE'S clinical data). Improving quality of sleep in turn strengthens your skin's natural regenerative abilities. However, ylang ylang is known to cause skin irritation so if you have sensitive skin, you should perhaps opt out of this one. 

If you have dry skin, this might not be sufficient to make a huge difference in terms of hydration levels. However, if you have oily or normal skin, this serves as a quick boost of moisture. This product's texture is very similar to Sloane Inc's Aqualicious. I think the biggest draw for me would be the  antioxidant properties of some of the ingredients, and how it can complement your natural cellular repair processes because night time is the right time to dial up your brightness and pare years off the face since your skin is at its restorative best.


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The Skin Radar is an online avenue which documents my tumbling thoughts, ideas and musings from my daily life, mainly based on skincare and beauty. It is designed to take the clutter out of beauty journalism to provide trustworthy and objective insights, new finds and sneak peaks- all in a beautiful and clean platform.

I test all products & treatments with age and skin colour in mind, break down the latest health fads, and source for expert opinions from international skincare leaders. All in all, my goal is to make sure that I am on top of every beauty innovation and skincare trend the world has to offer.