Hello my delightful Denver aesthetic followers! I recently took a course and learned all about your natural moisture factor (NMF) and how important it is to use produces that support and nourish it. With a healthy NMF, your skin will be soft, supple and appear youthful. I found this information absolutely fascinating and wanted to share it with you.
Just a note this post uses medical terms relating to the structure of the skin. For a reference on skin anatomy click here. With that said, lets nerd out about NMF!
So, What is your natural moisture factor?
Your natural moisture factor is essentially the way your body traps and keeps moisture. It naturally keeps your epidermis hydrated, balanced, plump, pliable and able to shed dead skin cells effectively.
It is produced by keratinocytes (aka skin cells). As the keratinocytes move toward the outer layer of the epidermis, they lose volume and flatten out to be shed. The volume they lose is part of your NMF.
It is composed of amino acids, fatty acids in the form of squalane (squalane is similar to a beta-carotene/vitamin A); inorganic salts including sodium lactate which is a super moisturizer; minerals including calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium; sugars that bind with proteins to hold water within the tissue; and urea, which increases water binding. All of these components increase volume and moisture in your skin.
Here is a rough estimate of the breakdown:
1. Free amino acids (40%)- some of which protect you from UV light.
2. Pyrrolidinecarboxylic acid (PCA) (10%) - in sodium and potassium form which helps with cell metabolism and moisture.
3. Urea (7%) - modifies the chemical structure of proteins, increasing the water binding capacity
4. Lactates (12%)- which is a super moisturizer
5. Mineral ingredients (18%) - calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium ions
6. Sugars (3.5%) - fructose, glucose. They bind with proteins to hold water within the skin tissue.
7. fatty acids (10%) mostly in the form of squalane. Squalane is similar to vitamin A/ beta-carotene. It lubricates and moisturizes, and keeps water trapped in the skin.
What does your natural moisture factor do?
Your NMF components are highly efficient at retaining and preserving skin moisture. They attract and bind water from the atmosphere, drawing it into your skin cells. Your skin cells can then read the environment to produce more or less NMF based on humidity.
With this moisture available your skin will be balanced, elastic, supple and healthy. It can also help absorb damaging UV light. Though this doesn't mean you can skip sunscreen, you still need to wear sunscreen daily!!
How do you damage your natural moisture factor?
Smothering your skin with cheap standard lotions and moisturizers that are made with waxes and oils. This will trap the NMF in your skin and confuse your body to produce less. Remember, your skin cells produce more or less NMF based on humidity. If you are slathering thick standard products you are preventing your skin from reading the natural environment. Over time, this will your skin will actually become dry and dependent on these products.
You can also break down your NMF by exposing your skin to too much UV light or bathing too much, too long and too hot.
How to improve natural moisture factor?
Start by supporting your skin internally. Drink plenty of hydrating fluids. Eat healthy fats such as avocado, nuts, and fish. Personally I take a high quality fish oil daily.
Vitamin A is also an important nutrient to maintain moisture. 20,000 IU daily is great.
Zinc helps with collagen production but also helps with skin moisture.
Protein provides the source of amino acids that make up you NMF.
To topically support your NMF, buy products with a high percent of active ingredients. That do not contain waxes and oils. Topical squalane is amazing however it often comes from shark liver. There are other products that get the squalane from plant sources such as olives but if you are worried about harming animals make sure you are getting a vegetarian source. Keep in mind that Squalane can be heavy for some. Vitamin A and fatty form of Vitamin C can be really beneficial. Hyaluronic acid can hold up to 100 times its weight in water and can be extremely effective for hydrating the skin. Aloe or other alges is another great hydrator because of the sugar-protein molecules which bind and hold water.
The big takeaway is that the quality of your products matter!!! Your skin is your largest organ and should be taken care of. If you are using poor products, they can actually confuse your skin and create more problems in the long run. Come in and talk with a nurse esthetician to determine what skin care regimen is best for your skin.