Our skin is equipped with great machinery whose function is to retain water and prevent dehydration. The skin, a vital organ in our body, has the crucial function of protecting all the other organs within it. And it does so through a complex network of molecules called the natural moisturising factor (NMF), which ensures a delicately balanced epidermis, despite environmental variations in humidity and temperature.

Below are some really “under the bonnet” facts about your skin and the all -important NMF. As we think you will agree it’s quite complicated stuff but surely goes to prove that with time and age we need to give our skin a little shove by using quality HealthiDose products to redress the balance in the NMF cycle.

When we are born our skin is already equipped to stay hydrated and protected from UV rays. Time and environmental aggressions wear down the skin’s mantle, with the result that we lose the water-retaining capacity in some of the beneficial substances in the skin, which should contain some 10% to 15% water. If the water level falls to under 10%, dry skin problems develop: the skin becomes brittle, rough and dull and is more prone to eczema and infections. How can we ensure that the skin retains a minimum of water?

Water comes from within

It all mostly happens in the horny outer layer of the skin, whose complex structure performs a dual “barrier function”: it retains water inside and prevents the entry of harmful elements. This outer layer (called the stratum corneum) consists of about 20 layers of cells called corneocytes which form a compact, durable and practically impermeable fabric.

These cells are actually dead keratinocytes, which, developing in a deeper layer of the skin, reproduce and migrate – in a journey that lasts about a month – to the surface, where they come loose and start shedding. Each of us loses around 50 million corneocytes a day, or about 4 kilograms a year!

Natural moisturising factor (NMF)

The keratinocytes produce a protein called filaggrin, which degrades on the way to the surface. This by-product forms part of the NMF that, in turn, becomes part of the skeleton of the dead corneocytes. Bound together by fatty acids, the corneocytes form a “bricks-and-mortar” style cell wall that makes it easier for the natural moisturising factors to work.

In addition to various types of amino acids and mineral salts, lipids (fats) in emulsion, lactic acid, urea and pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (PCA) also form part of this natural skin hydration machinery.

Another essential substance is urocanic acid, which protects against UV radiation by promoting the transport of melanin – produced by melanocytes in the base of the epidermis – to the skin’s surface.

All these water-soluble molecules reinforce the physical barrier of the epidermis. Certain amino acids, for example, bind with keratin fibres to ensure the elasticity of the stratum corneum.

When natural moisturising fails

Some people have a mutation in the filaggrin protein gene that alters the skin’s barrier function and prevents the group of natural moisturising molecules from launching. Since their skin cannot be renewed, people with this mutation are more prone to eczema and other skin inflammation problems.

Too much water …

Although it may seem contradictory, continuously wetting the skin with water can negatively affect the functioning of the NMF substances.

A study with volunteers showed that over wetting the skin, as happens in frequent bathing, swimming and other water sports, loosens the bonds between coenocytes, allowing water that should be retained in the epidermis to evaporate.

Source: Practical Dermatology