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January 13, 2020

The best hydrating serum for dry skin - Experts opinion

Your skin feels tight, is flaking or cracking? Feels rough to the touch? Chances are high it’s dehydrated and needs a serious moisture infusion.

A well-balanced water content in your skin, which makes it supple and energized and fuel skin metabolism, is most influenced by changes in environmental conditions or by chemical insult. The areas of the body most sensitive to dryness are also those most exposed to external stressors, particularly to the sun.

What are the most detrimental external stressors leading to dehydrated skin?

  • harsh surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate, SLS (e.g. in cleansers)
  • low relative humidity (< 10 %, g. air-conditioned environments)
  • abrupt changes between low relative humidity and high relative humidity
  • excess UV exposure
  • ill-fitting skincare regimen
  • use of synthetic oils
  • psychological and emotional stress


Biology of the skin barrier: Brick-And-Mortar Model

The skin is absolutely fascinating! As it is constantly subject to transepidermal water loss (TEWL), nature has developed its own mechanism to prevent water evaporation.

The outermost layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, has a very specific design that is likened to a brick-and-mortar structure. This layer is made of densely packed, robust, dead skin cells (corneocytes), representing the bricks. Those bricks are embedded in a lipid matrix consisting of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids – the mortar. This brick-and-mortar structure proves to be quite the impermeable barrier protecting the inside from water loss and preventing the infiltration of pollutants, germs, and toxins from the outside.


Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF)

In recent years, brands have increasingly integrated NMF into their formulas, lauding their revitalizing effect for dry and dehydrated skin.

But what ARE NMF?

First of all, it’s natural moisturizing factors. Several factors, not just one.

You’ll find natural moisturizing factors mainly within the corneocytes.

These natural humectants consist mostly of amino acids and sodium PCA (sodium pyrrolidone carboxylic acid), lactic acid, and other small, soluble molecules. Together they constitute about 20-30 % of the dry weight of the stratum corneum – just to give you a number to demonstrate their importance.

Components Percent (%)
Amino acids 40
Sodium pyrrolidone carboxylic acid 12
Lactate 12
Urea 7
Ions (e.g., Cl−, Na+, K+, Ca2+, Mg2+, PO43−) 18.5
Sugars 8.5
Ammonia, uric acid, glucosamine, creatine 1.5
Citrate and formate 0.5


Other essential factors not listed above and also found in the stratum corneum are glycerin and hyaluronic acid.

These natural humectants intensely attract and retain water in the stratum corneum to allow for volume, plasticity, and suppleness.


To sum it up:

Densely packed dead corneocytes, lipids, and natural moisturizing factors: these 3 components constitute a healthy barrier function. They determine your hydration level via water retention and prevention of water loss through evaporation.


Now, having covered the skin biology, we know how to treat dry skin in the best possible way.

How to avoid dry skin:

1) Cleansing is one of the top causes of dry skin. Choosing the wrong cleanser with harsh ingredients will weaken your skin’s barrier and increase dryness:

– just frequent water contact is likely to rinse out soluble NMF

– aggressive surfactants/emulsifiers wash out proteins, amino acids, lipids, and other soluble components

– cleansers with a basic pH (8 – 10) will change the skin’s natural pH (around 5,5). The lost acidity results in an altered microflora and weakened lipid barrier.

2) Avoid excess UV-load

3) Avoid synthetic oils such as mineral oil, silicones, paraffins (learn more about the detrimental effects of synthetic oils on barrier function in one of our upcoming posts – stay tuned!)

4) Adopt a relaxing routine to destress


Now, let’s cut to the chase: What ingredients are best for dry skin?

Long-lasting moisture for plump and youthful skin is simply achieved by mimicking the skin’s biology. Replenish your skin with its natural components like NMF and hyaluronic acid to retain water. You should look for the following ingredients when buying skincare products for dry skin.

Amino acids such as sodium PCA are indispensable. Studies have shown, that a genetic lack of NMF related molecules often led to dry skin disorders like atopic dermatitis (eczema). Another essential amino acid in the NMF spectrum is serine. Lactic acid is also a very popular ingredient used in serums for dry skin.

You might never have heard of this group of active ingredients, but we are absolutely sure you know at least one of its compounds very well: hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is deeply water-loving. You find it ubiquitously in the human body: in our joints, in the dermis and epidermis, and as part of the eyes. So treat yourself to this wonderful natural polysaccharide. One pinch of the dry powder can bind up to 1 liter of water, achieving long-lasting vitalization and suppleness. Serums for dry skin should never miss out on this molecule.

Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) is a real hero ingredient for dry skin, but also for other conditions like blemished, photo-aged, or hyperpigmented skin. This vitamin stimulates the production of stratum corneum lipids (ceramides, cholesterols, and fatty acids), reinforcing the compact extracellular lipid matrix (the mortar!) and strengthening the barrier function.

(Dex-)Panthenol is another cosmeceutical ingredient comforting dry skin. It’s the precursor of the active Vitamin B5. With its water-loving properties, it functions as a potent humectant, reducing water loss and plumping the skin. Furthermore, the provitamin stimulates epidermal cell growth (proliferation) and differentiation, promoting the regeneration of corneocytes for a healthy barrier.


Formulated to be the best hydrating serum

The best face serums for dry/dehydrated skin will capitalize on the skin’s natural biology, containing all vital ingredients  in relevant concentrations.

Vivid H2O really packs a punch with all ingredients listed above for maximum moisture and energy infusion. And we specifically formulated the product as a serum – because that allowed us to load the actives in extra high concentration. With aloe vera and fig extract, we add substantial amounts of botanical polysaccharides, boosting the power of hyaluronic acid. Not only do these botanical extracts optimize the hydration level, they are also choke-full of vitamins, free amino acids, and essential minerals. A real superfood cocktail for stressed and dry skin!

No more cracking, scaling, or flaking skin – here’s to vibrant and glowing skin!



  1. Barrier Function of the Skin: “La Raison d’Être” of the Epidermis; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12880413
  2. Stratum Corneum Moisturization at the Molecular Level: An Update in Relation to the Dry Skin Cycle; https://www.jidonline.org/article/S0022-202X(15)32301-0/fulltext
  3. Effects of Natural Moisturizing Factor and Lactic Acid Isomers on Skin Function; https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/e/9780429123085/chapters/10.1201/b14251-22
  4. Cosmetic formulation of skin care products (2006); herausgegeben von Zoe Diana Draelos, Lauren A. Thaman.
  5. Epidermal damage induced by irritants in man: a light and electron microscopic study.; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2794551
  6. Differential cytokine expression in skin after single and repeated irritation by sodium lauryl sulphate.; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18031463

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