The Hydration Edit

by - 2/12/2016

Helloooo my lovelies! Today I'm going to talk you through the essential beauty and lifestyle tip there is: hydrating. From moisturising, using copious amounts of lip balm, conditioning your hair to drinking a healthy amount of water... I'll be telling you why it's so, so, so important.

Now, admittedly, I am guilty of not drinking enough water, and as a result, I suffer from dehydration headaches, dry eyes and kidney infections (yuck). So, by writing this post, I hope to somehow inspire myself to stop slacking on that front. You'll be glad to know that I do actually practice what I preach with the other points. I'm a freak about moisturising immediately after every bath/shower (how on earth do these people on the internet find the time to "laze about in their bath towel for hours"?) and about conditioning/deep conditioning my hair - as you'll know if you read my last blog post. My lip balm collection is actually ridiculous, but, for the purpose of saving time (and, let's be honest, who really gives a crap about my lip balm collection? Nobody) I'll just feature my go-to, value for money, trusty ol' Nivea. I'm not really sure where to start, so I'll just do the usual: make a giant list. Here goes...

Taking care of your skin is vital. It's the largest organ in the human body and is the first line of defence against bacteria, pollution, pathogens, UV rays and much, much more. In terms of percentages, your skin is classified as "dry" when it's moisture level reaches 10% or below. That's when you start to feel tight and itchy.

If you're a sufferer of winter dryness, it's probably because your skin is reacting to the humidity change. This reaction is termed transepidermal water loss, but, we'll call it TEWL. To put it simply, TEWL is a measurement of how much water seeps from the inside of your body through the layers of skin and is evaporated into the atmosphere. If you have especially dry, inflamed, scaly or irritated skin, this could be xerosis. This is usually temporary and can be treated with a good moisturiser. 

So, how do they actually work? Firstly, I'll need to tell you a little bit more about skin: there are different layers: the outer layer (epidermis), the middle layer (dermis) and the lower layer (hypodermis (or fatty layer)). Water is delivered to the skin via blood vessels, but they only supply moisture to the middle layer, the dermis. From here, the moisture works its way up to the outer layer before evaporating into the atmosphere (by sweating, mainly). This evaporation causes the skin to crack and flake away.

Moisturisers can either trap moisture within the layers of your skin or they can restore moisture in the outer layer of the skin, replacing any moisture that has already been lost. There are three main types of moisturiser:

Occlusives: Think of these as the traditional moisturiser, the Nintendo GameCube of the moisturising world. This type of moisturiser consists of waxes, oils and silicones. They work simple to create a barrier over the skin, trapping moisture and preventing evaporation, and thus, preventing cracking/flaking. They usually contain long Carbon chains (which repel water). They cut down TEWL by up to an excess of 98%! However, if you've ever used the classic Vaseline, you'll know how ugly and annoying it can be. Good, but not the most aesthetically pleasing products out there.
Emollients: These consist of creams, ointments, lotions, gels, etc. These are definitely less sticky and lot less hassle than occlusives. Think of classic Nivea body lotion (which is my all time fave, by the way). Emollients actually penetrate the skin, making the layers of skin underneath soft and nourished. Emollients are also made of long chains of Carbon atoms, however, they work differently. Proteins within the emollients allow the compound to be absorbed into the skin. Their effect, however, is rather short-lived. You often have to moisturise twice a day in order to keep your TEWL at a normal rate. 
Humectants: These work by attracting moisture to the skin and keeping it there. They penetrate the outer layer of the skin, attract water to it, and then keep the moisture locked in place. This occurs due to they hydroxyl groups in their chemical structure, which are hydrophillic (water-loving, attracted to water molecules). Any product which claims to "lock-in moisture" is a humectant (Ouidad Moisture Lock, for example). 

Drinking water:
Although there is no 100%, definitive scientific evidence that you need to drink a certain amount of water per day or why humans haven't evolved to beat dehydration, we do have a good idea on why you should drink water and how it can benefit your health in certain ways. Most will argue that we don't need to drink eight glasses of water, that we just need eight glasses of liquid. By "liquid", I presume they mean orange juice or something, otherwise, this argument is weirdly worrying. Anyway, the recommended daily allowance figures are probably the best advice to stick to, so that's what I'm basing my tips on. Here are a few reasons to drink water (she types, whilst sipping a can of Coke):

1. Water helps to maximise physical performance.
2. Hydration levels affect your energy levels and brain functioning. The lower your hydration level, the more difficult tasks become.
3. Sipping water can help to prevent and treat headaches. Personally, this ALWAYS works for me. If I feel headachey, I drink some water (usually two glasses) and I immediately start to feel better. 
4. Drinking water may help relieve constipation. Carbonated (sparkling) water is especially good for this. 
5. Drinking water helps treat and prevent UTI's, kidney infections and kidney stones. I know this from first-hand experience. As a regular kidney infection sufferer, I can guarantee that it'll make you feel 100000x better if you keep hydrated. 
6. It helps with hangovers. Anything that helps with hangovers can only be a positive thing, right?
7. Drinking water can help you lose weight. Not only will you lose "water weight", but keeping fit and hydrated can increase your total energy expenditure by up to 96 calories per day.

Conditioning your hair:
If you've taken the time to read any of my hair-related blog posts, you'll know how strict I am regarding my conditioning routine. So, what's in hair conditioner and how does it work? I'll quickly talk you through the important bits and then list a few ingredients so that next time you're shopping, you'll know what to look for!

The most vital part of the conditioner is the pH. You want the pH to be <7 (acidic). Here's why: hair is made up of three layers... the inner medulla, the cortex and the cuticle. The cuticle of the hair is made up of different cells overlapping each other. Usually, these cells lie flat and are held together by hydrogen bonds, which ensure that your hair looks healthy and shiny. Acids consist of lots of hydrogen molecules. This is why conditioners are acidic because they allow for more bonding, thus, smoother cuticles and shiny, healthy hair!

Cationic surfactants and polymers: These are basically long molecules that stick to the surface of each hair strand and coating it. This means that hairs will slide off each other and therefore, tangles are minimised.

Humectants: We've just spoken about these! They do the exact same job in hair care. They attract water to the hair strands and lock in the moisture. 

Silicones: These coat the hair, similarly to surfactants and polymers, however, their chemical structure provides the hair with protection against heat. The only downside is that they can weigh down the hair and build up in the roots with natural oils. With these conditioners, it's best to condition the ends of your hair, leaving the roots.

Proteins: Any product which claims to "repair" hair is usually packed full of proteins. Although the repair is never permanent, it does work. A small amount of proteins penetrate the hair and build up the keratin structure. These conditioners tend to be rather pricey for the amount of work they actually do. 

And that's it ladies! I hope that you found this post interesting and/or helpful. If you have any questions, as always, leave them in the comments or tweet me or leave them on my Instagram and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. xo

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