One of my favorite skincare ingredients is sodium hyaluronate, which is one of the natural moisturizing factors (NMFs) found in the skin. NMFs keep skin from losing water, maintaining skin’s young, smooth, non-flaky appearance. In fact, a 2000 study by Sakai et. al found that a decrease in the lipid and NMF content of the skin leads to surface roughness, flaking, fine lines, and a tight, uncomfortable feeling.
NMFs maintain moisture in the skin, even under low humidity, and provide an optimal environment for enzymatic functions (Baumann). Within the skin, biologically-formed NMFs are made of amino acids and their metabolites, and are found exclusively inside the cells of the uppermost layer of the skin (the stratum corneum).
When applied to the skin, topically-applied natural moisturizing factors are able to draw water into the skin, reducing trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) and creating a slight swelling of the skin that reduces the appearance of wrinkles.
NMFs in skincare products also help to temporarily stabilize and maintain the complex intercellular-skin matrix, which is the “glue” that holds the skin together; this gives skin a smoother appearance (Begoun). Therefore, NMFs are often included in “anti-wrinkle” and “anti-aging” products, but they improve the appearance of the skin on a temporary basis more than they provide actual long-term correction of the skin, like retinoids.
NMFs are also important for anti-aging prevention, as, according to Dr. Howard Murad, hydration of the skin with NMFs allows the skin to operate at optimum capacity, and provides a better defense against environmental assaults.