Skin-identical ingredients are the new buzzy skincare heroes that repair, strengthen and soothe

Written by Sidra Imtiaz

Skin-identical ingredients are naturally occurring and include well-known favourites like hyaluronic acid, ceramides and glycerin – three experts break down everything you need to know.

The human body is a fascinating, complex and highly intelligent machine. So, it should come as no surprise that the skin (the largest organ in the body) is no exception to the rule. 

While we’ve spent the past few years becoming au fait with skincare buzzwords like active ingredients, retinoids and acids, our skin has been working away in the background to create some of the chemical compounds it needs most to remain in good condition. 

Two core components of non-irritated skin – a well-functioning skin barrier and a balanced microbiome – can heavily impact its appearance and overall health. Fortunately, our skin creates a number of ingredients to look after both and you’re more familiar with their names than you may think. 

Allow me to introduce you to skin-identical ingredients – the hero compounds and molecules our skin naturally creates – and how to incorporate them into your skincare routine.

What are skin-identical ingredients in skincare?

According to leading Harley Street aesthetician Dr Surbhi Vimani, a skin-identical ingredient is defined as onw which “pre-exists in our body and is a part of our natural structure”.

Hyaluronic acid, ceramides, glycerin, lecithin, cholesterol and fatty acids – these key moisturising, strengthening ingredients are all naturally produced by our skin.

So, if our skin can produce these important compounds, why do we need to supplement them with our skincare routine? 

Dermalogica education manager, Victoria Evans explains: “Our skin’s barrier is under constant threat from our environment and is easily impaired by free radicals, harsh climates, pollution and UV as well as overuse of acids, retinoids etc. 

“As the skin ages, we naturally produce fewer lipids and natural moisturisers and when under chronic stress, ceramide production is negatively impacted. Supplementing the skin daily with leave-on formulas that contain skin-identical lipids and humectants helps the skin to stay protected and healthy.”

The way in which these ingredients are incorporated into skincare varies by their use and purpose within the skin. 

Glycerin and hyaluronic acid are both humectants, meaning they draw moisture into the skin and help to bind it to the topmost layer. 

Hyaluronic acid is known for being able to hold more than a thousand times its weight in water – making it a key hydrating, plumping ingredient. 

Lecithin and cholesterol contribute to the maintenance of the stratum corneum (the uppermost layer of skin). In fact, according to CeraVe consultant dermatologist Dr Alexis Granite, cholesterol actually “makes up about 25% of the intercellular lipids within the stratum corneum and helps hydrate and support skin barrier function.” 

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What are the benefits of using skin-identical ingredients?

Although all skin types are different, skin-identical ingredients are essential components of the human cell structure which means everyone can benefit from using them. 

In particular, skin-identical ingredients are particularly well suited to sensitive and reactive skin types, as the body is far less likely to react to an ingredient it recognises and knows. 

Leading aesthetics doctor and the brains behind her eponymous, celebrity-loved brand Dr Barbara Sturm tells us, “The benefits of using skin-identical ingredients is that they are utmost tolerated (low allergy risk) by the skin and aid in enhancing the skin’s natural function, delivering additional building blocks required for barrier protection such as regeneration and repair. Skin-identical ingredients can also have powerful antioxidant properties.”

Skin-identical products for a well-functioning, resilient skin barrier

  • Dermalogica Hyaluronic Ceramide Mist

    The latest launch from Dermalogica has been designed to hydrate and strengthen the skin barrier, for skin that bounces back. 

    The formula uses four types of hyaluronic acid to form a network that targets each of the skin’s layers, helping it to hold onto water for longer. Combined with ceramides, this saturates skin with hydration and locks in moisture for plump, radiant skin.

    Shop Dermalogica Hyaluronic Ceramide Mist, £45

    buy now

  • Byoma Creamy Jelly Cleanser

    Byoma’s signature Tri-Ceramide Complex is a cocktail of ceramides, cholesterol and fatty acids, which appear in each product formula. 

    For dry, tight skin, the ultra-hydrating Creamy Jelly Cleanser lathers up to melt away make-up and impurities without stripping away necessary oils. The cleanser also contains liquorice root and green tea to soothe and leave skin refreshed.

    Shop Byoma Creamy Jelly Cleanser at Cult Beauty, £9.99

    buy now

  • Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream

    This potent moisturiser is powered by hyaluronic acid and boosted by glycerin – perfect for those with flaky skin. The formula uses three molecular sizes of hyaluronic acid to provide a generous dose of moisture and help improve hydration for up to 72 hours. The fluffy, whipped texture leaves skin feeling healthy with no heavy residue.

    Shop Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream Hydrating Moisturizer at Cult Beauty, £45

    buy now

  • Dr Barbara Sturm Super Anti-Ageing Eye Cream

    The delicate eye area often shows signs of irritation and dehydration if the skin barrier is compromised. This high-performance, advanced science formulation is specially developed with potent ingredients to target mature skin types. The biomimetic lipids, such as lecithin, support the skin barrier and thus the skin’s own defence.

    Shop Dr Barbara Sturm Super Anti-Ageing Eye Cream at Liberty London, £160

    buy now

  • CeraVe Hydrating Foaming Oil Cleanser

    It isn’t just the face that can benefit from skin-identical ingredients – this oil-infused formula can be used on the body too. Transforming from an oil into a gentle foam, this cleanses and soothes delicate skin and delivers hydration without disrupting the protective skin barrier thanks to essential ceramides, squalene and triglycerides.

    Shop CeraVe Hydrating Foaming Oil Cleanser at Boots, £12.50

    buy now

  • Dr Dennis Gross Alpha-Beta Pore Perfecting Moisturiser

    Those who experience frequent breakouts and oily skin may intuitively steer clear of nourishing skin-identical ingredients for fear of further clogging pores. However, this unique moisturiser works to exfoliate dead surface skin cells to renew skin, and then replenish with a blend of squalane and ceramides to help skin maintain naturally balanced hydration.

    Shop Dr Dennis Gross Alpha-Beta Pore Perfecting Moisturiser at Cult Beauty, £79

    buy now

Images: Getty; courtesy of brands

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