NMF (natural moisturising factor) is part of the natural chemistry of the skin. The skin cells synthesize certain substances to keep them nice and plump, hydrated and healthy. These substances are found within the cells and the cells also excrete these hydrating substances into the surrounding tissue area to coat and protect the skin cells from drying out.
NMF is made up of ingredients such as amino acids, ceramides and hyaluronic acid. The NMF binds with the natural skin lipids the skin cells synthesize to create a kind of natural moisturizer for the skin. This natural moisturizer sits in-between the cells, hold the skin together and prevent excess moisture loss from the skin and the body as a whole. We call this the barrier function, and it is the body's first line of defence against moisture loss and infection.
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When this natural moisturizer is either missing or not complete, meaning the skin is not producing enough of these substances to keep the skin soft and supple, people can experience a number of symptoms from mild dehydration, tightness, dryness, to conditions such as skin sensitivities, flaking, irritations, and itching. Untreated skin can result in premature aging, lines and wrinkles, heightened sensitivities and predisposition to allergies, eczema and dermatitis.
Interestingly, advances in cosmetic formulation allow us now to create treatment creams and serums that naturally MIMIC the skins natural moisturizer. These kind of formulas are called BIOMIMETIC. Most of the same substances found naturally in the skin can be found in the botanical kingdom and high quality treatment creams today mimic precisely the skins natural chemistry.
Cheaper moisturisers or older-style formulas sit on the top of the surface, whereas biomimetic treatment creams sit WITHIN the skin. This means high quality and well formulated treatment creams do a lot more than moisturize. They help aid and improve the barrier as well as act as an excellent delivery system. The skin cells recognizes the NMF and readily accept it, along with any antioxidant, vitamins, peptides and other skin beneficial ingredients.
this link has an excellent image to explain NMF
this link has great info for further reading on NMF
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