This Trending Skincare Ingredient Is Like an Energy Drink for Your Face
If your skin needs more hydration, electrolytes are your answer.
Gatorade has always been there for me when I've come down with the flu, done an intense spin class, or woke up on Sunday morning with a wicked hangover. And the reason is makes me feel like new again is because of the electrolytes.
Electrolytes are the secret sauce in the sports drink that makes it so refreshing when you're super dehydrated. These minerals help you retain water and thus, help to rehydrate you.
It also turns out that electrolytes can have a similar moisturizing effect on the skin, too — and skincare brands have caught on, building products around the hydrating ingredient. These electrolyte-infused formulas are ideal for dry, dull skin that needs an extra shot of moisture.
With the help of Dr. Morgan Rabach, board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of LM Medical in New York City, we explain what electrolytes are, what they do for the skin, how to use them in your skincare routine, along with our favorite electrolyte skincare products.
What Are Electrolytes?
Let's take things back to your high school chemistry class: Electrolytes are minerals that conduct electricity when they're mixed with water. These minerals include magnesium, sodium, calcium, chloride, potassium, and phosphate.
What Do Electrolytes Do for Your Skin?
"Electrolytes help you retain water because your blood is not made up of just water alone, but a solution of water mixed with electrolytes," Dr. Rabach. "So drinking water with electrolytes mirrors more closely what is in our blood, than just consuming water alone."
Since water follows electrolytes, Dr. Rabach says the theory behind using these minerals on your face is that if they soak into your skin, water will follow and thus, skin will be more moisturized.
The catch? If you use a moisturizer formulated with electrolytes, there's no hard data on how much of it will get soaked into skin and pull in water.
Still, using electrolyte-infused skincare products can be beneficial for your skin. "The biology of the skin is a lot more complicated than that however, and lucky for us, skin doesn't just soak up everything that is put on it," says Dr. Rabach. "However if your cells, including your skin cells, are in need of electrolytes, then some would probably get absorbed, and water retention would likely follow."
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How Should You Incorporate Electrolytes into Your Skincare Routine?
Since electrolytes work with water, Dr. Rabach suggests a moisturizer formulated with the minerals. If you're looking for extra hydration in other areas of your routine, brands are using electrolytes in cleansers, face masks, and even face mists.
These minerals also work well with the ingredients in your other products, including actives like AHA/BHA acids and retinol. In fact, electrolytes can boost the efficiency of these ingredients. "Skin cells are optimized when electrolytes are optimized, and they are able to use other actives if they are optimally functioning," says Dr. Rabach.
Here, we've rounded up our favorite five hydrating electrolyte skincare products to add to your skincare routine.
Paula's Choice Water-Infusing Electrolyte Moisturizer
If you hate super-rich moisturizers, but your dry skin needs heavy hydration, this Paula's Choice moisturizer is for you. The electrolyte-powered formula is featherweight so it absorbs instantly into skin without any greasy residue.
To buy: $35; Nordstrom.com.
Estée Lauder Set + Refresh Perfecting Makeup Mist
Yep, this mist is refreshing, but it won't mess up your makeup if you spray it on your face mid-day. Consider it the relief your dehydrated skin needs from dry office air.
To buy: $38; Sephora.com.
Drunk Elephant F-Balm Electrolyte Waterfacial Mask
This hydrating overnight mask is the skincare equivalent of a sports drink. Along with a cocktail of electrolytes, it also includes vitamin F as a star ingredient. The soothing fatty acids boosts hydration, plus improves skin texture and calms redness.
To buy: $52; Sephora.com.
Elemis Biotech Skin Energizing Cleanser
While washing your face to get rid of makeup, dirt, and excess oils is an important first step in any skincare routine, many cleansers make skin too clean and strip it of its essential natural oils. Thanks to the addition of electrolytes, Elemis' creamy face wash contains acids that help re-balance skin.
To buy: $63; Amazon.com.
Tarte SEA Drink of H2O Hydrating Boost Moisturizer
This gel moisturizer just as hydrating as a tall glass of water. Along with electrolytes, the soothing, cooling formula has Tarte's signature Rainforest of the Sea Complex, a blend of algae and marine extracts, which minimizes fine lines and wrinkles.
To buy: $39; Sephora.com.