What is NMF (Natural Moisturizing Factor) And Why Is Essential For Your Skin

Skin — our biggest and very often most problematic organ. On the other hand, thousands of years of evolution (evolution=only the best adapted will survive) couldn’t get totally wrong, right? In normal conditions when our hormones are not getting crazy, we have very few stressful situations and live in the unpolluted environment our skin is doing the pretty damn good job protecting itself and all the organs inside your body.

Role of NMF

One of the mechanisms developed by epidermis — the outer layer of the skin is the ability to produce chemical protective coat called Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF) responsible for keeping the adequate hydration of stratum corneum- the outermost part of the epidermis.

Proper hydration of stratum corneum is crucial for healthy skin in 3 different ways:


Helps to maintain skin elasticity. An elastic skin is less prone to the mechanical damage.


Activates hydrolytic enzymes, water-depended substances responsible for cutting larger molecules into smaller pieces, necessary in desquamation process, natural dead skin shedding.


Supports barrier function of stratum corneum which protects the underlying cells from infection, dehydration and chemical damage.

The NMF Soup

Healthy cells of outer skin layer contain approximately 20 to 30% of NMF in dry weight (Total weight without water).
Natural Moisturizing Factor is not a single substance but a mix of water soluble, powerful humectants — substances which draw atmospheric water like a magnet. That’s why the skin dryness occurs when there is not enough humidity in the air.

The particular composition of NMF “soup” look like this:

Isn’t that amazing that the skin can create a full army of ingredients to keep itself moist? Even better! Natural Moisturizing Factor is created through recycling of protein called filaggrin which binds corneocytes, cells of stratum corneum. This process is another proof that our bodies work as highly efficient machines in managing available resources.

As you can see, the content of highly acclaimed hyaluronic acid in Natural Moisturizing Factor is not significant comparing to other ingredients from the list.

It might be explained by the fact that HA has extremely high water binding properties, so high content of this substance is not mandatory, especially in the presence of other strong humectants. However, scientists are still working on understanding the role, each NMF ingredient and its ratio is playing in natural skin processes.

NMF for the Skincare

High Water binding property is not the only super power of NMF. Many studies confirm that Natural Moisturising Factor plays a vital role in sustaining skin acid mantle which keeps harmful microorganisms from penetrating the skin.

Defensive mechanisms of the skin don’t limit to producing NMF. The other significant process is the production of sebum — a waxy/oily substance which creating an occlusive film on top of the skin and limits water evaporation.

The level of Natural Moisturizing Factor in epidermis decreases with age as well as the production of sebum. That’s why one of the symptoms associated with mature skin is a persistent dryness and dehydration.
Luckily, the majority of NMF ingredients could be derived and combined in a laboratory into a blend mimicking properties of the human Moisturizing Factor. Some of those substances, especially urea, lactate and hyaluronic acid are already very popular in many cosmetic formulations.

Looking for products which contain a synthetic version of Natural Moisturising Factor blend or its ingredients is highly beneficial in balancing natural skin processes and rebuilding the moisture level.The more not always means the better. Some of those substances such as lactate or urea have moisturizing properties only in a high dilution. Any exceeding of the recommended dose can cause severe skin burns.

Harding Clive R., Rawlings Anthony V. “Effects of Natural Moisturizing Factor and Lactic Acid Isomers on SkinFunction”, Maibach Howard I., Loden Marie” Dry Skin and Moisturizers: Chemistry and Function”p.187–204, CRC Press, 2005, Print
http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/health-and-human-body/human-body/skin-article Date Accessed, March 1st, 2017
http://practicaldermatology.com/2012/07/understanding-the-role-of-natural-moisturizing-factor-in-skin-hydration Date Accessed, March 1st, 2017
http://kosmetycznylab.blogspot.ca/2014/02/naturalny-czynnik-nawilzajacy-nmf.html Date Accessed, March 1st, 2017



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