Electrolyte Skin Care Is Like a Sports Drink for Your Face
Here's what dermatologists have to say about the buzzy new beauty ingredient and the electrolyte skin-care products to buy for the best results.
If you've ever run a long distance, taken an intense hot yoga class, come down with the flu, or, ahem, woken up with a hangover, you've likely reached for an electrolyte drink. That's because the electrolytes in that bottle of Gatorade can supply your body with essential minerals that retain water and rehydrate you.
Now, imagine if there was a hydrating helper like that but for your skin! Pipe dream? Nope—very much a reality. Introducing electrolyte skin care, the newest beauty trend that's all about applying electrolytes topically to reap similar benefits for your skin. (Related: What's the Deal with Performance Water?)
First, a quick refresher (pun intended) on electrolytes.
All electrolytes, whether from coconut water or coconut water-based moisturizer, work the same. Electrolytes—including magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium, chloride, and phosphate—conduct electricity when mixed with water, says Peterson Pierre, M.D., a dermatologist at Pierre Skin Institute in Thousand Oaks, California. If you're thinking electricity in the body sounds futuristic (or dangerous), have no fear. Electrical currents are naturally present in the body and electrolytes are essential to the functions of cells and organs.
When consumed, "electrolytes help you retain fluid and also increase thirst, so you keep drinking," Melissa Majumdar, R.D., a bariatric dietitian for the Brigham and Women's Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery previously told Shape.
Okay, but what about electrolytes in your skin care?
Because water follows the flow of electrolytes, using electrolyte-infused skincare would allow water to be drawn into the skin thereby increasing the skin's hydration status, explains Dr. Pierre. (Psst...did you know that there's a difference between hydrating and moisturizing products?!)
Electrolytes are best for dry skin types or skin that needs more hydration since, again, electrolytes drive more water into the skin to be absorbed, says Nazanin Saedi, M.D., director of Jefferson Laser Surgery and Cosmetic Dermatology Center. Electrolytes can also give skin a boost to look more buoyant, plump, and healthy.
What's more, electrolyte skin care can not only increase the moisture content in the skin but can also allow other ingredients (vitamins or ceramides, for example) in the products you're currently using to perform even better, says Dr. Pierre. Think of it this way: If your skin is a road and skin care products are a car, then electrolytes are the gas. Electrolytes give energy to other ingredients to power them into your skin cells.
While, the jury is still out on just how much water is actually drawn into the skin with these electrolyte-based products, there's certainly no harm in testing them out. As with any skin-care routine or new product, consistency is key when it comes to seeing results. "If a patient and I see an improvement when they're using an electrolyte skin-care product, I would encourage them to continue with it," says Rita Linkner, M.D., a dermatologist at Spring Street Dermatology in New York City. (Related: Why Royal Jelly Deserves a Spot in Your Skin-Care Routine.)
Since electrolytes work with water, you'll find that most formulas in this category are moisturizers or hydrating masks. Now, check out these top 10 products to buy if you're skin needs a drink.
The Best Electrolyte Skin-Care Products
Paula's Choice Water-Infusing Electrolyte Face Moisturizer
This airy moisturizer is my top pick for Dr. Pierre. "With calcium, magnesium, and potassium to give you all the electrolyte benefits, combined with natural antioxidants, as well as ceramides and B vitamins, this formula will do a great job replenishing the moisture in your skin." (Can't seem to ditch dry skin? Look out for these dermatologist-approved moisturizing ingredients.)
Tarte Sea Drink of H2O Hydrating Boost Moisturizer
This lightweight, gel moisturizer will feel amazing as the season's temps start to rise. Hyaluronic acid, electrolytes, and antioxidant-rich algae (a la sea moss) combine to quench skin just as well as a cold sports drink after a long run.
BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 30
This do-it-all product is ideal for morning locker-room refreshes—you get hydration from electrolytes, sun protection thanks to titanium dioxide, and a skin-perfecting tint in one tube. The line comes in 20 shades, a fairly wide range for a light coverage product.
Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water
Whether a spritz in the morning to energize, a mid-day pick-me-up as you power through work, or a post-workout refresh to calm sweaty skin, face mists feel ah-mazing. And the same is true for this spray, which also harnesses the power of magnesium, calcium, sodium, potassium, and caffeine to revive dull skin.
Drunk Elephant F Balm Electrolyte Waterfacial Mask
"I have patients who really love this electrolyte skin-care mask. It has a good cocktail of electrolytes to hydrate skin," says Dr. Saedi. In addition to electrolytes, this mask has niacinamide and fatty acids for their anti-aging and hydrating benefits. (See also: The Best Hydrating Face Masks for Dry, Thirsty Skin.)
Algenist Splash Absolute Hydration Replenish Sleeping Pack
The magnesium-sodium-potassium combo works hand-in-hand with alguronic acid, to hydrate, strengthen the skin barrier and help to smooth wrinkles. Smooth this thick, nearly whipped gel onto your face before bed and wake up to the soft, supple skin of your dreams.
Sweat Wellth Lip Quench Tinted HIIT Electrolyte Balm w/SPF 25
Slick this on pre-workout to help prevent electrolyte loss from your lips, get protection from the sun, and a subtle wash of color. With three sheer shades (plus clear for minimalists), a cooling formula, and a citrus scent, you'll want to stash one in every bag and pocket.
First Aid Beauty Hello FAB Coconut Water Cream
Just like the bottle of coconut water you buy after a particularly sweaty spin class, a coconut water-infused cream has more electrolytes than plain water to replace the hydration you lost. This oil-free moisturizer also contains amino acids, enzymes, and antioxidants to reinforce skin against aggressors as it replenishes moisture.
Strivectin Re-Quench Water Cream Hyaluronic Acid Electrolyte Moisturizer
A potent blend of hydrating superstars such as electrolytes, hyaluronic acid, and mineral waters target the areas of the skin that need it most to balance moisture and strengthen the skin barrier. It's the antidote for when you look in the mirror and think "even my skin looks tired." (See also: Melatonin Skin Care Products That Work While You Sleep)
La Mer Crème de la Mer Moisturizing Cream
This cult classic moisturizer is an indulgent product with a price tag to match. The outrageously thick cream is formulated with La Mer's Miracle Broth, a blend of magnesium, calcium, and potassium, among other hydrating ingredients.