The mention of freeze-drying makes me think of space-age technology and Trader Joe’s astronaut-inspired fruit snacks, but it’s actually a pretty common process in creating skin-care products, too. While you might assume that this is simply because cosmetic chemists want an excuse to fool around with freeze-dried fog, there are two practical reasons for it: it preserves the potency of the product and it helps to reduce any given product’s carbon footprint.
In the context of skin care, “freeze-drying is a low-temperature dehydration process,” says Shuting Hu, MD, a dermatologist and founder of Acaderma. The ingredient is frozen, the pressure is lowered, and the moisture is removed. When the ingredient is brought back to room temperature, it remains completely dry.
“Freeze-drying decreases the molecular weight of the ingredient,” says Krupa Koestline, a clean cosmetic chemist and founder of KKT Consultants. This means that you’re essentially getting a lot more bang for your buck because the lower the molecular weight of any given product or ingredient, the deeper it can go into the skin. When certain ingredients are freeze-dried, they still retain their nutritional goodness—such as polyphenols, hyaluronic acids, proteins, etc.
In addition, when the water is removed from the formula, the active ingredients are often able to be there at higher concentrations, which can up the potency. And when the potency is upped, your skin is able to do more with the ingredients at hand. However, if you have sensitive skin (and, same), a more potent product could make it more aggressive on skin, so when in doubt always do a patch test on your hand or arm before applying it to your face.
According to Dr. Hu, excluding water also helps to extend shelf life, and it could even be more gentle to the Earth. When water is present in a formula, that formula needs a preservative to keep it safe and keep it from becoming a petri dish. “Freeze-dried ingredients typically don’t need to be preserved, since less water means less chance that microbial life will thrive and contaminate the ingredient” says Jenni Ewing, head of product development at Herbivore.
Water is a scarce resource and ethical consumers may be looking for ways to reduce its consumption except when necessary. Aside from not using water, the carbon footprint of shipping vacuumed bags of products is significantly less than moving containers of liquid around the world, which is a big plus for freeze-dried skin care.
Although this process is already being used, Ewing says you might see more of an emphasis on it as “formulas containing innovative ingredients like this continue to gain momentum as consumers become more and more aware of the impact that skin-care ingredients have on the environment.” Continue scrolling for four freeze-dried skin-care products you can shop now.
1. Rael Moisture Melt, $24
Hyaluronic Acid is a one-stop-shop for moisture. When your skin is dry or in the winter months when it’s not getting as much moisture, this 91 percent hyaluronic acid concentrate will soothe your complexion with hydration for a purported 100 hours.
Shop now: Rael Moisture Melt, $24
Another hyaluronic acid powerhouse, this little pill looking product boasts 98.5 percent (!!!!) hyaluronic acid. The short-term effect of the product is plumper-looking skin, and the long-run benefits include hydrated skin and diminished wrinkles.
Shop now: Saro de Rue Freeze-Dried Hyaluronic Acid Pure Actives, $99
This product is actually just the active ingredients. The little balls of product in the package are stem cell cultures that are only broken down when you choose to mix them in with your moisturizer or toner of choice. If your skin is tired or needs a boost of vitality, you can incorporate this little freeze-dried ball seamlessly into your routine.
Shop now: Evercell Chaum Absolute Luxe Cell Charger, $35
Dr. Hu says that freeze-dried ingredients are common in the formulas used in Acaderma’s products. The Oasis Barrier Boost Serum “uses freeze-drying to concentrate the polyphenols from Kinkeliba plant extract.” The extract comes from a plant found solely in the Sub-Saharan region of West Africa. In this formula, the concentrated power of the plant helps repair the skin barrier and soothe skin.
Shop now: Acaderma Oasis Barrier Booster, $68
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