Measuring Which Product Works Best to Keep Skin Moist

Student: Adhya Abi
Table: 10
Experimentation location: Home
Regulated Research (Form 1c): No
Project continuation (Form 7): No

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Project files

Research Plan:

I want to test how well different ingredients in skin moisturizing products (like face creams) aid in keeping a model of human skin hydrated. The skin is the largest organ in the body, and helps you fight off infections and protects you from the sun, and cold and hot temperatures. For this reason, it is imperative that your skin remain healthy. Dry skin is a common problem that many people struggle with, and can be a hidden symptom of conditions like psoriasis and dermatitis. Doctors often prescribe one of three main groups of moisturizers to help treat these. The three groups are:

  • Occlusive agents: create a physical film over the skin that acts as a barrier to keep water in. Common examples of these are petroleum jelly (Vaseline), oils, and waxes (like beeswax).
  • Emollients: These fill in little cracks in the skin to seal over rough patches. Many emollients are also occlusive agents.
  • Humectants: These draw water from the layer under the top layer of the skin (epidermis), called the dermis. If the epidermis is dry, there may still be water in the layers beneath. Common examples of these are honey, glycerin, and urea.

By finding out what ingredients in skin moisturizing products work best, I could help a variety of people struggling with the issue of dry skin. 

I predict that the humectant-based moisturizer will work best. Humectants are hygroscopic substances, meaning they have a strong affinity for water molecules. When applied to the skin, humectants draw moisture from the environment or deeper layers of the skin and bind it to the outermost layer, known as the stratum corneum. The stratum corneum is made up of dead skin cells and plays a vital role in regulating skin hydration. By attracting water to this layer, humectants help to restore and maintain optimal hydration levels in the skin. 

Through the experiment, I will keep track of the weights and heights of the gelatin desserts, as well as record my observations. JELL-O is a gelatin dessert mostly made from water and gelatin, which is a substance derived from collagen. Collagen is a group of fibrous proteins found in many tissues in humans and other animals, where it helps connect and support tissues. It is commonly found in the skin and is particularly important in the dermis layer. 

Questions and Answers

1. What was the major objective of your project and what was your plan to achieve it? 

The major objective of my project was to find out which kind of moisturizer works best to keep skin moist and hydrated. Through the experiment, I explored three different types of moisturizers: emollients, humectants, and occlusives. Each different type of moisturizer has a different function and way of hydrating skin, so I was curious to see which works best.

    a. Was that goal the result of any specific situation, experience, or problem you encountered?  

This objective was the result of my nightly routine. Every night, I do my skincare routine right before bed, but as of late, since we are in the winter season, my skin has been consistently getting dry. I wanted to see whether there was a best kind of moisturizer to use in these cases, and ended up with my project. I ended up with the question: which kind of skin moisturizer works best to keep a model of human skin hydrated?

2. What were the major tasks you had to perform in order to complete your project?

 Some of the major tasks that had to be performed for my project were making the JELL-O and transferring it to the containers, then continuously weighing and measuring its height over the span of ten days. I also had to record qualitative observations and data regarding the state of the skin model. The next major task was creating graphs and then analyzing them to draw conclusions about the JELL-O’s moisture retention and content.

3. What is new or novel about your project?

Using JELL-O as a model to simulate skin conditions is an unconventional approach. While synthetic skin models are commonly used in skincare research, using JELL-O provides a simple and accessible alternative that can effectively mimic certain aspects of human skin, such as moisture retention. This project also compares the effectiveness of three different types of moisturizers – emollients, humectants, and occlusives – on the JELL-O skin model. By testing multiple types of moisturizers, the project aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of how each type impacts moisture retention in a simulated skin environment. The use of height and weight measurements to assess moisture retention in the JELL-O skin model is another difference of this project. By quantifying changes in height (indicating swelling or hydration) and weight (indicating moisture content), the project offers a quantitative approach to evaluating the performance of the moisturizers over time. As for how this project put me out of my comfort zone, I have never before experimented with skin models, or even anything relating to human conditions, because I didn’t think it was possible without test subjects. However, by using JELL-O as a skin model, I believe that I was able to answer the question and achieve the results I wanted without requiring test subjects.


4. What was the most challenging part of completing your project?

The hardest part of this experiment was making sure to consistently take the measurements 24 hours apart. It was difficult because I wanted to make it as precise as possible to make sure that my results were as valid as possible. Another challenge was making sure that everything was very controlled. Since I have never tried an experiment like this before, it was imperative for me to have as many controls in place as possible.

   a. What problems did you encounter, and how did you overcome them?

At first, my digital scale started malfunctioning, so I got incorrect measurements. At that time, I noted that I didn’t think the measurements were correct, so I decided to bring out two more scales and remeasure. I was relieved that I caught the malfunction in time, because otherwise my entire project could have been thrown off by this factor.

   b. What did you learn from overcoming these problems?

 By overcoming this problem, I learned that I have to double (and potentially triple) check all my measurements before inputting them into my data table to ensure that my results are as accurate as possible.

5. If you were going to do this project again, are there any things you would do differently the next time?

If I were to redo this project I would have expanded the time over which I observed the skin model. Although ten days was enough to collect significant data, I could expand the time to two weeks, in order to receive even more comprehensive data from the experiment. I also would have wanted to explore using different methods of measuring moisture other than just height and weight, such as skin hydration scanners and moisture meters. If I were redoing this project, I also would have liked to use bigger petri dishes or microscopes to get a clearer view of things that I may be missing when making qualitative measurements. I also realized a mistake I made when working on my hypothesis. I assumed that hydration must equal moisture retention, so I assumed that whichever moisturizer was best at hydrating had to have been best at keeping the skin at a good moisture level as well, and afterwards, when my hypothesis was disproved, I realized that although the humectant (my hypothesis moisturizer) worked well to continously keep the skin moist and hydrated, the occlusive did better.

6. Did working on this project give you any ideas for other projects? 

 This project gave me a lot of ideas for future projects, mostly within the same genre. I want to investigate the effects of temperature on the moisture retention of the JELL-O skin when a moisturizer is applied. I think this would be an interesting project because temperature can play a significant role in skin hydration levels. Changes in temperature can affect the skin's ability to retain moisture and can impact the effectiveness of skincare products like moisturizers. I would also like to analyze the impact of sun exposure on the moisture levels of the JELL-O skin treated with moisturizer. Sun exposure and UV rays can be very detrimental to skin health, so I think it would be worthwhile to experiment with this and see how much the moisture levels fluctuate. Lastly, I would like to test the compatibility of various skincare products, such as sunscreen or anti-aging creams, with the moisturizer on the JELL-O skin to see if there is any kind of adverse reaction caused by these products.

7. How did COVID-19 affect the completion of your project?

Although COVID-19 happened a while ago, over that period of time, I had a lot of time to think and experiment with regular household materials and things that I do as part of a daily routine. I took inspiration from this mindset when trying to come up with my project this year. At the end of the day, as I was going through my nightly routine, I started wondering what projects could be done with moisturizer and skin. I got really interested, and ended up learning a lot about skin, so I thought it would work really well to base my project on what I had learned.