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Moisturizing care and hygiene go hand-in-hand
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Moisturizing care and hygiene go hand-in-hand

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Ever since COVID-19 broke out last year, hand hygiene has been at the forefront of health protocols encouraged and implemented. The trend is well-founded; thoroughly washing hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer has proven to be one of the most effective ways of protecting against viruses and infections.[1]​ That said, the aftermath is not all smooth sailing. According to Google Trends, in March 2020, there was a 5000% increase in internet searches relating to “dry, cracked hands”, “red and dry hands” and “dry hands from over washing”.[2]​ This reflects the potentially damaging effects of repeated hand washing and sanitizer use, which can impair skin barrier function and contribute to very real discomfort.[3]​ With present consumer habits continuing to favor the cycle of “Wash, Rinse, Repeat”, there is a need for hand products that not only cleanse and sanitize, but also help maintain balanced moisture levels. 

The woes of excessive washing

“Balance” is the issue that needs to be addressed. Within skin, the balance of moisture is regulated by the stratum corneum, which is the uppermost layer that controls water flux and retention. This is an important line of defense against dehydration within the body, and it is also why “Wash, Rinse, Repeat” leads to “Wash, Rinse, … why are my hands so dry?”

Three factors affect the stratum corneum’s ability to maintain hydration. One of these factors, the skin’s natural moisturizing factor (NMF), is effectively scrubbed away by harsh hand care habits—such as the excessive use of alcohol-based sanitizers and daily handwashing. NMF is important because it is a natural humectant: it hydrates the outmost layers of the skin, both by retaining existing moisture and by absorbing water from the atmosphere. Without enough NMF, the skin barrier can become stiff and brittle, which interferes with the cell renewal process and affects the skin’s natural ability to stay hydrated. Once the balance of moisture is lost, typical signs of dryness tend to develop, such as scaliness, roughness, itching, stinging, and burning.

NMF is essential to adequate skin hydration, but because it is water-soluble, it is easily washed away from the skin barrier. With that in mind, how does one compensate for the loss of this important—but fragile—natural moisturizer?

PENTAVITIN, an effective skin hydration booster

To bridge the gap, DSM has developed PENTAVITIN, a 100% natural skin bioactive. Originating from plants, it acts on the stratum corneum directly, utilizing a carbohydrate complex that closely mimics NMF, but has a completely unique binding mechanism. This new mechanism ensures that PENTAVITIN® binds seamlessly with the skin’s surface layers and cannot be easily washed off, continuing to boost hydration until being removed through desquamation (the natural process where skin cells are created, shed, and then replaced).

In in vivo​ tests, 1% PENTAVITIN in an aqueous solution improved and strengthened skin barrier function. After four weeks, this solution reduced the signs of dry skin by 20%, delivering deep hydration that lasts for up to 72 hours from the final application. Consumer test panels mirrored this success, with volunteers confirming that PENTAVITIN reduces flakiness and itchiness, visibly smoothing dry skin.

New study seeks to soothe the effects of sanitizers

Given the uncertainty of current times, hygiene must take priority. With hand sanitizers being one of the most critical methods of combating the COVID-19 virus—and PENTAVITIN having demonstrable success with skin barrier strengthening and moisturization—DSM’s scientists decided to take the next step by evaluating its efficacy when added to a sanitizer formula.

Conducted in Beijing, China in March 2020, the study compared a test product (a hand sanitizer containing 1% PENTAVITIN​) with a base hand sanitizer formula (the placebo). Three days before the actual testing, study volunteers were asked to cleanse their forearms with water and not to apply any other cosmetics or medicines. The volunteers then applied both products to their inner forearms, on three test sites. To ensure that results were as reliable as possible, a randomized scheme was used to decide the location of the test product, the placebo, and an untreated control. Readings were then taken at the baseline, and at one hour and three hours after application.

A successful marriage— hydration and hygiene work hand in hand

During the study, the change in skin hydration from the three groups (untreated, placebo, PENTAVITIN) was analyzed. Results showed that, compared to the placebo, the sanitizer containing 1% PENTAVITIN boosted hydration by an additional 9% just one hour after application, and by additional 14% after three hours. The results also confirmed that even after applying a standard hand sanitizer only once, skin dryness still developed within three hours—to a more significant degree than in untreated skin. In contrast, the sanitizer formulation with 1% PENTAVITIN fully prevented the development of skin dryness and improved hydration levels when compared to untreated skin.

Weather, not wither, in the New Normal

The effects of the pandemic have left a lasting impact on hand care habits—and concerns. With this trend being forecasted to continue, one silver lining is that handwashing and hand sanitizers, a crucial line of defense, don’t have to come at the cost of dry, sore skin. Consumers who are taking steps to safeguard their health can be afforded the peace of mind that comes with knowing: it’s about weathering the storm, not withering their hands!

PENTAVITIN (INCI Saccharide Isomerate) is a 100% natural bioactive, sustainably produced using sugar isomerization technology. It is made by transforming edible kernel corn sugars into a unique, skin-identical carbohydrate complex, similar to the natural moisturizing factor found in the human stratum corneum. By mimicking essential molecules found in skin’s NMF, this bioactive locks in moisture, binds to the skin, and is not washed off. Its hydration benefits have been proven to last for 72 hours after application. The product PENTAVITIN, as supplied by DSM, does not contain preservatives, is Halal-certified and its ingredients are China-listed.  It is also NATRUE-certified and approved by ECOCERT and COSMOS.


(1) World Health Organization March 2020

(2) Anthony V. Rawlings, Todd J. Cartner, Amanda J. Copeland, Megan J. DiGiorgio. Hand Hygiene in Clinical Settings: A Primer on Hand Hygiene Regimens and Their Effect on Skin Condition

(3) Google Trends, consumer searches for “Dry Hands”, 24 March 2020


Dr. Dominik Imfeld, Senior Lead Scientist

Guillaume Laurent, Scientist III

Dr. Volker Rosenberger, Global Marketing Manager

Fabrice Guillemard, APAC Marketing Lead

Anson Zhang, Asia Pacific Application Centre Manager

Silke Adamietz, Marketing Communication Manager

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