What is the Best Skin Care Product for the Health of Your Skin? Ask an Astronaut!

Within the last 10 years, the number of different kinds of skin care products has exploded – in addition to the familiar cleansers, toners and moisturizers, we now have essences, serums, ampoules and boosters.

To make sense of all these new products, it seems like you need an advanced degree in both chemistry and skin biology — and that’s not far from the truth: it turns out that a bunch of rocket scientists at NASA and the European Space Agency are also trying to figure out what’s the best skin care product for their astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS).

You’d think skin care for astronauts would be low on NASA’s list of things to worry about, but it just so happens that those changes which occur in the skin that lead to dryness and itchiness here on earth also occur in space, and worse – those changes accelerate in a microgravity environment.

And while the stakes for us in having healthy skin here on earth are relatively low, they can be quite high for astronauts in space. This is because as one’s skin dries and thins, it becomes more easily bruised, and in space, it takes longer for those bruises to heal. Additionally, dry itchy skin can negatively affect both sleep and mood – the last thing anyone needs, but especially an astronaut 250 miles up in a tight, cramped machine whizzing around the planet at 17,000mph.

A Simple Moisturizer Affords Good Protection in the Challenging Environment of Space

Simple Moisturizer Is the Best Skin Care Product for Astronauts

Simple Moisturizer Is the Best Skin Care Product for Astronauts
‘Astronaut’ guide by Paul Hudson, CC BY 2.0

Because NASA sees the protection of the skin of astronauts as an important part of personal hygiene in space, researchers from NASA and the European Space Agency decided to test the protective effects of a simple skin care emulsion (a light moisturizer) on the skins of an astronaut during a recent ISS mission(1).

During the mission, the researchers had an astronaut treat one area of his right forearm with a moisturizer while leaving an identical area on his left forearm untreated. The researchers then measured skin hydration, trans-epidermal water loss, and skin elasticity during the mission.

They found that as more time passed on ISS, the untreated area of the skin experience a clear loss of elasticity, a decrease of density of the skin fiber system, a thinning of the top skin layer and a decrease in the skins ability to replace old, surface-level damaged skin cells with new skin cells.

On the treated arm, however, the researchers found a clear protective benefit against these negative microgravity environment effects on the skin. Specifically, compared to the untreated arm, they found that application of a moisturizer over the course of the mission led to improved hydration, improved skin elasticity, and an improved ability to replace damaged skin cells with new skin cells.

So, among all the new skin care products out there, if you’re wondering, what is the best daily product to maintain the health of your skin, it’s probably that simple moisturizer.


1. Tronnier H, Wiebusch M, Heinrich U. Change in Skin Physiological Parameters in Space – Report on and Results of the First Study on Man. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology. 2008; 21(5): 283-292.

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A Message from the International Space Station to All Humankind

In December of 2012, NASA Television shared this inspiring production by Italian videomaker, Giacomo Sardelli, about the International Space Station, its inhabitants, and its role in space exploration: