By Hannah Wardle
How Skin Moisturisers Work
‘Moisturiser’ is a broad term for any product or ingredient which helps the skin to retain water. Though skin moisturisers most commonly come in the form of a cream or lotion, many various skin care products can have a moisturising effect, as long as they contain hydrating ingredients.
There are three different types of skin moisturisers: Humectants, Emollients and Occlusives. To understand how skin moisturisers work, we need to understand the difference between these three types and how they each work to help the skin retain its moisture.
What are Humectants?
Humectants are moisturising agents that help to hydrate the skin by attracting water to the Epidermis - the top layer of the skin. Some humectants commonly used in skincare are Amino Acids/Urea Glycerin, Panthenol, and Hyaluronic, Salicylic and Glycolic Acids.
How do they work?
Humectants act like a magnet, drawing water from the deeper level of the skin (known as the Dermis). They also attract water from the air and from any products applied to the skin. When used on the skin, humectants such as these enhance the performance of any moisturising products used directly afterwards, as they magnetise the moisture from these products to the skin.
What are Emollients?
Emollients usually come in the form of creams, lotions or gels and are used to help relieve dryness or itchiness/irritation in the skin. Rather than drawing water into the skin, they often contain oils or lipids which can help replenish moisture that is lost through washing, makeup removal or environmental/sun exposure.
How do they work?
Emollients help improve skin smoothness by filling in rough spots on the epidermis. They do not impact the skin’s water content a deep level but instead coat the skin’s top layer to improve its texture and provide topical treatment for irritation or dryness.
What are Occlusives?
Occlusives are protective skin barriers which trap in moisture and prevent water loss. Occlusives often come in the form of waxes, oils and gels/jellies - petroleum jelly is a great example of a popular skin occlusive.
How do they work?
Occlusives work by acting as a seal on the skin’s surface which traps in the moisture in the skin’s layers, preventing transepidermal water loss. Rather than supplying external nutrients or water to the skin, occlusives work to block the evaporation of the existing water within the skin to prevent dryness. This makes occlusives especially effective when used together with an emollient or humectant, as these can provide the skin with moisture which the occlusive then helps your skin hold on to.
Why Are Moisturisers Important For Your Skin?
It is important to use moisturising products, as everyday factors like environmental exposure, UV rays and washing/cleansing the skin can all cause transepidermal water loss, which draws water and moisture out of the skin. Moisturisers help to replenish this lost moisture and prevent excess water loss, to prevent the skin from becoming dry. Though dryness in the skin is not inherently bad, it can lead to discomfort and may cause itchiness, uneven texture and premature signs of ageing.
Although it is important to use a moisturiser at the end of your skincare routine, your other skincare products may be providing moisturising properties too!
Using a humectant like Kokoa’s Toner alongside an emollient such as our Moisturiser will help to ensure your skin’s moisture is replenished and sealed in to keep it feeling smooth and hydrated.