Moisturising. We all know about it, but do we really understand it?

It’s all part of a balanced skincare regime that’s aimed at making your skin look and feel healthier. However, there’s also a massive debate over whether or not we should use moisturisers and if we could damage our skin using them.

Let’s first take a look at what moisturising actually does to your skin. There are a range of elements that make up any moisturiser. The most common are water occlusives and humectants. These are the ingredients that add and keep water in the top layers of your skin and are the most important elements of any moisturiser. All the others, emollients, vitamins, alcohols and SPF, are add-ons that do a lot more than simply moisturise.

Let’s take a closer look:

  1. Add water to your skin

The first ingredient for any moisturiser should be water or as you’ll see on the bottle, aqua or eau. The entire point of a moisturiser is to add water to your skin. The water molecules are usually stored in an emulsion of oil so that you can rub the cream or lotion onto your skin without it running everywhere.

People often think of moisturisers as adding oil to their skin, but this is a big misconception. Dry skin doesn’t lack oil, it lacks water. You’ll regularly see people with very oily skin have flaky, red skin too. This is because their sebaceous glands are working overtime, trying to make the skin wetter but only really adding oil to the situation.

2. Block The Evaporation Of Water From Your Skin

This is where the occlusives come in. They are the oily ingredients that prevent water from evaporating out of the top layers of the skin. These ingredients can be anything fatty or waxy that will sit on top of the skin while the rest of the ingredients get absorbed into the skin. The most common occlusive ingredient is petrolatum, and it’s usually listed third or fourth in the ingredients list.

Other options for occlusives include paraffin, lanolin, lecithin, cetyl alcohol, stearic acid and mineral oil. When a product is oil-free, it usually has a silicone like cyclomethicone or dimethicone in it to act as the occlusive. Hand cream or moisturiser would be useless without this barrier because all the water you apply will instantly evaporate.

3. Draw Water From The Deeper Layers Of Your Skin

This is the humectant ingredient, and it is the one that draws water from the deeper layers of your skin into the top layers. Without the occlusive, this ingredient would pull water to the surface of your skin and let it evaporate. So, it has to be used in conjunction with the oily barrier. In theory, this ingredient could also pull water from the air into your skin on humid days.

The most common humectant used is glycerine. Other moisturisers use panthenol, vitamin B5, urea or sorbitol. A more natural ingredient that’s often included is honey. In the cases of honey and vitamin B5, they’re used for their physical properties and not for any nutritional purposes.

4. Smooth The Surface Of Your Skin

Emollients are the first ingredients added to a moisturiser that isn’t actually for the express purpose of adding and keeping water in your skin. Although, many occlusives and humectants can also work as emollients in a moisturising product. They’re used to smooth out the skin and make it feel softer to the touch. These ingredients sit on top of the skin and cover up rough spots and fill in the gaps.

5. Reduce Fine Lines And Early Wrinkles

Anti-ageing moisturisers are extremely popular because they reportedly include ingredients that can minimise fine lines and help prevent wrinkles as they start appearing. Vitamin A is the big one used here in the form of retinoic acid. It stimulates collagen production in the skin and helps to keep the skin elastic. It’s important to check the ingredient list because many will use retinyl palmitate instead of retinoic acid and this doesn’t work nearly as well for wrinkles. However, it does work as a humectant.

Vitamin C and Vitamin E are also common ingredients in moisturisers that help to keep the skin glowing and looking young. They tend to come in the form of ascorbic acid and tocopheryl acetate respectively. The jury is still out as to whether or not these two vitamins occur in high enough quantities in a moisturiser to really help. Unlike in vitamin supplements, there are several variables that affect their efficiency, especially when mixed with different ingredients or exposed to sunlight.

6. Reduce Fine Lines And Early Wrinkles

Moisturisers aren’t only applied to help combat dry skin. They are also often used to soothe skin that is irritated or inflamed. If you’re struggling with allergies, rubbing moisturiser onto itchy skin can provide plenty of immediate relief. Body lotions that contain menthol can help with soothing, itchy, or irritated skin. The menthol won’t heal the cause of the irritation, but it will relieve the symptoms.

7. Soften Hard, Thick Skin

A major reason why people use body lotions is to reduce hard skin that has got thick and often sore or cracked. This can happen on the feet most commonly, especially over the heels. Some moisturisers will contain lactic acid, which softens thick, hard skin and prevents it from cracking. These are usually purpose-made moisturisers for that hard skin and should contain around 12% lactic acid to do the job well.

The Bottom Line:

Go for the tried and tested moisturisers. No one wants dry skin, and it can be unsightly, itchy, and uncomfortable. Fortunately, you don’t have to live with it. Moisturisers are the not-so-secret weapon in the fight against dryness.

If you want a moisturiser that really does what it says on the label, then you need to go for brands and products that are of great quality. Just like what we stock! Supple, well-moisturised skin is something everyone can have if they use the right moisturiser.

The Somerset Toiletry Company was founded in 1999 and has been developing beautiful body care and gifts ever since. Please read our about us page to find out more, or explore all our scented toiletries, home fragrances and more on our website.

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