Water content plays a crucial role in skin barrier function as well as visible skin health. Maintaining proper hydration levels is essential for skin desquamation and stratum corneum maturation. When skin undergoes moisture loss, also known as transepidermal water loss, skin can become visibly dry and flaky as well as more susceptible to irritation, inflammation, and redness. Skin dryness can also lead to flare ups in skin conditions such as eczema and rosacea. Skincare formulations focus on preventing moisture loss through the inclusion of humectants, occlusives, and emollients, each playing a unique role in skin hydration.
What Are Humectants?
Humectants are key hydrating agents in skincare, drawing moisture from the environment into the skin's upper layers to improve hydration. They are hygroscopic molecules that chemically have a high affinity for water and can plump, smooth, and comfort dry skin, especially in humid environments. In more dry environments they can still be beneficial for the skin but are best in combination with occlusives.
Hyaluronic acid is a humectant and polysaccharide native to the skin. It can be found in skincare at varying molecular sizes, allowing it to hydrate different skin layers effectively. Its ability to bind water helps to maintain skin's plumpness and can reduce the appearance of fine lines. Hyaluronic acid also enhances the performance of other skincare ingredients.
Glycerin is a multi-functional humectant and a natural component of healthy skin. It not only helps to attract water to the skin but also plays a role in maintaining the skin's protective barrier helping soothe and calm irritated skin. This makes glycerin beneficial for all skin types, balancing hydration and helping to shield the skin from environmental stress. Concentrations at 20-45% can be used as an OTC skin protectant active.
What Are Occlusives?
Occlusives create a protective layer that seals moisture into the skin, helping to prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL). This action is crucial in maintaining skin hydration, particularly in harsh weather conditions or for individuals with compromised skin barriers.
Dimethicone is valued in skincare formulations for its ability to form a non-comedogenic, protective layer on the skin. Due to its large molecular weight it doesn’t penetrate the skin and sits on the surface creating a barrier that keeps water in the skin while protecting it from external irritants. It is also beneficial for oily skin types, it is known to provide moisture retention without contributing to acne and leaves the skin with a smooth, nongreasy finish.
Petrolatum is recognized for its occlusive properties, effectively sealing in moisture and aiding the skin's natural healing processes. It is widely used in products designed for dry or chapped skin, as well as in post-procedure care due to its protective qualities. Concentrations at 30%+ can qualify as an OTC skin protectant active.
What Are Emollients?
Emollients are ingredients that soften and smooth the skin by filling the spaces between skin cells. They improve the skin's texture and provide suppleness, an important aspect of maintaining a healthy skin feel and appearance.
Squalane is a lightweight emollient that closely mimics the skin's natural sebum. It provides hydration and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth without a heavy or greasy residue, making it suitable for a wide range of skin types.
Shea butter is a rich emollient known for its moisturizing and soothing properties. It is high in fatty acids and vitamins, which can help calm skin and provide deep moisturization to the skin.
Additional Moisture-Retaining Ingredients
Ceramides are lipid molecules integral to the skin's barrier. They play a crucial role in preventing moisture loss and protecting the skin from external irritants. By reinforcing the skin's natural barrier, ceramides help to keep the skin hydrated and resilient.
Lactic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid with humectant properties, which means it helps the skin retain moisture. It also gently exfoliates the skin, promoting cell turnover and revealing a fresher, more hydrated skin surface. Its mild nature makes it suitable for even sensitive skin types.
A skincare regimen that includes a combination of humectants, occlusives, and emollients can be highly effective in maintaining skin hydration. These ingredients work together to support the skin's natural barrier and enhance the look of the overall skin complexion.
DISCLAIMER: All skin care articles are intended to help educate on specific ingredients and skin care topics. Our articles are written to be informative and informational. Any reference to a specific patient experience is not a medical suggestion for treatment. Please note that any Prequel products with referenced ingredients are formulated for Cosmetic Use Only and NOT intended as replacements for physician advice and/or pharmaceutical product recommendations.