What is the difference between emollient, humectant and occlusive ingredients?
When we talk about cosmetic ingredients, there is often a lot of confusion between the concepts of humectants, emollients and occlusives. In this post we are going to shed a little light on the topic, starting with the most basic: what skin is and how it works .
About 2 square meters and 5 kg: those are the proportions of what is the largest organ in the body. The skin has several tasks, but its main and most important task is to protect the body from the outside . And in the trenches is the most superficial layer of the epidermis, the stratum corneum, which has the commendable function of preventing transepidermal water loss (TEWL or transepidermal water loss in English)
The key: prevent water from evaporating
Because the reality is that we are not waterproof and if our skin were not responsible for preventing water loss, it would evaporate ad infinitum without giving us time to replace it.
If the TEWL is adequate, our skin is healthy and can properly perform its guardian function. If the TEWL is high, meaning we lose a lot of water, the barrier function can be compromised and the skin can weaken.
This is where cosmetics come into play, with moisturizing, emollient and occlusive ingredients , which are usually combined with each other. Their common goal is to help the skin be healthy and beautiful, but each person reaches it differently . There is usually a lot of confusion about which is which and what function each one has, let's tell you everything about them!
Moisturizing active ingredients
A moisturizing active ingredient is one that is capable of attracting and retaining water , improving the skin's hydration capacity. They have a double function: they attract water to the skin while - as if it were a magnet - they retain it on the skin surface, preventing it from evaporating.
They are usually light and are soluble in water. Good examples of moisturizing ingredients are glycerin, hyaluronic acid, or betaine.
Emollient active ingredients
Emollient active ingredients not only attract moisture; They are also rich in lipids and act as cement between the cells of our skin, 'sealing' the water and preventing it from evaporating.
They help maintain a correct proportion of lipids and water and by repairing or cementing the union of cells, they contribute to the proper functioning of the skin, providing calm and softness.
They are denser than humectants and as examples we can cite a large part of vegetable oils (olive, sesame, apricot, jojoba), ceramides, multiple vitamins (E, F).
At Vera & the birds we have numerous products with a high proportion of emollient active ingredients such as the Moisturizing Day Cream , the Rescue me sleeping mask or - if we talk about lip care - the Just Kiss me Lip treatment .
Occlusive ingredients literally form a film on the skin that prevents water evaporation. Cosmetics with a high index of occlusive ingredients are very useful as shock therapy for very dry, sensitive or damaged skin and are perfect for the Korean slugging technique , by which we apply the occlusive product on top of our skincare to act as a film. and allow all assets to work at full capacity without water evaporating.
Occlusives have heavier textures and are not recommended for very oily or acne-prone skin because high proportions can cause comedogenicity.
Examples of occlusive ingredients are mineral oils, beeswax, shea butter, some silicones.
At Vera & the birds we have a cosmetic loaded with occlusive active ingredients: Superseed oil . Its high content of vegetable oils will form a protective layer that will prevent moisture from evaporating while allowing the rest of the cosmetics in your routine to perform their function better.
Combined, much better
There are many ingredients that can have a double function, such as glycerin, which is considered a humectant and emollient, or avocado oil, which is an emollient but can also have an occlusive action.
Likewise, cosmetics are rarely formulated with a single function : they usually include to a greater or lesser extent all three ways of managing hydration; some will be more moisturizing-emollient, others more emollient-occlusive, depending on the type of skin you are treating and the step of the routine you are on.
Now that - we hope - you have it a little clearer, we encourage you to adjust your routine taking these differences into account and of course to ask us if you need help.