The Ultimate Guide To Emollients, Humectants, And Occlusives For Baby Soft Skin

Youth is wasted on the young.
BY Sarah Lim
| July, 2021
types of moisturizer

Children are better at imaginative play, shamelessness, and having perfect skin. But don’t worry, there are ways to reclaim your youth, like using an excellent moisturizer. No matter what’s your skin type, moisturizers and the types of moisturizers are a must for baby soft skin. From normal skin types to ultra-dry and mature, they’re the key to having dewy, glowing skin. 

But do you know that different kinds of moisturizers exist there? There are three main types of moisturizers—humectants, emollients, and occlusive. Each of them can benefit your skin a little differently in terms of moisture.

Guide To The Different Types of Moisturizers

Here, we review these three key types of moisturizers in more detail, as well as which ones could be the best for your particular skin type.

What Are Humectants?

humectants

Humectants are a type of substance that helps retain moisture. They work by drawing water from other places, whether from deeper layers of the skin or the air. Humectants are often described as being a “moisture magnet”. You’ll typically find humectants in facial creams, serums, masks, and lotions.

Since humectants can draw existing moisture out of the skin, there’s some concern that they can actually make dry skin worse, especially after removing the product. However, humectants are typically combined with emollients and occlusives in skincare formulas, which helps them protect skin instead of drying it out.

When combined with other ingredients, humectants are a superior hydrating agent and protect the skin barrier from damage.

Examples of humectants in skincare products include:

  • Aloe vera
  • Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)
  • Glycerin
  • Honey
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Salicylic acid (It’s a beta hydroxy acid or BHA)

What steps should humectants be in your skincare routine? Since humectants encompass such a diverse range of products, it can vary as to when you should use them in your skincare routine. For example, generally, people use AHAs and BHAs as exfoliants. They aren’t always meant to stay on the skin, while formulas with hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, and honey are typically facial creams. And they’re meant to remain on the skin throughout the day. YOU should always use serums that contain humectants right after cleansing for the best effect, and you can then layer with your moisturizer and sunscreen!

What Are Emollients?

Emollients

Emollients are also a moisturizer but work a little differently than humectants. Whereas humectants work by drawing water to the skin for a dewy look, emollients actually help fill in the spaces in your skin where it may have dried and cracked on the surface.

Typically made of lipids (fats), emollients are known for hydrating skin and restoring smoothness and softness to the skin’s surface. They can also support skin elasticity for a plumping effect.

Emollients are champions at preventing transepidermal water loss, sometimes referred to as TEWL, when skin loses hydration, and the skin barrier becomes compromised. Emollients can help protect the skin barrier and improve symptoms of atopic dermatitis, including dry, itchy skin.

Examples of emollients in skincare include:

  • Ceramides
  • Shea butter
  • Cocoa butter
  • Coconut oil
  • Colloidal oatmeal
  • Squalene

What step should emollients be in your skincare routine? Emollients encompass a diverse range of products. But experts generally agree it would be best if you apply them when skin is still slightly damp after cleansing. Depending on the product, you may then be able to layer with your other skincare products. You can also use emollients throughout the day as a rescue treatment for the skin.

What Are Occlusives?

Occlusives differ from humectants and emollients. Because they’re typically oils and help prevent TEWL by actually creating a physical barrier on the skin’s surface. One con to this is that occlusives are only effective while they’re on the skin—as soon as they are removed, your skin is unprotected.

Typically combined with humectants, occlusives can help skin stay moisturized and prevent irritation from the elements and environmental toxins. Occlusives are also typically heavier than humectants or emollients on the skin, which can be advantageous or a disadvantage, depending on your skin type.

Examples of occlusives in skincare include:

  • Argan oil
  • Beeswax
  • Candelilla wax
  • Lanolin
  • Jojoba oil
  • Olive oil
  • Safflower oil 

What step should occlusives be in your skincare routine? Occlusives should always be the last step in your skincare routine. It’s because they create a physical barrier to keep moisture in!

How To Choose The Right Ingredients For Your Skin Type

How to choose the right ingredients for your skin type

You can use emollients, occlusives, and humectants together in skincare products. In fact, they’re most often combined with each other. Mostly because it’s rare that products can be used as a standalone ingredient for skin (except in cases of plant oils such as argan or jojoba).

Also, keep in mind that you won’t see the words “humectant,” “emollient,” or “occlusive” on a skincare label—these terms classify specific ingredients that you’ll need to look for, such as those noted above.

Which moisturizers you choose to use really depend on your skin type. For example, salicylic acid is great for people who are prone to acne or have oily skin. However, this acid is typically not the best choice for people with sensitive skin.

Occlusives are excellent for people who have dry, mature skin. But they typically aren’t good fits for people with very oily skin. If you’re considering a moisturizer for your skin, you may want to consider a product with a lower percentage of occlusives compared to humectants.

Of course, if you have sensitive skin, you’ll want to look for a product that doesn’t contain a ton of additives, such as preservatives and fragrances.

As a general rule of thumb:

Rule of thumb for moisturizer
  • Humectants can be great for normal, oily, or combination skin
  • Emollients can work well for people with dry, sensitive, mature, or combination skin
  • Occlusives are best for people with dry, mature, or sensitive skin

Combination formulas can work well for all skin types depending on the particular product and ingredients.

Not Sure What Types of Moisturizers Are Best For Your Skin?

Have You heard of humectants, emollients, and occlusives, and do you use them regularly in your skincare routine? If you’re not sure which moisturizer would benefit your skin the most, it’s time to determine your skin type by taking our free skincare type quiz!

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