Come wintertime, one category of ingredients that gets talked about a lot in the skincare community is emollients. It is easy to understand why. Due to cold weather and change in temperature, the majority of us deal with dry or dehydrated skin. It is not a life-threatening condition by any stretch of the imagination. But it can be so bloody uncomfortable. So what exactly are emollients and how to recognize them on the ingredients list?
What are emollients?
Emollients are lubricating, wax-like agents that form a protective layer on the skin.
What do emollients do?
Corneocytes and lipids make the Stratum Corneum. Corneocytes are dead skin cells, but they serve a purpose as they are made of substances that hold water. When the water content of Stratum Corneum is at its optimum, our skin feels smooth and soft. The water content is equally important for the desquamation process as it regulates enzymes which, in turn, impact the shedding of corneocytes. When our skin doesn’t have enough water, the desquamation process is disrupted. Corneocytes accumulate, and skin can start flaking.
Emollients form a protective barrier on the skin that prevents moisture loss, protect the skin against environmental factors, and act as lubricants. These are occlusive emollients. They do so by filling the gaps between the corneocytes.
In doing so, emollients make the skin more supple, soft and improve elasticity. Also, they help treat rough, flaky skin, and dryness. Likewise, there are humectant emollients, which work by attracting and retaining the moisture in the top layer of the skin. Because of these properties, they are the recommended ingredient to treat dry skin, as well as various skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.
What are the most common emollients?
Emollients are divided into synthetic and natural. Some of the most common emollients you can find in the ingredients list include Cocoa and Shea butter, Squalane, Mineral oil, Petrolatum, Lanolin, and Olive oil. Furthermore, various plant oils (like coconut, almond, and jojoba oils, for example) are also emollients.
Emollients can be water or oil-based. Water-based emollients can be more suitable for easily congested skin, oily, and normal skin as they don’t leave a shiny protective layer on the skin.
Oil-based emollients leave a sheen on the surface of the skin and are more suitable for dry skin.
What types of products contain emollients?
A majority of skincare, body, and makeup products contain emollients. If you are dealing with dry and very dry skin, the options available are plentiful; you can find them in creams, moisturisers, body lotions, and ointments. A product to look for is one that contains both emollients and humectants.
Do you use a product with emollients? Are you happy with the results?