Humectant vs emollient, how they affect your skin

Skincare has come a long way over the years and skincare routines have changed drastically. It seems like there’s a new product on the market every week. Some skincare products truly offer skin amazing benefits, we can only wait and see how far skincare goes. Maybe one day we’ll find the fountain of youth? But for now, let’s look at humectants vs emollients and how they affect your skin

With the addition of so many new skincare products brands are really vying for our attention by creating innovative new products. With so many products on the marketer, it’s so easy to get confused as to what to pick. From essence, emollients, eye serums, humectants this list goes on and on. This article is a closer look at humectants and emollients. What they are, what they do and should you use them?


These are used to make the skin softer and smoother. If you haven’t been exfoliating in a while and you have rough, dry skin then emollients are there to save the day. When your skin gets too dry the skin creates cracks and openings between the skin cells. The emollient fills these open spaces, the result is smoother looking skin.

If you use an emollient after you use your humectants the emollient will help prevent any loss of moisture on the skin. They do this by creating an oily sealant on the skin. The sealant becomes a barrier so that moisture does not escape.

Note: Emollients don’t actually hydrate the skin. Your skin still needs hydration before the use on an emollient. An emollient is just a sealant, use it in addition to your moisturizer. You might use an emollient on its own or you might find an emollient in your moisturizer.  

Examples of emollients

  • Silicone
  • Mineral oil
  • Alcohols (cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol)


These are substances that draw water from the environment and bring it into your skin. They can be used as an ingredient in moisturizing products as they won’t change the other ingredients ability to perform their function. You can also find products that are purely humectants.

They are great to use if you live in a humid climate and you would like to bring all that hydration to your skin. In addition to hydrating your skin, they can also be used for your hair as they are not only found in lotions or creams but also in shampoos.

Examples of humectants:

  • Glucose
  • Honey
  • Hyaluronic acid (I have an article on how this is good for oily skin here) but this is great for all skin types.
  • Fructose
  • Elastin
  • Sucrose
  • Collagen

Here is an article on all-natural humectants

These skincare products will be helpful in getting rid of a number of dry skin conditions such as:

  • Dermatitis
  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema

Why do I have dry skin?

You can get dry skin from doing a variety of skin activities. These will include

Taking long showers: Long showers strip the skin of its natural oil layer (sebum). This results in dryness and cracks in the skin. Rather take short showers to save water and save your skin.

Using hot water to shower or to wash your hands: Hot water is known to dry the skin, it also damages the skin in other ways (click to read more). This should be used at a minimum. Rather take cooler showers or warm showers to protect your skin.

Harsh soaps: Soaps that are very harsh are usually the ones that lather very well. These are soaps that contain a high level of sulphates, sulphates are known to dry the skin. Always try to use moisturizing soaps which don’t contain any sulfates. Or you could try other methods of washing your face without soap.

Sun exposure: The sun can damage the skin by giving you premature ageing, sunburn as well as skin cancer. To prevent sun damage in the first place use a good sunscreen. Or you can protect your skin from the sun naturally.

Dry air: This can be in the form of dry air outside or central heating. Although you can’t do much about the air outside you can create a better environment in your house, to do this I recommend using a humidifier. This is an efficient one.

Over-exfoliating: This can happen without you even releasing it, over-exfoliation will leave you with dry skin and will damage your skins moisture barrier. If you want to know more about if you’re over-exfoliating read this article.


Before using any products it’s important to do a patch test to make sure that you are not allergic to it. You can use the product on a small patch of your skin and see how and if the area reacts over 48 hours. If nothing happens then you’ll be safe

To ensure that you don’t develop dry skin in the first place you need to make sure that you moisturise on a regular basis and are using the correct moisturizer for your skin. This is a thick moisturiser that can be used on many skin types. Even moisturise at overnight if necessary.

What is a natural humectant?

A natural humectant is a humectant that has not been changed or altered in any way. Humectants pull moisture from the air or anything around it and deposit this moisture into the skin. The humectant molecules attract water molecules to them and bring these water molecules into the skin giving you hydrated supple skin. Natural humectants include:

Glycerin: This natural humectant can be made by heating triglyceride-rich vegetable fats. The humectant can also be synthetically made in a lab making it accessible to the masses.

Lactic acid: This is a unique ingredient found in dairy products, it has the ability to exfoliate the skin as well as hydrate it. It is an alpha hydroxy acid that can also stimulate collagen and thus strengthen skin.

Honey: This is called liquid gold for a reason, it hydrates the skin as well as being antiseptic. It is a strong antioxidant and it’s antibacterial so it helps to fight acne.

Aloe Vera: This humectant both hydrates the skin and calms the skin. It is anti-inflammatory so it works well to soothe any irritated or red skin you may have.

What is a natural emollient?

Natural emollients are emollients that have not been chemically changed or altered in any way. They can be derived from animals or plants and are used to seal hydration in the skin as well as give you soft, moisturized silky smooth skin. Here are some examples of natural emollients:

Lanolin: Lanolin is extracted from sheep’s wool and is similar to the sebum our skin creates. This oil helps to reduce water loss in the skin and softens the skin as well

Shea butter: Shea butter is being used more and more these days, not only is it a great emollient but it also softens the skin as well. As a bonus, it has anti-inflammatory properties.

Cocoa butter: This butter can be found in skincare products as well as in chocolate products. The product not only acts an emollient but it also improves your skin elasticity.

Castor oil: Not only does this oil seal hydration into the skin it also helps to fight acne as it has antibacterial properties.

Jojoba oil: This is the closet oil we have to the natural sebum on our skin. The oil seals in moisture and also helps minimize any eczema, or dry skin you may have

Argan oil: This oil has been used for centuries in morocco not only because of its occlusive properties but its antiaging and soothing properties as well.

Can we apply aloe Vera on face daily?

Yes, you can definitely apply aloe vera on your face daily.  You can even apply the aloe vera on your face twice a day if you so desire. If you use this product on your face on a daily basis you’ll see faster results than if you had only used it occasionally.

Aloe Vera helps hydrate your dry skin, cut through grease on the skin, minimize the appearance of wrinkles, help improve the appearance of pimples, and calm sunburn or irritated skin. This is a well-loved aloe vera

Can I leave aloe vera gel on my face overnight?

Yes, you can definitely leave aloe vera on your skin overnight. To use you’ll need to apply some of the translucent sap onto your fingertips and massage the sap into your skin.

You can use a thin layer of aloe vera on your skin, the skin can only absorb so much, adding a thicker layer won’t give you any added befits to applying a thinner layer. If you use it overnight you give the product more time to properly penetrate the skin and actually do the work it needs to do.

Is glycerin good for wrinkles?

Yes, glycerin is good for wrinkles. Glycerin is a natural substance that has a variety of uses, it helps to get rid of dryness, dark circles, puffiness in the eyes and helps to minimize the appearance of wrinkles.

You develop wrinkles due to the thinning of the skin, when the skin starts to thin out it loses the plumpness that keeps it firm. The skin also loses AQP3, the loss of this compound results in dryness of the skin and the skin losing its elasticity.

When you add glycerin to your skin you’re adding moisture back into your skin essentially. It is a natural humectant so it adds moisture from the environment into your skin filling your cells with hydration.

When your skin is hydrated the cells swell up, this plumps up any fine lines and wrinkles to some extent. It also helps to increase skin cell turnover which removes the old dead skin cells and replaces them with new fresh skin cells.

Why you shouldn’t use coconut oil on your skin?

You shouldn’t use coconut oil on your skin because it is comedogenic. Out of all the oils on the market, this oil is one of the most comedogenic oils. If you have acne-prone, oily combination or sensitive skin then you need to stay away from this oil. The oil will enter your pores and clog them, this will result in all sorts of blemishes. The oil quite literally suffocates the skin as it clogs the pores.

That being said, if you have dry or normal skin then coconut oil may actually work well for you. The people who rave about coconut oil online probably have dry or normal skin. Coconut oil contains the likes of lauric acid, vitamin E and caprylic acids.

Lauric acid is antimicrobial, it can also help reduce inflammation in the skin. Caprylic acid is antifungal and vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps fight off free radicals. It also contains high levels of saturated fats which will be helpful in repairing and maintaining your skins natural moisture barrier.

If you have oily, combination, or acne-prone skin and you want the benefits of coconut oil you can use fractionated coconut oil. This type of coconut oil is a better choice because it won’t leave a greasy residue on the skin after use. It is lightweight and can easily be absorbed into your skin without clogging the pores. Here is a well-loved fractionated coconut oil

I hope you enjoyed this article looking at the differences between humectants and emollients. If you enjoyed this article please share it.

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