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Your Ultimate Guide On Humectants


Dealing with dry, flakey skin? Hydrating your skin is an important step in order to keep a fresh and youthful look. Adding the right moisturizer to your beauty routine can save your skin to look dull.

Our skin is the largest organ in the human body and is divided into 3 layers: epidermis, dermis and hypodermis. It has a different thickness and texture depending on the spot. For instance, the skin under the eye is thinner and more delicate than the one on the rest of the face. 

The most common reasons for dry or dehydrated skin are cold weather, dry air, over-exfoliating, over washing the face, usage of facial soap with unbalanced pH, not drinking enough water. For example, lower temperatures make the water in the skin evaporate faster and during winter our skin loses 25% of the ability to hold moisture. 

Additionally, aging slows down the production of some substances that keeps the skin naturally hydrated. Sun exposition without protections might cause your skin to dry as well. 

There is a good variety of moisturizers available on the market that will help you to keep your skin fresh and hydrated. But picking one might be confusing.

Did you know there are different types of them, namely emollient, humectants and occlusives? Do you know the difference? Well, let’s dive into that.


What Is A Humectant?

Humectants have the potential to attract not only water molecules from the air and pulling into your skin’s surface but also water contained in the product as well as attracting it from lower layers of skin. This process helps to moisturise the epidermis. 

There are natural and synthetic types of humectants. The most common natural used are honey, aloe vera gel, baobab, hyaluronic acid, rice proteins and lactic acid. The nature-identical or synthetic ones mostly used are urea, glyceryl triacetate, propylene glycol, hexylene glycol, and butylene glycol.

Humectant for Hair

Humectants work in the same way in the hair, which helps the hair follicles retain more moisture. This process can make the hair supple, soft, bouncy and less likely to break. However, that might depend on the environment. In highly humid places, humectants may attract too much water to the hair and may cause frizz, dryness and possible damage.  

Common natural humectants are panthenol, hyaluronic acid, sorbitol, glycogen, glucose, fructose, xylitol, elastin, silk, keratin, and so on.  

Humectant for Skin

Humectants are used in many skincare cosmetics like body cleansers, eye lotions, facial creams, soaps, and lip balms.

If a cosmetic is specially designed for super dry or damaged skin, some moisturizers will come with added occlusive in their formula. That’s because the humectant might draw too much water from the skin and to counterbalance that, an occlusive agent fills the crack in dry skin and prevents water loss. 

You can choose to buy a product two-in-one that contains both humectant and occlusive substances or apply them separated. Read the labels carefully and check which one is the best for your skin type.


What’s The Difference Between Emollient And Humectant?

Different from humectants, emollients are substances like oils and lipids that soothes the skin. Our natural lipids can be depleted by using makeup, soaps, astringent, UV exposure and time. To prevent any moisture loss, the emollient forms a layer of protection on the skin surface. 

Even though both ingredients aim to hydrate, they do in different ways. Emollients soften the skin by creating a layer of protection and preventing water to evaporate, while humectants attract and bond with it.  

The most common emollients are shea butter, cocoa butter, mineral oil, paraffin, beeswax, plant oil (like jojoba, coconut, sesame), olive oil and petrolatum. Keep this in mind when trying to combat that dry skin!

Want more insights? Let’s keep in touch @kiseu

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