Written By Katie Pierce / Reviewed By Ray Spotts
Taking care of one’s skin is much more than vanity. Having healthy skin can protect you from infections, which can lead to serious health concerns. Spending the time and effort on your skin also boosts your confidence and makes you feel good about yourself.
Choosing the right skincare products is essential, whether you have acne-prone skin or simply want to improve your skin texture. It is critical to know how each product differs from the others. In this article, we’ll explore how to distinguish hydrators from moisturizers.
The umbrella definition
In the strictest sense, a moisturizer refers to all skincare products that relieve or prevent dryness. For consumers to easily pick out the best skin care product, the term “moisturizers” has been broken down into subcategories based on how they moisturize the skin: moisturizers (emollients and occlusives) and hydrators or humectants.
In this article, “moisturizer” will be used to refer to the subcategory.
Moisturizers hydrate the skin by preventing water from escaping and/or by influencing how the skin cells function to prevent moisture from seeping out. There are two types of moisturizers: emollients and occlusives. However, some moisturizers, like lanolin, act as both emollients and occlusives.
Moisturizer Type #1: Emollients
An emollient is an oil-based type of moisturizer that primarily acts on the skin cells to facilitate lubrication. It fills in the gaps and cracks among the skin cells, strengthens the protective barrier against harmful elements, and softens the dermis to increase membrane fluidity. Membrane fluidity is essential for normal cell function.
As skin softeners, emollients have ingredients that feel silkier and are lighter than occlusives. Some examples of natural emollients are sheep’s wool, palm oil, coconut oil, and oat ingredients. Several are also sweet-smelling, such as almond oil and olive oil.
Emollient products usually come in the form of gels, lotions, and light creams. Most emollients are natural and have plant-based ingredients.
Emollients work best for normal, combination, and oily skin. Depending on your skin type, you can combine it with humectants for the best results.
Moisturizer Type #2: Occlusives
Occlusives are similar to emollients in that they are also oil-based. However, this cosmetic preparation has larger molecules that can repel water. Their key purpose is to create a protective barrier to seal moisture in.
Because they are heavier than emollients, they can provide a thicker protective barrier for the skin. A few examples of occlusives are petrolatum, mineral oil, and squalene oil, which are greasy to the touch.
The most effective emollient is said to be petrolatum. You can find occlusive ingredients in heavy creams, waxes, and ointments. Many effective occlusives cannot easily be replaced by plant-based ingredients.
Because of their “heavy-duty” ingredients, occlusives work best for those with dry and flaky skin. It is a no-no to use occlusives on highly sensitive or allergy-prone skin. Neither should it be used on any skin disorder such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, etc.
However, occlusives are used by dermatologists to hasten the healing of patients who have undergone dermabrasion or chemical peels.
Hydrators or humectants differ from moisturizers in how they keep the skin moisturized. Their water-based ingredients essentially draw or absorb water from the second layer of the skin into the top layer. If the environment is humid enough - over 70 percent humidity - humectants can also draw water vapor from the atmosphere.
The topmost layer is the oldest skin layer that is also the most exposed to the elements. When it becomes hydrated, this helps the shedding of dead skin cells, allowing more supple and softer skin. They can be found in such products as sprays, light lotions, and gels.
Nature has produced several effective hydrators, such as aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, alpha hydroxy acid, honey, and even seaweed. However, many cosmetic firms use synthetic ingredients because they cost less to produce and last longer. A few of the more popular synthetic hydrators are glycerin, sorbitol, and sodium lactate.
All types of skin can benefit from the refreshing effects of hydrators. Without oily ingredients, hydrators do not clog pores. However, for hydration purposes, dry skin needs heavier moisturizers and thus benefits the least from hydrators.
While they can be used by themselves, hydrators can better moisturize the skin in conjunction with emollients or occlusives. This way, the moisture that is absorbed is better sealed into the skin.
Skincare products are generally safe to use. It is always best, though, to do your due diligence. Know your specific skin type and check with your dermatologist on the most suitable skincare product for you.
It also wouldn’t hurt to read up on skincare information from reputable sources, as well as find out what the social media community has to say about your favorite brands or products. The sooner you take care of your skin, the more pleased you will be with the results.
Looking for 100% chemical-free, all-natural nourishing face and body oils? Check out Earth & Elm Nourishing Face Oil and Earth & Elm Nourishing Body Oil. Subscribe to our Trusted Health Club newsletter for more information about natural living tips, natural health, oral care, skincare, body care and foot care. If you are looking for more health resources check out the Trusted Health Resources list.
Katie Pierce is a teacher-slash-writer who loves telling stories to an audience, whether it’s bored adults in front of a computer screen or a bunch of hyperactive 4-year-olds. Writing keeps her sane (most of the time) and allows her to enjoy some quiet time in the evening before she walks into a room of screaming kids (all of whom she loves dearly) the next morning.
Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “How To Succeed In Business Based On God’s Word,” at www.rayspotts.com.