With so many moisturizers and lotions on the market, all claiming to give you smoother, more hydrated skin, how can we tell which are worth the purchase? One way to spot a moisturizer that is sure to do the trick is to check the label for one particular group of ingredients: Humectants! Humectants are one of the most important ingredients in moisturizers as they cause whatever lotion you’re applying to bond with water molecules. This means that as well as making your skin feel soft, it actually brings water up from the lower levels in your skin, leaving your skin glowing brighter, and holding that moisture in for longer.
Your skin will also be less prone to cracking (which is what causes anti-aging). Importantly, instead of just moisturising the dead, dry skin cells at the top of the skin, humectants also break down the protein which holds the dead skin cells together, so you can get rid of them completely. If the humidity reaches over 70 per cent, humectants can also drag water molecules for the air around, too.
Different Types of Humectants:
1. Synthetic Humectants
Synthetic humectants work by pulling the water up from the dermis, without replenishing it again. This means that while your skin will be hydrated for a while, it will eventually dry it out. Once the moisture evaporates (which it will unless you’re in a very humid environment), there will be no moisture left in the dermis to hydrate your skin again. Overall, you’re left with drier skin, leading to dullness and accelerated aging. Synthetic humectants are fairly common in the skincare industry as they’re cheaper and have a longer shelf life.
Ones To Look Out For:
- Propylene glycol. A by-product of petroleum refining, propylene glycol helps skin hold onto skin moisture, but can dry out the lower levels of your skin. So while it feels nice when applied, it will dry your skin out more in the long term.
- Silicones. These chemicals form a layer over the skin which stops it from ‘breathing’ normally. This can irritate the skin, as well as dry it out once the initial moisture is gone.
- PEG. Also known as Polythylene glycols are similar to Propylene glycol in the sense that they drag moisture from the lower levels of the skin but give none back.
2. Natural Humectants
Natural humectants work to stimulate moisture production in the dermis, and encourage your skin to grow new cells. They also draw moisture from the lower levels, whilst hydrating them again too, so your skin will stay hydrated in the long term.
The Main Natural Humectants Are:
- Hyaluronic acid. A molecule the body produces by itself, which increases skin repair and cell growth, and cushions joints, eyeballs and skin. It can hold on to water and adjusts according to humidity levels, looking after your skin in even the driest environments.
- Aloe vera. It gets deep into the skin quickly, hydrating both the upper and lower levels of the skin.
- Honey. An additive that contains alpha hydroxy acid which can help minimise signs of ageing and hold on to water without feeling oily.
- Glycerin. A common one to use, it occurs naturally in the body and in every living cell, so it’s very easy for your body to absorb it.
Moisturizing with natural humectants is not just for people with dry skin. It’s still important for those with oily skin, as this only means your sebaceous glands are working in overdrive to produce oil due to dryness. Whereas if you keep your skin moisturized they won’t need to work quite as hard and you'll produce less oil. So, moisturizing oily skin using the right products can lower your sebum levels and get your skin back to normal.