Understanding Your Moisturizer: Humectants & Occlusive Ingredients
Here in L.A., we’re dealing with record-breaking temps and the seriously dry summer air that comes with living in the desert. Because of the dry climate, many of my clients experience dry skin during the summer just like they do in winter months. But when one of my clients comes in month after month with the same dry and dehydrated skin, it’s usually a sign that something isn’t quite right with their moisturizer.
A good moisturizer contains both humectants and occlusive agents—two families of ingredients with very different but equally important moisturizing properties.
What is a Humectant?
Humectants are hydrophilic, or water-loving, ingredients. All humectants form bonds with water—some like hyaluronic acid can even hold up to 1000 times their weight in water. When applied topically, humectants draw water from the dermis (deep down skin layer) up to the epidermis (surface layer) where dehydration occurs. They give skin a plump, supple look and can even help prevent fine lines and wrinkles.
The Best Humectants
My favorite humectant is hyaluronic acid—a, non-irritating acid that is incredibly hydrating. Not only is hyaluronic acid a substance that your body naturally creates, it far surpasses other humectants in its hydrating properties. My HA Hydrating Serum contains the perfect concentration of hyaluronic acid to draw optimal hydration to the surface of the skin. Other great humectant moisturizing ingredients include glycerin and sodium PCA.
What is an Occlusive Agent?
Unlike humectants, occlusive agents do not love water; in fact, most of them actually repel it. Occlusive agents are generally made up of large molecules that are unable to penetrate the skin. Rather than sinking into the skin, they sit right on the surface, acting like a protective layer. Because they repel water, occlusive agents actually prevent the water that’s in your skin from evaporating and escaping into the air.
The Best Occlusive Ingredients
Shea butter, mango butter, and cocoa butter are some of the most common occlusive agents and are great for body products. For face, I prefer more lightweight occlusive ingredients like allatoin, a substance extracted from comfrey root that is very soothing and calming.