Understanding Your Moisturizer: Humectants & Occlusive Ingredients

Love slathering on moisturizer but not sure how it actually works? Most often, moisturizers fall into two categories: humectant and occlusive. Humectants are hydrators that draw water into your skin, while occlusives work to seal moisture in. So which type of moisturizer should you choose? Trick question opt for a moisturizer that has both humectant and occlusive ingredients. Let’s take a look at both of these moisturizing agents, what they do, and why you need both to keep your skin soft and supple. 




Humectants are hydrophilic, or water-loving, ingredients. Humectants form bonds with water molecules and help draw moisture into the skin’s surface from the skin’s lower layers or the surrounding environment. Humectants also help fill in fine lines and wrinkles and give skin a plump, supple look. 


Some common humectant heroes are glycerin, sodium PCA, and hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a non-irritating polysaccharide that is found naturally in the body, and can hold up to 1000x its weight in water. In its pure form, hyaluronic acid has a high molecular weight, making it too large to effectively penetrate the skin. To prevent HA from sitting on the surface of the skin, look for a hyaluronic acid serum formulated with multi-weight HA that can deliver hydration to the deeper layers of the skin, like our HA HYDRATING SERUM




Unlike humectants, occlusives do not love waterin 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 as a protective layer. Because they repel water, occlusives actually prevent the water that’s in your skin from evaporating and escaping into the air, strengthening the skin’s moisture barrier. 


Shea butter, mango butter, and cocoa butter are some of the most effective occlusives, but can sometimes be too thick and greasy for your face. Opt for lightweight occlusives like those found in our MICROBIOME DAILY RESCUE MOISTURIZER, formulated with squalane to seal in hydration without clogging pores. Our moisturizer is also formulated with a ceramide complex, which works like an occlusive by strengthening the skin’s lipid barrier to prevent water loss. 

Finishing your skin ritual with a layer of lightweight oil helps lock in moisture from your water-based serums and creams. Oil molecules are large, which means they can sit on top of the skin and prevent water from evaporating out of your skin. Our SHIUNKO BLUSH FACIAL OIL is infused with fermented botanicals that reduce redness, protect against environmental irritants, and minimize fine lines while keeping your skin smooth and flexible.