The Key Ingredients in Moisturizer

wolfandmoroko key ingredients in moisturizer

I love a great moisturizer – don’t you? These hydrating potions have the ability to improve your skin from within and enhance its appearance. Once I find a moisturizer that suits my skin, it feels like I’ve found a friend for life – until the product is discontinued or the formulation is changed – a common occurrence in the skin care industry. Luckily, you are never too far away from a great moisturizer, many cosmetics companies manufacture them. It just boils down to the ingredients your skin prefers. With that in mind, moisturizers today are divided into groups based on their ingredients.

Types of Ingredients in Moisturizers


These ingredients prevent water loss by forming a hydrophobic film on the skin’s surface, keeping water in the skin. Occlusive ingredients are most commonly used in formulations because they rarely irritate the skin and effectively increase hydration when applied over moist skin. Although very effective in sealing the skin’s surface, occlusives have a greasy (icky) feel.

Common occlusive ingredients include petrolatum, mineral oil, beeswax, vegetable/plant oils (like soybean, jojoba, olive) and cetyl alcohol.  There are also oil-free occlusives like silicone and its derivatives: dimethicone, cyclomethicone and amodimethicone.

The increase in skin hydration from the use of occlusives makes them quite helpful in dealing with severe dryness. Studies have shown petrolatum to repair the skin’s barrier function and reduce the fine lines caused by dehydration.


These ingredients work by attracting water from the dermis, drawing it into the stratum corneum. Since humectants absorb water from the dermis, they can be drying, causing excessive water loss from the dermis through evaporation into the lower humidity environment if the skin barrier is compromised. Because of this, in formulations, humectants are combined with occlusives to prevent water loss.

Common humectants include glycerin, urea, hyaluronic acid,sodium pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (PCA), lactic acid, butylene glycol, propylene glycol, sorbitol, allantoin and vitamins.


Emollients are designed to fill in the spaces between skin cells, softening the skin and making it feel silky soft and smooth. They also improve the skin’s overall appearance. Emollients are often essential fatty acids found in natural oils. They provide some occlusivity and can improve the appearance of dry flaky skin.

Common emollients found in moisturizers include lanolin, cetyl alcohol, beeswax, triethlyhexanoin and plant oils.

And there you have it. What ingredients will you be looking out for in your moisturizers? A formulation with all three categories you say? Me too!

Source:  Nolan, K. and Marmur, E. (2012), Moisturizers: Reality and the skin benefits.
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