The moisturizing ingredients of cosmetics; what does a good moisturizing lotion contain?

Moisturizing ingredients in cosmetics are one of the most important groups of raw materials in cosmetics. In this blog, I have mainly dealt with individual cosmetic ingredients. Each and every raw material has its own particularly important function. Raw materials are not just randomly mixed together. When choosing moisturizing ingredients, it is very important to know why the ingredient in question is used on the skin and how the ingredient treats the problem on the skin. This time we’ll focus on moisturizing ingredients. How do the moisturizing ingredients work on the skin and how they should be formulated in the product.

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What are skin moisturizing substances?

Skin moisturizing substances do not mean only a certain group of raw materials. The moisture balance of the skin can be affected in many different ways. Skin moisturizing substances are important when you want to create a good moisturizing lotion.

Occlusive substances

Epidermal moisture loss is a condition where the skin loses/evaporates moisture to the air. The skin can be protected with cosmetics so that it loses as little moisture as possible. These cosmetic substances are called occlusive substances. Occlusive agents are oil soluble. They form a protective film on the surface of the skin that prevents the moisture in the skin from evaporating. Occlusive ingredients are necessary when we stay in a very dry climate. This treatment is also known as slugging.

Skin softening agents

Moisturizing vegetable oils are often recommended for dry skin. The moisturizing effect of vegetable oils is not based on moisture but on their skin softening effect. Skin softening substances can also be occlusive so they also protect the skin from drying out.

Moisturising substances

There are two different types of actual moisturizing ingredients; ingredients that increase the moisture and ingredients that collect the moisture. Moisturizing ingredients bring more moisture to the skin.  For example, ingredients that increase the moisture are water, hydrolats, or aloe Vera gel.


Ingredients that collect moisture have their own name. They are humectants. Humectants do not moisturize the skin if there is no basic moisture in the skin. Humectants retain the already existing moisture in the skin and collect more moisture around them, if there is any available. The best known and most used humectant is glycerol. Along with glycerol, hyaluronic acid is also used as a humectant in moisturizers.

Why are moisturizing ingredients used in cosmetics?

The moisturizing ingredients of the cosmetics take care of the hydration of the skin. In cosmetics, moisturizing ingredients are combined into one product, a moisturizing lotion. The main function of the moisturizing lotion is to bring more moisture to the skin, protect the skin from moisture loss, and even out the skin’s appearance and surface.

Dry skin feels uncomfortable and tightens. The skin reacts to dryness with itching, tingling and even pain. As it dries, the surface of the skin becomes rough. Dry skin also looks lifeless and grey. Moisturizing lotion gives dry skin a healthy colour and feel.

Moisturized skin is less susceptible to various skin diseases such as eczema and other atopic skin diseases.

How do moisturizing ingredients in cosmetics work on the skin?

The mechanism of action of moisturizing ingredients depends a lot on the type of ingredient. Lotions are made from carefully selected, mutually supportive ingredients. One moisturizing ingredient does not make a good moisturizing lotion. In many lotions, several different humectants and occlusive agents have been used to get the preferred product.

Water is essential for the skin

Moisture is vital for the skin. Without moisture, the skin would be paper thin and would tear easily from mere contact. The skin needs moisture to be able to function properly and repair itself. Healthy, young skin can take care of its own moisture because the body moisturizes the skin from the inside. As we age, the skin’s ability to take care of moisture decreases. The skin then needs extra care. You should also take care of moisture coming from your body. That is why it is important to drink enough water and other liquids.

Dry skin also needs moisture from the outside. Good moisturizing agents are water and all water-based ingredients such as hydrosols, herbal infusions or aloe Vera juice. The important, aqueous ingredients are found in the water phase of the emulsion lotion.

Occlusive substances protect the skin

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Natural occlusive substances form a film on the surface of the skin that does not pass water but still allows the skin to breathe. Dry skin is often caused by excessive permeability of the skin. The skin evaporates too much moisture. Occlusive ingredients help the skin’s own protective layer to perform its task.

Mineral oil is used a lot in the treatment of dry skin because it has such good occlusive properties. However, mineral oil does not allow the skin to breathe freely. That’s why it’s worth replacing mineral oil with natural occlusive ingredients.

Beeswax is one of the most natural and oldest skin care products. Its skin-protecting properties are undeniable. Beeswax is antiseptic because of the ingredients it contains. Beeswax protects the skin without making the surface of the skin too dense.

Natural vegetable waxes such as carnauba wax and candelilla wax work on the skin in the same way as beeswax.

Some vegetable oils and butters also have occlusive properties. Some fatty acids contained in oils and vegetable creams are able to form a moisture-holding film on the surface of the skin. As an example, I can mention babassu oil, avocado oil or almond oil. There are also many other oils that have good occlusive properties.

Humectants attract water

The moisturizing ingredients contained in moisturizing lotions are absorbed into the skin to attract moisture around it. The lower layers of the skin contain more moisture than the upper ones. The moisturizing ingredients transfer the moisture from the lower layers to the surface of the skin. There are a few natural, moisturizing ingredients; glycerine, sorbitol and hyaluronic acid. All these ingredients work on the skin in their own special way. You can read more about glycerol or glycerine here.

Hyaluronic acid is a natural ingredient that is naturally present in our skin. Hyaluronic acid is continuously produced in the body. It occurs mostly in the eyes, joints and skin. Hyaluronic acid, intended as an ingredient in cosmetics, is produced by fermentation with the help of bacteria. Hyaluronic acid can also be of animal origin. Hyaluronic acid is one of the most expensive raw materials in cosmetics. It is used in cosmetic products only in very small amounts (1-2%). There are many different qualities of hyaluronic acid, depending on the molecular size of the product.

Hyaluronic acid is very effective at absorbing water. Its water absorption capacity is many times higher than that of glycerol. In addition to moisturizing, hyaluronic acid also makes your skin flexible. It belongs to the same series as collagen and elastin. Hyaluronic acid takes care of the skin’s elasticity, reducing wrinkles and fine lines. Due to its versatility, hyaluronic acid is a very popular ingredient in moisturizing creams and lotions.

Skin softening agents improve the appearance of the skin

Taking care of skin hydration is important. Moisturized skin is soft and flexible. Soft and flexible skin can receive more moisture. Softening ingredients repair the texture of dry skin. The most important skin-softening group of ingredients are various fats aka lipids. Ordinary vegetable oils soften the skin. That’s why vegetable oils are the most important ingredients in moisturizing products.

When vegetable oils are combined with water to form an emulsion, the skin softening effect is significantly greater. Especially for very dry skin, emulsion lotions are often better than water-free ones.

Squalene and squalane

Among lipids that soften the skin, I could mention squalane and squalene separately. Squalane and squalene are slightly different things. Squalene occurs naturally in human skin. The raw material for cosmetics, squalene, is obtained from olive oil.

Squalene starts to slowly disapper from the skin already after the age of 25. Very dry and aged skin has almost no squalene. That’s why you should add squalane made from olive oil to the skin. Squalane stays in the outer layers of the skin, improving the skin’s protective layer. Squalane softens the skin while forming a thin film on the surface of the skin. Another good feature of squalane is that it removes the feeling of greasiness from the cream.

Design your own moisturizer

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Designing your own moisturizing product is easy when you know what you’re doing. Think about what properties you require from your cream. Just a skin feel or smell doesn’t say much about the cream. In order to preserve the skin’s moisture, your cream must contain softening, protective and moisturizing ingredients in the right proportion, as well as moisture, the water-containing ingredients.

For those of you who don’t like to make your own cosmetics, knowing the contents of the moisturizing product is also very necessary. Research products in different stores and look for protective, softening and moisturizing ingredients. I can assure you that there are a huge number of so-called moisturizing products for sale, which do not, however, moisturize the skin. If the product is missing any of the above-mentioned ingredients, you can be sure that the product will not work properly.

What are the ingredients in your favourite moisturizer?

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