With so many types of skin moisturisers on the beauty shelves how do you choose ‘the one’? First, understand your skin type and then find a formulation that works in tandem with your skin to lock in the moisture.
Let’s begin by learning how moisturisation works. The outer most layer of the skin, stratum corneum, is just like a wall made up of brick and mortar! Where skin cells, i.e. corneocytes, are the bricks and their binding material is the mortar. Together they act as a strong barrier to internal moisture loss and external insults.
Why do we need to moisturise?
This epidermal upper layer is there to save us all. So, why make so many efforts to moisturise it? As we all know, skin is constantly exposed to external factors causing moisture loss all the time. Exposure to sun, cold-dry winds, air conditioners, heaters and the outdoor activities steal your skin’s natural moisture and perturb this upper layer of the epidermis, ultimately leading to trans-epidermal water loss. Hence, supplying moisture to the skin from an outside source becomes very important. A good moisturiser should perform these following functions:
- It should supply moisture to the skin.
- It should prevent further loss of moisture from the skin.
- It should give a perfect base for applying makeup or any other skin treatment.
Meet the key ingredients:
Humectants: Humectants draw the water up from the dermis and, in humid conditions, from the air (but, to a limited extent). Basically, humectants’ job is to pull water into the skin, both from the air and from deeper layers of the skin. Most of the time, water comes from the inside out, as there’s so little water in the air in low humidity conditions. Some of the commonly used humectants include glycerine, sorbitol, honey, aloe vera, proteins and amino acids.
Occlusives: Occlusives work by making a hydrophobic layer on the skin surface, holding the water inside, after the skin is hydrated by a moisturiser or when soaked in water. Many fatty or waxy substances serve as occlusives. The commonly used ones include cetyl alcohol (a fatty alcohol), lanolin, lecithin and stearic acid.
Emollients: An emollient has the ability to repair the disturbed skin as it fills in the rough spots and conditions the skin. So, emollients aren’t there in the moisturisers to moisturise the skin. They make the skin smooth, but, don’t affect the water content in it. Many ingredients that serve as emollients are triglyceride, lipids, esters, alcohols, waxes, fatty acids. Wondering why alcohol is there in the list? We tend to think of alcohols as drying, so, how can they be used in moisturisers! But, some alcohols (e.g. octyldodecanol) act as an excellent emollient too.
1. Gels: A gel is basically water with added emollients, humectants and a minimal quantity of oil (ester). Due to high quantities of water in it, gels feel light. Gels are basically emulsions that contain ‘oil in water’. This simply means that the product has a lot of water and a little oil has been added to it. Because of their formulation, gels are generally considered non-comedogenic. Hence, oily, acne-prone and sensitive skins can benefit from gels.
It is an emulsion blend of oil in water, basically droplets of oil in water. Here the quantity of water is slightly more than the oil, i.e. a lotion has light fluid consistency making it great for those with not so dry skin.
The composition is same as of a lotion but here, oil is slightly more than the water or sometimes it’s 50:50. Because of this, creams have a thicker consistency than lotions. It is the better choice for dry to very dry complexions.
4. Body Butter:
Unlike creams and lotions, the composition is opposite. Body butteris an emulsion blend of water in oil. Here the quantity of oil is much more than water. Due to this, body butters are healing in nature and provide long-lasting moisturisation. This is ideal for rougher and extremely dry skin.
5. Body Oils:
Oils have extremely high nutrient and antioxidant levels. They are nourishing in nature and act as an excellent emollient and an occlusive. Moisture and oil are both needed by the skin, so, it’s recommended to use body oils on a slightly damp skin, e.g. just after a bath. This step helps seal in the moisture.
After mid-twenties, skin cells start losing their natural capacity to hold moisture. The result is loss of skin elasticity, dry and rough texture with the appearance of fine lines. Hence, apply moisturiser twice a day, suited to your skin type every day. Whether you have a normal, dry or an oily complexion, a good moisturiser will always help soften the skin surface and plump-up the fine lines.