What is a Moisturizer and What Does it Do?

What is a moisturizer?

The skin is able to perform its various functions—regulating body temperature, maintaining the balance of fluids, protecting the body from pathogen invasion, and sensing stimuli—when its structure is well-regulated. Another important factor of skin health is the protective barrier layer. This layer, which is found on the outermost level of the skin, is made of dead and keratinised cells embedded in the epidermal lipids. This barrier layer is then covered by a hydrolipid film which also consists of the acid mantle. The protective barrier layer will then help to repel water, harmful irritants, and infectious agents. While the skin usually self-regulates itself via the desquamation process, skincare products will help to improve the health and functionality of skin. One very important skincare product is moisturizer, which is intended to make the external layer of the skin well-protected, softer, and more pliable.

What are the different types of moisturizer?

Though moisturisers exist in various forms, they can be easily classified based on their mechanisms of action:

  • Emollients: This type of moisturizer refer to the products that help to fill in the cracks in the skin that are missing the naturally occurring moisturising lipids. The hydrator will also smoothen the surface of the skin and increase the water retention capability of the stratum corneum. Some examples of effective emollients include ceramide, cocoa butter, and shea butter.
  • Humectants: This category of hydrator is renowned for its potent hygroscopic (water-attracting) activities. Once applied on the skin, it attracts moisture from the environment and hydrate the stratum corneum. Some commonly used humectants include glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and urea.
  • Occlusives: As the name might have suggested, occlusives like silicones, mineral oil, and lanolin function by occluding the skin to prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL). It also helps to increase the penetration of other skincare products. However, using it frequently can lead to folliculitis, a common skin condition in which the hair follicles become inflamed.

What is the function of moisturiser?

As explained earlier, the main function of moisturiser is to preserve the normal condition of the skin while keeping the outer layer of the skin well-hydrated, soft and supple. Besides that, it is also very effective at preventing and treating the skin from becoming too dry or too oily. Patients with certain skin disorders like psoriasis, eczema, and irritant dermatitis can manage their conditions using appropriate moisturisers. In addition, some brands of moisturizer may be integrated with skin—repairing and—rejuvenating ingredients like antioxidants (e.g. vitamins A, C, and E) and plant extracts (e.g. aloe vera and green tea) that will protect the skin from further damages and improve the skin quality. On the other hand, moisturizers can also be incorporated with sun-blocking agents like titanium dioxide to protect the skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.