Men's Life Today
How Moisturizer Works
By Dr. Josh Zeichner
In general, moisturizers are products that improve the function of the skin barrier. They usually contain ingredients that help increase the amount of water in the skin. Here are three categories moisturizing ingredients may fall into:
- Emollients are molecules that hydrate the skin themselves.
e.g., oils or lipids, such as petrolatum or dimethicone
- Humectants are molecules that attract water to the skin surface from deep in the skin and from the environment and may also hydrate the skin.
- Occlusives are ingredients that provide a physical barrier that prevents water loss from the skin.
e.g., petrolatum and lanolin
Moisturizers help bring the outer layer of the skin back to as normal a state as possible by soothing the skin and filling in tiny breaks. They increase the water content of the skin and prevent excess water from evaporating from the skin’s surface into the environment. The newest moisturizers also help replace fats that may be lacking in people with dry skin.
No moisturizer on the market is perfect for everyone’s skin type. My general rule of thumb is to find one that you like and will use since the best moisturizer is the one that actually gets applied to the skin.