Emollients: Why They’re Good for Your Skin

Today’s skincare market is a broad one, and oftentimes it can be hard for today’s consumers to decide on what type of product to buy. Still, one of the best ways to distinguish the many different products from each other is by studying their ingredients. It will always serve a customer well to know how a particular ingredient functions and where it’s derived. When it comes to products like moisturizers, emollients deserve the spotlight.  

What exactly are emollients, how are they meant to work, and what base ingredients serve as effective foundations for emollient products? Here’s what you need to know about emollients and, if you work with a beauty brand, how valuable it is to find a natural ingredient supplier that can procure high-quality emollients like coconut oil for your skincare products. 

What Are Emollients? A Definition

In simple terms, emollients are substances that can increase moisture levels in the skin and, as a result, soften and smoothen it. They’re commonly incorporated in creams, lotions, gels, or ointment products for the purpose of treating or preventing conditions like rashes and dry or flaky skin. 

An emollient creates a barrier or film on the outermost layer of your skin so that it can trap moisture and keep it properly hydrated. That same barrier can also keep additional irritants from penetrating through the cracks in your skin. 

There are two types of emollients, namely: 

  • Occlusive agents. Occlusive agents are emollients that don’t add extra moisture to your skin, but rather allow it to retain the moisture that it already has. These emollients are known for their oily quality, and they can’t dissolve in water.
  • Humectants. Humectants, on the other hand, increase moisture on your skin by attracting and trapping water into it. They are easier to wash off with water compared to occlusive agents. 

Though emollients and moisturizers are often mentioned together, it’s important to know that they aren’t the same thing. A moisturizer is a finished product, and an emollient is just one among several components that a moisturizer product can contain. While an emollient is responsible for keeping the skin smooth, soft, and comfortable, the other ingredients in a moisturizer product will serve other functions like drawing water into other layers of the skin and reducing any cell damage caused by oxidation. 

Emollients are typically classified according to how greasy they are. Some emollient products, like ointments, have a higher ratio of oil to water, while products like lotions typically contain more water than oil. All emollients share the quality of being able to soften the skin, but the oiliest ones are better at trapping moisture on the topmost layer. 

Why Are Emollients Good for Your Skin? 

There are several benefits to incorporating emollient products into one’s regular skincare routine. For one, they help you avoid rough and itchy skin when your indoor or outdoor environment is either too cold or too dry, therefore sapping the moisture away from your skin. For another, emollients mitigate the excessive dryness and irritation your skin may feel from everyday situations, like having to wash your hands often or having to handle chemical products for work. 

The right emollient products can also help you deal with health conditions where rashes, flaring, and dry skin are common side effects. These include eczema, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis. On top of soothing your skin, they can reduce your natural impulse to scratch or pick away at it, therefore keeping your condition from getting any worse.  

The best type of emollient for a particular kind of consumer really depends on what they’re using it for, how much of it they can expect to use per day, and how receptive their bodies are to particular ingredients. A consumer should always seek immediate medical attention, for example, if the emollient product they’re using induces a severe allergic reaction. 

In addition, consumers who have sensitive skin should always consult a dermatologist before using a new type of emollient product. A dermatologist can make the right recommendations for non-acnegenic emollients, or emollients that don’t cause acne buildup. 

Choosing Emollients for High-Quality Skincare Products

Businesses that deal in skincare products like moisturizers should also deepen their knowledge of how emollients work and what the best emollient ingredients are. To please a generation of mindful and eco-conscious customers, skincare brands would do well to formulate products that are made from natural ingredients and that are free from irritants like parabens. 

Coconut oil, in particular, is earning more renown in the skincare industry as an emollient for its mildness, antioxidant properties, and antimicrobial properties. A recent study on coconut oil as an emollient, done by Varma et. al and released in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, found that it increased the amount of a protein called filaggrin in the skin cells, therefore keeping the skin both more hydrated and allowing it to have a healthy pH balance. 

Whether you’re an ordinary consumer or an entrepreneur in the skincare industry, it helps to know about what emollients can do. Choose wisely for yourself and, if you sell skincare products, for your customers.