How Do Humectant, Emollient, and Occlusive Moisturizers Differ?


In addition to washing your face and using a Great and Powerful SPF, using a high-quality, properly-formulated moisturiser is perhaps one of the most essential things you will ever do for your skin. But did you know that there are several types of moisturisers, each with its own distinct functions? It is so! Moisturizers are divided into three distinct categories (humectants, emollients, and occlusives… Oh My! ), which may be quite confusing. But this “who’s who in moisturisers” can help you choose the ideal moisturiser for your skin and have you sparkling like a jewel in no time!

Why Should You Moisturize?

Moisturizing is not only an additional step in your regimen. Rather, it is a vital activity that helps to volumize the skin, maintain its pliability, and retain its “bounce.” The combination of these factors reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. And by hydrating your skin, you assist balance its natural oils, eliminating blocked pores and keeping your skin as clean as a daisy!

However, maintaining optimum moisture levels in the skin is much more essential for skin health than for its look. Redness, flakiness, cracking, and even pimples are all possible symptoms of damage and systemic irritation caused by dehydrated skin. Even while these symptoms are prevalent, and even more so for certain skin types, they are not safe. The skin is the biggest organ in the human body and the first line of protection against infection and allergies. Maintaining its smoothness, strength, and absence of dryness, which may weaken its protective barrier, is crucial not just for the face but for the whole body.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just slather on a discount or even best-selling cream every morning, particularly if it’s not going to provide the desired results. We regret to inform you, but not all moisturisers are made equal. There are three distinct groups of moisturisers, each with a distinct function: humectants, emollients, and occlusives. But how can one decipher this magical phantasm of elements to distinguish between them? Moreover, how can you choose which kind of moisturiser is best for you?

Humidifying, moisturising, or obstructive?

Well, here’s the truth: it’s quite improbable that your skin has a single desire. It is fairly unusual to need a mix of solutions to adequately protect and provide your skin with all it needs to look and feel its best. Moreover, depending on where you live, the season, your amount of exposure to environmental stressors, your skin type, and your super-unique skin blueprint, it may be optimal to have all three in your arsenal.


Humectants bind moisture to the skin. Because humectants are suitable for all skin types, everyone should use them while moisturising. They tend to be on the lighter side and are easily absorbed, which makes them ideal for oily or acne-prone skin. And those with normal to dry skin, who produce less of the natural compounds, such as amino acids and hyaluronic acid (which are literally the humectant ingredients in many humectant moisturisers), benefit from their ability to support and replenish adequate levels of these “natural moisturising factors” or NMFs.

The majority of oil-free moisturisers and moisturising gels are humectants, but if you are unsure, you may always examine the labels for the active components. Other popular humectants used in skin care include:

  • Aloe
  • Glycerin
  • Sodium hyaluronate
  • Propylene glycol
  • Butylene glycol
  • Sodium PCA
  • Sorbitol
  • Allantoin
  • Seaweed

These tiny moisture magnets are crucial for maintaining hydrated and healthy skin. However, employing them may take some consideration. We know that humectants transport water to our skin, but they do so primarily by serving as a middleman and transferring water from areas with more to areas with less. And sadly, occasionally your skin suffers as a result. If the air is drier than your skin was before you applied your moisturiser, humectant chemicals will actually transfer moisture to the air instead of your skin. Like, totes rude. Some products assume this may occur at some point and incorporate other components than humectants in their formulae to provide 360 degrees of wetness. And what are these ingredients? We are so delighted you asked!


Emollients moisturise the skin by filling intercellular spaces with lipids. This softens the skin and aids in the restoration of any surface damage, resulting in a smoother look and a strengthened skin barrier. Emollients, which are very beneficial for normal to dry skin, are often found in heavier formulations such as creams. Common emollients include richer components such as cocoa butter, colloidal oatmeal, lanolin, and different oils such as safflower and sunflower oil (tip: make sure that any you use to your face are non-comedogenic). Interestingly, emollients also have a tendency to serve as moderate occlusives, which takes us to our last kind of moisturiser!


Consider occlusives as little armour that protects against all types of irritants, including dryness. Occlusives form a barrier on the skin’s outermost layer, protecting it from moisture loss and environmental harm (You! Yes, you, the one who is deaf to the noises of the busy metropolis outside your apartment building. Occlusive-up!). Ingeniously, occlusives seal in the advantages of whatever other moisturisers you may have used before your occlusive. And actually, this is the best approach, since utilising occlusives alone will not go you nearly as far.

The most oily of the three kinds of moisturisers, occlusives are ideal for persons with dry or cracked skin. However, similar to emollients, some moisturisers should not be used on the face due to their tendency to clog pores; hence, study is required. However, if you want a recommendation, argan oil and shea butter are two of our favourite face-ready occlusives.

It is evident that all types of moisturisers compliment one other. Even certain products, such as our Crème de la Crème, perfectly combine humectants, emollients, and occlusives to create a master of moisture! However, if you choose to apply different types of moisture individually, it is possible to obtain too much of a good thing. Remember the following:

  • When using a humectant, be careful to combine it with an occlusive to prevent ambient moisture loss!
  • Be careful when deciding which emollients and occlusives to apply to your face, and only use products as prescribed.
  • Be cautious to research your product’s components and discard any that are not non-comedogenic.

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