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What's in my skin care product? - Emollient

What are emollients?

Skin cream contains emollients to preserve moisture in the skin and prevent it from becoming dry and flaky. There are both synthetic emollients, such as squalene and mineral oils, and natural emollients such as lanolin and cocoa butter.

What are they used for?

The loss of water through the skin is an ongoing process that never stops, it is known as transepidermal water loss or TEWL. Emollients have an occlusive effect, which means they cover the top layer of the skin and prevent water evaporation. Due to their moisturizing properties, they are used in skin care to increase hydration – especially in products for drier skin types.

Normal skin retains moisture and remains soft thanks to the hydrolipidic film, a unique oily layer that covers the outermost layer, the epidermis. The hydrolipidic film maintains the skin's barrier function and the softening component of the skin cream consists of natural oils or mineral oils such as paraffin oil, waxes and butter. Its purpose is to imitate the hydrolipidic film as closely as possible and thereby contribute to a more effective barrier function in dry skin.

Emollients to look for in skin care

First of all look for emollients that the skin itself produces examples include ceramides, squalene, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids and cholesterol. You can find these emollients in the hydrolipidic film. Several studies have shown that creams containing ceramides reduce skin inflammation, while strengthening the barrier function. Natural ceramide levels in the skin change with the seasons. They are at their lowest in winter, which may be a reason why many people experience drier skin during cold weather.

The same goes for omega 3 fatty acids and other lipids, which can reach low levels during the winter if you live in a cold country. Creams containing ceramides and omega 6 have been shown to help people suffering from psoriasis. Ceramide creams have also been shown to be beneficial for children with eczema, improving skin hydration levels. When it comes to omega 6, people prone to developing blemishes have been shown to have lower levels of this oil in their skin.

Squalene, found naturally in the skin (or a variant, squalane, which has a longer shelf life) is an oil widely used in the skin care industry. It used to be extracted from shark liver, but luckily a way has now been found to get it from olives. Squalene is good for the skin and has very effective softening properties.

INCI: Ceramide, Squalene, Squalane, Cholesterol, Linoleic Acid (Omega 6), Linolenic Acid (Omega 3)