Winter can be challenging in many ways - not the least of which is the dry, damaged state it can leave your skin in. The cold air of winter comes with lower humidity, which means less moisture in the air. As a result, the dry air draws the moisture right out of your skin and leaves behind ashy, itchy, and sometimes painful dry skin.
Replenishing and protecting the water content in your skin is critical to maintaining a healthy skin barrier, as well as your own physical comfort. There are two ways to do this, and both of them serve important purposes when it comes to moisturization. The two methods of hydration are using humectants and using occlusives.
Starting with the use of humectants - what exactly are they? A humectant is a low molecular weight cosmetic ingredient that moisturizes by drawing water into the top layers of the skin. Low molecular weight simply means that the ingredient has a simple chemical structure, and this chemical structure is particularly attracted to water. Therefore, when these humectant ingredients are applied to the skin through a lotion, cream, or serum, water is drawn into the outer skin layers from deeper layers of the skin. Examples of humectants include ingredients such as glycerin, propanediol, propylene glycol, and urea.
On the other end of the moisturization spectrum are the occlusives. These ingredients support skin hydration by locking in moisture that is already present in the skin. The chemical structures of this type of ingredient are large, oily and water-resistant, which means water cannot evaporate as easily from the skin when a layer of occlusive has been applied. In turn, the skin is protected from losing the water it has worked hard to obtain. Examples of occlusive ingredients are shea butter, jojoba oil, and various silicones.
Neither humectants nor occlusives are better moisturizers than the other. They play different roles in moisturization and compliment one another’s functions. In fact, they should be used in conjunction for the most thorough skin hydration. A great instance of the combined use of occlusives and humectants can be found in Ultra Benefits®, which harnesses the hydrating powers of glycerin and jojoba oil. In addition, the Multi-Complex Night Crème utilizes propanediol and shea butter for intense overnight moisturization.All in all, skin moisturization is vital for healthy, comfortable skin throughout the next few dry months of winter. The best product for your skin should contain at least a humectant or an occlusive, but ideally it features a few ingredients of each type in order to provide high-performance hydration. For a full lineup of moisturization options, check out CosMedical Technologies’ Moisturize Collection.