Moisturiser: Formulations and Types

Cosmetic emulsions are all those creams and lotions that people apply to their skin in order to retrieve certain rejuvenation and delay the physio – pathological ageing process.

Balance between these three elements will determine the type of moisturiser it is and the purpose it serves:

Occlusive agents Emollients Humectants
Ingredients that coat skin forming physical barrier that prevents the loss of water  

Ingredients that offer an occlusive barrier which makes skin feel smooth



Ingredients that attract water from the atmosphere and from lower layers of the skin to moisturise the surface of the skin

Vegetable oils, mineral oil, wax, petrolatum, silicones, lanolin, fatty acids, fatty alcohols


Esters and oils  

Glycerin, pyrrolidine carboxylic acid, lactic acids, urea, alpha – hydroxy acids


Emollients are more of a thickening agent which contributes to the texture of the moisturiser. The functional part of the moisturiser will be determined by the heavier presence of humectant vs occlusive ingredients. As such, by nature moisturisers can be divided into two major groups:

Occlusive Humectant

Create physical barrier over the skin which prevents water loss and makes skin feel smooth


Attract water from the atmosphere and from lower layers of the skin to moisturise the surface of the skin

You might also find it interesting to relate this info to Face: Hydration vs Moisturising


Types of moisturisers:

Moisturising oils / Ointments Oil- based moisturiser Water – based moisturiser

Formulation base product


Up to 100% oil

The only oils I personally consider stable and appropriate for skin care are coconut and squalAne oils



Water – based moisturiser will have water listed as first (major) ingredient. Oil – based moisturiser will have oil listed as first (major) ingredient. Beyond that point both moisturisers might have similar ingredients which include emollients (to soften the skin) and humectants (to attract and trap moisture)






–          Very potent oils

–          Natural and stable formulation with no preservatives (given that you do not introduce water or bacteria to the product)


–          Moisture and nourishment

–           Longer lasting

–          Hydration

–          Non – comedogenic (will not clog pores)

–          Fast absorption





–          Coconut oil takes take to get absorbed

–          Coconut oil used as moisturiser tends to make your face very skinny and leave marks on the clothes if used as body moisturiser



–          Might clog pores

–          Takes time to get absorbed



–          If you have sensitive skin, water based moisturiser might cause irritation



Be aware


Moisturisers are full of thickeners, silicones and other ingredients to achieve a pleasant texture. Add to the list the amount of preservatives needed to make it a stable product and extend its shelf life. This leaves little room for functioning ingredients that actually benefit the skin



No matter what product you decide to use as a moisturiser, all your skin care efforts are worthless unless you wear a sunscreen / sunblock



Thanks for reading,

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