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Moisturizer: what is it and how it works

Header The Moisturizer - Moisturizer: what is it and how it works.

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We live in an amazing world. We are surrounded by technical and technological wonders and most of the time we are not aware of them. That is one of the reasons why I like to share informative posts in which you can learn or remember how our skin works and the way skincare products help us. Today I specifically want to talk about a basic product and that we all know that it is important (and, however, we often do not know how it works): the moisturizer.

Specifically, in this post I will discuss the following topics:

  • What is a moisturizer?
  • How does a moisturizer work? What types of moisturizer are there?

 

1. WHAT IS A MOISTURIZER?

A moisturizer is a cosmetic product designed to help you keep your skin balanced. As you have heard hundreds of times, we are approximately 70% water. Of this water, most of it is inside our cells, and that includes the skin.

Also, as you will remember from my post about 3 things you should know about your skin, the outer layer of our skin is made up of a hydrolipidic barrier, an emulsion of water and oil that is responsible of protecting us from all external agents. Our skin loses water normally, it is what is known as transepidermal water loss (what we usually call evaporation). We do not realize when it occurs, but it happens daily without being able to control it. Generally, we begin to be aware that we lose water (for example, feeling thirsty) when the loss is already quite important and our body begins to feel an imbalance. But what if the skin barrier is damaged? More often than we think, our skin barrier is unbalanced (by using very aggressive cleansers, by abusing exfoliation, by not hydrating properly, etc.), and this causes that transepidermal water loss to be even greater.

The moisturizer has a basic function: it helps us keep the water inside our skin. In this way, either preventing it from evaporating or providing additional water, our skin will remain hydrated, healthy and balanced. It seems simple, but it is not easy to get the water to remain in our skin, although in this post you will find out how it is done.

Of course, the moisturizer will not magically save you, just by using it you will not have perfect skin instantly. As I have said on other occasions, it is essential to take good care of our skin, keeping it clean, nourished and hydrated. I understand that a 10 step skincare routine (such as the Korean one) isn’t a practical solution for your daily life, but any basic routine should include at least a cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen. When taking care of our body there are no miracles, but perseverance is key to achieving effective results. You cannot pretend to use a moisturizer three days before an event and suddenly get radiant skin. However, if you use it daily and attend to the needs of your skin, it will look much healthier.

Another basic aspect to remember when staying hydrated is that we should drink enough water. We are tired of reading that we should drink at least two liters of water a day, but when the moment comes most of us do not reach that amount. Drinking water will not directly hydrate your skin, but if you do not drink it, your body will prioritize countless processes rather than maintain a healthy appearance.

 

2. HOW DOES A MOISTURIZER WORK? WHAT TYPES OF MOISTURIZER ARE THERE?

As I mentioned in the previous section, your moisturizer can work in three basic ways: preventing water from evaporating (occlusives), providing and retaining water to the skin (humectants) and filling the gaps between the cells (emollients).

 

  • OCLUSIVES:

These are the products that prevent water from evaporating in order to maintain hydration, and they work by providing what is known as passive hydration. These substances create a film on the surface of the skin that acts as an additional barrier, sealing it to prevent water from leaking out. They are substances with an oil as a base, such as paraffin, petrolatum, beeswax or hazelnut oil. Using products with these substances is ideal if you live in a cold climate (since in a warm one it is more difficult for them to be absorbed and can be uncomfortable). Moisturizers with occlusives are ideal for mature or very dehydrated skin.

 

  • HUMECTANTS:

These are products that help us to provide water, are responsible for capturing water and attracting it into the skin or retaining it on the surface to evaporate it. Among the first type we find glycerin, which also creates a film on the skin, so it acts both as a moisturizer and as an occlusive. Among those in the second group, those that retain water on the surface of the skin (known as water collectors), we find urea, hyaluronic acid and panthenol. Humectants work great on all skin types, including those with oily skin or with an acne tendency. Also, they can be comfortably used in all types of climates, so they are my favorite.

 

  • EMOLLIENTS:

Finally, some moisturizers incorporate emollients, substances (usually oily based) that fill the gaps between our cells when there is a special lack of oil. These creams, which incorporate dimethicone, cetyl alcohol, lanolin or squalane (among other possible emollients), work best on very dry skin, although I prefer to use the other types of moisturizers, since that’s not my case.

 

And what if your skin is damaged? It may be that your ceramide levels are low for some reason, so nowadays there are more and more moisturizers that incorporate them among their ingredients. Ceramides, which are a hybrid between humectant and occlusive, are the glue that puts together the skin cells, so when applied we can repair our skin so that it rebalances and retains hydration properly. Moisturizers with ceramides are ideal for those who have normal or slightly dehydrated skin.

 

Finally, in addition to these types that I mentioned we could differentiate a fifth set of substances, which are those that, in principle, bind to the water of our skin to prevent it from evaporating. I say in principle because their effectiveness is rather questionable when it comes to keeping our skin effectively hydrated, and among them we find collagen. As you know, collagen is responsible for keeping our skin elastic and flexible, and its levels decrease over the years. Today, many products sell you that you are going to get younger skin thanks to the fact that they incorporate collagen in their composition. The reality is that if it is not applied by injecting it into the deeper layers of the skin, that collagen will not give you much of a result.

 

As you can see, there are many types of moisturizers, so with this guide I hope I can help you find yours. I hope this guide has helped you to know what type of moisturizer that best suits your skin type and your needs. In any case, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to leave me a comment and I will answer you as soon as possible.

 

If you liked this post and want to continue learning about your skin and how to take care of it, you will be interested in taking a look at these:

 

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The Moisturizer - Quién soy

I’m Nacho and I’m passionate about skincare. I really enjoy learning and sharing my knowledge about skincare and I read scientific papers so you don’t have to. I want to break stereotypes because I believe skincare has no gender: skin is skin.  

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