Home Chemistry Skin Moisturizers - The Chemistry behind them

Skin Moisturizers – The Chemistry behind them

Winter is fast approaching around the corner and as the days are passing by the climate is changing exponentially. Apart from the cold, one of the major problems during winter is Dry Skin. It’s a very common problem faced by almost everyone regardless of age. Let’s try to take a dive into the chemistry behind drying of the skin during winter and the working action of Skin Moisturisers.

Why does our skin get dry during winter?

During winter the temperature drops down and the relative humidity decreases making the air dry. As the air becomes dry water from our skin begins to evaporate at a much faster rate than usual. It is a surprising fact that our skin loses about 25 percent of its water content every day during winter. Thus, this is the most basic reason why our skin gets dried up during winter.

Practically we can’t stop this phenomenon from happening naturally, but we have several external remedies available with us such as applying oils or skin moistures. Among these two, if I ask you to choose your best fit, I am pretty confident that you will prefer using Skin moisturizer over Oil. It’s quite obvious as you all already do use it more often over oil.

But, have you ever thought of the chemistry behind how skin moisturizers help you recover your skin moisture. If not, its time to know it now.

Image result for parts of a skin

Parts of our skin layer. Credit: studyblue

Ingredients of Skin Moisturizers

There several ingredients being used in moisturizers these days but the 3 major ingredients that are used are –

  1. Humectants
  2. Emollients
  3. Occlusive agents.


Humectants include ingredients such as glycerine, urea, and pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (PCA). The act as an attractive medium to attract water from the dermis below the skin and help to keep the moisture bound to the skin in stratum corneum. Glycerine is frequently used as it is cheap and has high efficacy. But, it also has a tacky feel on the skin, which is a major drawback in formulating high levels of humectants. Manufactures also keep in mind to take measures to reduce this drawback of humectants.

Occlusive Agents

Occlusive Agents help in increasing moisture levels by shielding the epidermal water loss as a physical barrier. These include ingredients such as petrolatum, waxes, oils, and silicones. Occlusive agents such as petrolatum may lead to a heavy feel when applied on to the skin due to its high viscosity and high density. In order to counter this other ingredient like emollients are also added to improvise.


Emollients provide some occlusivity and improve the appearance of the skin by smoothing flaky skin cells. There are many different types of emollient esters and oils available. Emollients are generally grouped by their ability to spread on the skin. By combining emollients with the different spread rates generate the skin feel of a moisturizer. Additionally, emollient lipids similar to those naturally found in the skin may also increase the rate of barrier repair.

The Final Product

The above mentioned makes up the key ingredients for most cosmetic moisturizer manufacturers. Since all of these three ingredients have different actions and mechanisms of action, a combination of these is used in different ratios to develop various types of moistures. Apart from these various other ingredients are added to improve the fragrance, flavor, smoothness, texture, etc. for commercial and marketing purposes.

This is how the moisturizer you use, helps you fight dry skin. Now the next time you apply skin moisturizer try to feel out which action is dominant in its ingredients.

Video Courtesy – ” Reactions

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Abhijeet is a 4th-year Undergraduate Student at IIT Kharagpur. His major inclination is towards exploring the science behind the things of our day-to-day life.

Abhijeet Mahatohttp://scilynk.in
Abhijeet is a 4th-year Undergraduate Student at IIT Kharagpur. His major inclination is towards exploring the science behind the things of our day-to-day life.


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