What does moisturiser actually do?

Moisturiser has one main purpose in life. To hydrate and protect the top layer of your skin.

The top layer of your skin is called the epidermis, which itself has six thin layers. It is home to the microbiome, the acid mantle and the lipid barrier. But mostly it’s made of dead, keratinised skin cells, which form a protective, waterproof barrier.

Isn’t it funny to think that the skin that everyone sees, obsesses over, admires, loves and hates in equal measure is actually a layer of dead skin cells!

Now, you may be thinking, what’s the point of buying an expensive moisturiser for a load of dead skin cells which have had their day anyway? It’s well worth buying a good, natural moisturiser because it will help these cells do their important job of protecting the other layers of the skin from dehydration, the weather, bacteria and other external elements.

Moisturisers contain three main types of ingredients

  • Emollients – soften, soothe and protect your skin, by forming a physical barrier, sealing in water and nutrients so they don’t evaporate. Plant oils are natural emollients – that’s why I use them every single day!
  • Occlusives – also lock moisture into your skin by forming a surface barrier. Examples of emollients include shea butter and beeswax.
  • Humectants – hydrate your skin by attracting water, either drawing it up from the lower layers of the skin or drawing it in from the external environment. Glycerine and hyaluronic acid are both humectants.

Does moisturiser ever get past the epidermis?

There are very few creams – if any – that can penetrate the epidermis to reach the dermis, which is the living layer of skin underneath. The dermis is made of connective tissue, packed with blood and lymphatic vessels, sweat glands, sebaceous glands and hair follicles.

In order for products to break through the epidermis and reach the dermis their molecules need to be very small, oil-soluble (to break through the skin barrier) and water-soluble (to break through the blood barrier). Essential oils are one of the few ingredients with small enough molecules to reach the blood vessels and be carried around the body – which is why I’m such a fan of high quality aromatherapy products.

Some chemicals and medicines also have molecules designed to be absorbed by blood vessels in the skin. The question is: do you want them there? Parabens are a common chemical skincare ingredient, for example, which have been found in breast cancer tumours.

Always choose natural

Choosing organic, plant based and cruelty free products isn’t just better for your skin, it’s better for the planet. So always buy the most natural, best quality moisturiser you can.

PS If you’re observant you’ll notice there’s a tube of SPF in the pic. Sun Protection Factor products are specifically designed to protect the skin from the rays of the sun. It’s a big subject so I’ll be covering it in another post. Bye for now!