How Do Moisturizers Work?

Lynnwood MoisturizerThe term moisturizer is often misconstrued by consumers as a product that increases the  moisture content in the skin. Although a critical component of most skin care regimens,  the moisture content of your skin is not directly increased with the application of moisturizers.

Acting to restore the wear surface by providing a protective film and covering tiny cracks restores the barrier function of the epidermis, which ultimately increases the water content retained in your skin.  (https://www.medscape.com)

The mechanism of an effective moisturizer slows the evaporation of your skin’s moisture, which maintains hydration. Dry and aging skin appears and feels much softer with regular application of moisturizers.





The upper layer, or epidermis, of the skin is divided into 4 layers (top to bottom):

  1. Stratum Corneum
  2. Stratum Granulosum
  3. Stratum Spinosum
  4. Stratum Basale
There is a 5th layer in thick areas, like the soles of your feet, call the stratum lucidum.
The primary cells in the epidermis, keratinocytes, travel upward from the dermis. Before shedding from the epidermis, the keratinocytes become flat corneocytes that are keratin rich. The Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF) of your skin is generated when lipids are released in the layers of the epidermis during the rise to the surface. These released lipids fill the spaces between the epidermal cells. A water barrier is produced by the lipids which helps maintain your NMF. Hydration is lost when the lipid matrix is disturbed, which ultimately leads to dry, flaky skin. (Harding CR; The Stratum Corneum: Structure and Function in Health and Disease, Dermatologic Therapy; 2004. Vol. 17, pp 6 -15.;  Wickett RR, Visscher MO; Structure and Function of the Epidermal Barrier, American Journal of Infection Control, 2006. Vol. 34, Issue 10, pp S98 – S110).

Most cosmetic moisturizers contain 1 or more of 3 ingredient types:

  1. Humectants — including ingredients; glycerin, urea, and pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (PCA), attract water to the epidermis from the dermis. These ingredients also help maintain that moisture in the stratum corneum. Since humectants tend to have a tacky feel, their use is limited to reduce this negative effect.
  2. Occlusive Agents — minimize water loss from the epidermis by acting as a physical barrier. Occlusive ingredients include: petrolatum, waxes, oils and silicones. Since the fell of these agents tends to be quite heavy, they are usually combined with emollients to make the product lighter.
  3. Emollients — grouped according to ‘spreadability’ on your skin, smooth flakes and provide some occlusive action. Different type emollients are often mixed together to achieve the perfect feel on your skin. 
Most cosmetic moisturizers use a combination of these ingredients to decrease any negative effects and draw on the positive attributes. Lynnwood Moisturizer specialists offer cosmetic moisturizers to suit every skin type. Products available online from:
  • Jane Iredale
  • Guinot
  • Murad