The balance between hydration and emolliency in skincare products

We often get asked what a basic skincare routine should look like. For us, it consists of three steps – cleanse, hydrate and nourish. In other words, a routine containing products with both hydrating, i.e. moisturising, and nourishing, i.e. emollient, ingredients. Most people need both these functions, hydration and nourishment, to maintain healthy skin. The exception could be extremely oily skin in a very humid and warm climate, where purely hydrating ingredients or products may be sufficient on their own.

Hydrating, or moisturising, ingredients are used in cosmetic products to slow down moisture loss from the product itself and, importantly, to increase moisture content in skin. This function is generally performed by hygroscopic substances, or humectants, which are able to absorb water from their surroundings and also hold it in skin. Humectants include ingredients such as glycerin and sodium PCA. Humectants are generally water soluble, and after some time evaporate from skin.

Nourishing ingredients are emollients that soften and condition the skin, most usually different types of lipids (oils, fats, waxes). Emollients, e.g. canola oil, oat oil and argan oil, also importantly help lock in moisture.

The problem of dry skin is not always the lack of hydration, but a weakened skin barrier. The skin barrier is the mechanism in our skin that prevents water loss. Using an oil or balm without any humectants will not tackle dry skin. If you opt for just one product after cleansing, make sure it has both hydrating ingredients as well as nourishing ingredients, like our Face Cream. Alternatively, use the Toner Spray for moisture and the Face Oil to nourish and lock in hydration in your skin.