Ask Skin Pharm: How Do Moisturizers Work?

Ask Skin Pharm: How Do Moisturizers Work?

Moisturizers — you know you need them, but do you understand what they do for your skin?

As we enter the drier months of the year, moisturizers are even more important for your daily skin care routine.

We'll break it down for you, and we'll make it more fun than science class. (Because this is all about giving you the best skin possible, right?)

What is a moisturizer?

A moisturizer is a topical product designed to maintain levels of oils and water in the skin sufficient for it to be soft and pliable. Moisturizers can be creams, lotions, serums or oils that are applied to the very top portion of the skin, or the epidermis. The top layer of the epidermis is called the stratum corneum (composed of dead cells that you actively shed) and the bottom is called the basal cell (made of living cells that replace the dead cells in the stratum corneum). The dermis is directly underneath the epidermis and consists primarily of proteins such as collagen and elastin fibers. There is also blood supply here.

Why do I need a moisturizer?

A certain amount of transepidermal water loss (a fancy way of saying water from inside our body evaporates out of our body) is necessary to ensure skin is not too greasy and, alternately, not too dry. When skin gets too dry – whether it's affected by the temperature, humidity, hormone changes, or other factors – we treat it with moisturizers to maintain levels of oils and water in the skin. 

Are there different kinds of moisturizers?

The three kinds of moisturizers include humectants, occlusive agents and barrier enhancing agents.


Humectants, also known as "moisture magnets," are water-soluble compounds that attract water molecules. Water is attracted from the atmosphere around you and from water within the body. These are ideal for treating mild dry skin conditions. 

Examples of humectant ingredients include: Sodium hyaluronate (hyaluronic acid), sodium lactate (lactic acid), polyhydric alcohols (glycerin, butylene glycol) and aloe vera. 


Occlusive agents, which are water insoluble (meaning they cannot dissolve in water) cover skin to prevent water from evaporating. When water from within the body tries to evaporate, the skin does not allow it, and the top of the skin swells with water.

Examples of occlusive agents include: Beeswax, petrolatum (Vaseline), squalane, mineral oil, olive oil, lanolin, isopropyl palmitate, isopropyl myristate and dimethicone.


Barrier enhancing agents (BEA) are specific combinations of natural lipids that hold water within the skin. If the skin is not producing enough BEAs, applying these topically can improve skin health. When BEAs are applied to the skin, they can actually cause the skin the skin to make more of the BEAs that are needed for a healthy skin barrier, such as niacinamide!

Examples of BEAs include: cholesterol, palmitic and stearic acid, ceramides and niacinamide. 

Will there be a quiz, or are you going to tell me what products I should use?

No quizzes today, we promise! The Skin Pharm line has several products with moisturizing ingredients. Our Youth Serum is packed with three peptides and hyaluronic acid and is suitable for all skin types and can be used in the AM and/or PM. For normal to dry skin types, our Face Whip is a luxurious yet lightweight moisturizer that gives you hydrated, supple skin and combats environmental damage. Let Face Whip work its magic while you sleep, powered by hyaluronic acid to replenish and retain cell moisture and ceramides to rebuild and restore the protective barrier of the skin.

We've created additional Skin Pharm products that gently exfoliate (say goodbye to those dead skin cells we talked about earlier) while providing the added benefit of moisturizers to counteract any anticipated irritation or dryness. These include our popular Crystal Clear clarifying pads (AHAs/BHAs exfoliate, while a proprietary blend of botanical extracts brighten and hydrate) and our High Beam brightening lotion (botanicals treat dullness while peptides and glycerin address dryness).


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