What Is A Humectant For The Skin?

When it comes to types of ingredients in skincare, terms like "humectant" can seem big and scary, reserved only for scientific papers. However, the truth is that humectants are simple yet vital hydrating ingredients used in skin care products to keep your skin hydrated and healthy. We understand that keeping up with the dizzying array of ingredients can be challenging, which is why we are here to break it down for you. We'll dive deep into exactly what a humectant is and how it can benefit your skin and keep it moisturized!

What Is A Humectant For Skin?

Humectants are hygroscopic substances, meaning they attract and retain moisture from their external environment. When applied to the skin, humectants draw in moisture from both the air and the inner layers of the skin and keep it locked in for maximum hydration.

Humectants are found in many skincare products in various forms to attract and bind moisture to the skin and keep it moisturized from the inside out. This helps prevent the skin from becoming dry and irritated due to harsh environmental conditions. Examples of humectants commonly found in skincare products include hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and honey. We'll go into more detail about the different types of humectants below.

Benefits Of Humectants For Skin

Humectants not only help to lock in moisture and prevent skin from drying out, but they also provide additional benefits to keep skin healthy and protected:

  • Improved Barrier Function: Humectants improve the skin barrier function to protect it from the elements, keep unwanted microbes out, and prevent water loss.

  • Smoother Skin: As we age, our skin gets thinner and drier, allowing wrinkles to form. Humectants hydrate the skin, plumping it up and restoring elasticity so wrinkles and fine lines are less visible.

  • Glowing Complexion: Hydrated skin equals healthy skin, so humectants will give you a brighter, glowing complexion.

Humectants vs. Occlusives vs. Emollients

Humectants, occlusives, and emollients are all substances used in skincare products to improve skin texture. They often complement each other and are combined to create the ideal hydrating blend. It is essential to understand the differences between these three to choose the best combination for your skin:

  • Humectants: As discussed, humectants draw in and retain moisture in the skin, helping it stay hydrated. They are typically lighter and thus less likely to clog pores.

  • Occlusives: These are often combined with humectants to form a protective seal over the skin to help prevent moisture loss. Occlusives are best for those living in dry environments or those with dehydrated skin. Examples include petroleum jelly, shea butter, and cocoa butter.

  • Emollients: They soften and smooth the skin and help reduce visible signs of aging. Examples include squalene and triglycerides.

Types of Humectants For Skin

Humectants come in many forms and serve many purposes in skincare products, from providing hydration to increasing the skin's elasticity. We'll cover the ins and outs of the most commonly used humectants in skincare.

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid (HA) is one of the most popular humectants used in skincare products today, as it can help to retain up to 1000 times its weight in water. It binds to water molecules in the environment and holds them on the skin's surface, keeping it hydrated and replenished. Hyaluronic acid can also penetrate deep into the dermal layer of the skin, replenishing and restoring the skin's natural moisture levels from the inside out. It can also help to improve skin elasticity and reduce wrinkles and fine lines. For those with dry and dehydrated skin, hyaluronic acid can be a miracle worker, allowing you to achieve a softer, smoother complexion over time.

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Glycerin is another popular humectant used in skincare products today. It is found naturally in the human body, animal tissue, and vegetables like soybeans and sugarcane. As a humectant, it helps draw water to the skin, hydrating it and keeping it looking healthy. It also improves skin barrier function and has been known to speed up wound healing. For dry and sensitive skin, glycerin is ideal for keeping skin looking supple and hydrated.

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Urea, also known as carbamide, is a humectant naturally present in the skin. It is one of the skin's natural moistening factors (NMFs). The liver also produces it as a waste product, but urea in skincare is synthetically created, so you don't need to worry about its cleanliness or safety. Urea is an exfoliating keratolytic agent, meaning it breaks down keratin and reduces dead skin buildup for baby-soft skin. Urea helps to restore the natural balance of essential skin components and is a fantastic way to improve skin health and texture.

Polyglutamic Acid

Polyglutamic acid, also known as PGA, is an organic compound found naturally in fermented soybeans that is often used as a humectant in skincare products. It works similarly to hyaluronic acid, attracting and retaining water exceptionally well. Additionally, PGA helps to strengthen the skin barrier by providing a protective layer and increases the production of natural moistening factors (NMFs) in the skin.

Read More: What Is Polyglutamic Acid For Your Skin?

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AHAs, or alpha-hydroxy acids, are a group of acids derived from fruits. The most common forms are lactic acid and glycolic acid. They exfoliate the skin to remove dead skin cells and increase cell turnover. This can help improve the overall texture and tone of the skin, resulting in a brighter, more even complexion. As a bonus, AHAs can also work as a humectant, drawing moisture to the skin and keeping it well hydrated.

Read More: How And When To Use Glycolic Acid?

The Final Verdict : Humectants in skincare

Humectants are essential to any skincare routine, as they help keep the skin hydrated and healthy. Whether you're looking for an ultra-hydrating deep conditioning treatment or a gentle exfoliating product for your skin, humectants can be a great solution. With just a few drops of the right humectant, you can restore your skin's inner hydration, reduce wrinkles and fine lines, and enhance skin texture and tone. Try adding some of these humectants to your skincare routine and see how they can help you achieve that youthful and healthy glow.