Let’s take a look at the difference between these two terms. They are often thrown around in beauty marketing campaigns. I’m a firm believer that words matter so let’s quickly determine the difference.
In order for a product to have moisturizing attributes, its ingredients should contain an occlusive which creates a barrier between the skin and the environment to reduce TEWL, Transepidermal water loss.
The FDA recognizes three barrier ingredients:
- Cocoa Butter
Now of course, other ingredients make very nice occlusives but they aren’t FDA approved. My suspicion is that the ingredients above behave predictably across broad diverse populations, ages and groups.
Emollients provide a soothing effect for the skin and they include oils, butter, and esters. Emollients build up suppleness and create a smooth skin surface.
Humectants attract and retain moisture. This action facilitates hydration. Hydration can be measured as the top layer of the skin having a water content ranging from 20 and 30%. Some debate does persist in the lower limits for these values, but 10% is considered the minimum.
So humectants draw and retain water from the surrounding atmosphere, occlusives keep that water from evaporating by maintaining a barrier and emollients give the skin's surface a nice smooth finish. All three ingredients combine to make a product that keeps the skin flexible and smooth.