A complete guide to humectants, emollients and occlusives A complete guide to humectants, emollients and occlusives

A complete guide to humectants, emollients and occlusives

What are humectants, emollients and occlusives? Humectants and emollients sound pretty similar to me and occlusives sound like something dangerous. Let's shed some light here!

A complete guide to humectants, emollients and occlusives

When I first started getting interested in the skincare world, I honestly did not know the difference between these three types of moisturizers, everything seemed to serve the same purpose for the same skin needs. 

But then, I found out that there was a difference between these three moisturizers. Here's what I learned!


Humectants function as hydrators that attract water molecules from the air and pull them into the skin's surface. This binds water to the skin, they work better in humid climates as in colder and dryer climates there won't be enough water in the air. Examples of humectants are hyaluronic acid, glycerin, amino acids, aloe vera gel, lactic acid and hydrosol


Humectants don't have a way to trap hydration in your skin, on the other hand, occlusive ingredients create a physical barrier on the skin to prevent moisture from escaping from your skin. If you want to know more about occlusive hydration, check skin slugging.


Emollients have some occlusive properties and their main function is to smooth and restore the skin. They are effective at filling cracks in dry skin. Examples of emollients are shea butter, vitamin E, cocoa butter, jojoba and rosehip oil

You can combine moisturizers for a perfect skincare routine.

You can combine them for a perfect skincare routine. Make sure you use humectants first as they are light and easily absorbed into the skin and follow by an occlusive to trap the hydration in. 

Aniela Dybiec

Aniela is a writer who loves art, makeup, and magick. She is also an amateur illustrator, a wellness fan and a vegetarian.+ info

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