Emollients are compounds that help to improve the appearance of the skin,

They soften and smooth the outer layer of skin.

Emollients are referred to as a protectors, because they lie on top of the skin shielding it from environmental harm.

They allow the skin to rebuild its natural barrier function over time.

They are excellent for dry skin, because they completely block moisture loss and don;t cause allergy or irritants.

The molecules are to large, so they don’t penetrate the surface of the skin easily.

Common Emollients 

Natural emollients such as jojoba, sunflower, borage or safflower are rich in fatty acids that protect the skin, supplementing the barrier function.

The fatty materials in the barrier function are often used in formulations for dry skin, they patch up the barrier.

There are many emollients that are either completely synthetic, or don’t come from natural sources.

Silicones cyclomethicone, dimethicone and cyclopentasiloxane are used in skin care products to impart a nice silky feel on the skin, they help with the slip and glide of a product.

They are often referred to as breathable barriers, because they leave a protective film on the surface of the skin.

Silicones are less likely to cause a reaction, making them a great addition for a sensitive, inflamed skin.

Because they have such a nice texture, they have replaced many of the more traditional emollients that were thick and fat, they are often used in lipid serums, for dry and sensitive skin conditions.

Examples of Silicones are Phenyl Trimethicone, Cyclomethicone and Dimethicone silicone compounds.

I choose not to use them in my formulas, because they are biologically inert, preferring to use a natural silicone made from olive oil.

Polymers: These are a relatively new synthetic Silicone, which work as fantastic spreading agents.

They are used to create a nice texture in skin care products, and help deliver performance cosmetic ingredients effectively.

Lanolin: This is an ingredient that whether purified or not, I choose to avoid in my formulas.

Do my clients really need to be smearing their body with something that has come into contact with sheep dip, especially when there are plenty of other natural substitutes out there? The answer obviously is a resounding no!

This article killing you softly the dangers of lanolin, gives a good insight into why you should avoid this ingredient in your products.

Mineral oil:

Emulsifiers to avoid are the ones that have a mineral oil base.

Polyethylene glycol ether is usually combined with paraffin, this could include trideceth -3, -6, 10, tricetheareth. They are petro-chemical based and should be avoided.

Mineral oil works by literally trapping water in the top layers of the skin, whilst creating a protective barrier, thus helping to keep invading bacteria out.

This is a subject discussed in more detail in the chapter on occlusive ingredients, which you can read about here.


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