Natural ingredients

What is a Moisturiser and How Can it Help with Skin Health

As an esthetician, I find it interesting that few textbooks in dermatology devote little space to this subject.

No standard definition really exists, yet we use and recommend moisturisers daily.

Technically, a moisturising treatment involves this 4-step process:

  • repairing the skin barrier
  • increasing water content
  • reducing trans-epidermal moisture loss (TEWL)
  • restoring the lipid barriers’ ability to attract, hold and redistribute water

I believe they are an essential part of the skincare routine.

So join me as I decode exactly what is a moisturiser so you can understand its role on the skin.

What is a moisturiser

Depending on your skin concern or type, moisturisers have a number of roles on the skin:

  • they replenish natural oils on the surface of your skin
  • a well-formulated SPF moisturiser can prevent signs of photo-ageing
  • they provide a soothing, occlusive film, helping to calm inflammation
  • an emollient moisturiser will help to keep your skin soft, supple and youthful
  • they can contain cosmeceuticals that help to improve the appearance of ageing skin.
  • an antioxidant-rich moisturiser prevents free radicals from causing ageing oxidation
  • a humectant moisturiser will help to lock in moisture and maintain hydration, slowing evaporation
  • balancing ingredients can be incorporated that will slow down the flow of sebum to the surface of your skin
  • a gentle, intelligently formulated moisturiser will replenish the delicate microflora that makes up the acid mantle
  • moisturisers can contain lightening and brightening ingredients, helping to pull deep-rooted pigmentation from within your skin’s tissues
  • they cover tiny fissures in your skin, filling the cement-like substance between the cell walls to maintain the all-important protective barrier function

How do moisturisers work?

Traditionally, moisturisers were believed to inhibit transepidermal water loss.

Water begins in the deep epidermal layers and moves up to hydrate cells in the stratum corneum, the outer layer of skin, which is eventually lost to evaporation.

Moisturising ingredients help to prevent dehydration in the stratum corneum, the outer layer of skin.

The “bricks and mortar” model I discuss here suggests it has an important role as an active membrane.

Loss of intercellular lipids, such as essential ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids, which form the bilayers of the skin, can damage the barrier function, causing a whole host of skin conditions.

The skin also has a natural moisturising factor (NMF), a mixture of amino acids, lactates, urea, and electrolytes, which helps the stratum corneum retain water. By

Dry skin typically occurs when the moisture content is less than 10%. Topically applying humectants and layering with occlusives can help prevent this moisture loss.

Components that make a moisturiser


These form a film over the skin’s surface, creating a protective barrier and preventing TEWL.

Follow the link to find out more about these essential ingredients.


These ingredients attract water when applied to the skin, improving hydration.

The skin’s natural moisturising factor consists of low-molecular-weight, hygroscopic substances, including glycerin, sorbitol, urea, amino acids, sodium PCA, and alpha-hydroxy acids such as lactic acid.

The Naked Chemist products contain skin-identical ingredients, including urea, amino acids, glycerin, sorbitol, hyaluronic acid, lactic acid, ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids.

All of these work to increase the cohesion of stratum corneum cells, protect barrier function, and maintain the natural moisturising factor, helping to keep skin soft, supple, plump, and youthful.

Water drawn to the skin is trans-epidermal water, not atmospheric water and continued evaporation from the skin can exacerbate dryness;

This is why we suggest layering humectant-based products, such as the H20 hydrating complex or Quench plumping peptide gel, with occlusive ingredients.


These ingredients give a product that immediately feels moisturised, and emollients help to improve skin texture by smoothing the skin and providing slip.

They are essential in binding and desquamating corneocytes in the epidermis, filling in the spaces between the skin, like mortar between bricks.

When combined with emulsifiers, they hold oil and water in the outer layer of the skin.

Stearic, linoleic, linolenic, oleic, and lauric acids are long-chain saturated fatty acids and fatty alcohols in palm and coconut oil. They change the properties of intracellular lipids in the outer layer of the skin.

They are often used in topical cosmetic formulations, where they help to improve the skin barrier function.

Essential fatty acids, such as linoleic acid and alpha-linoleic, influence skin physiology by beneficial effects on skin barrier functions, membrane fluidity, and cell signalling.

Structural lipids are intracellular lipids located between the stratum corneum cells; they play a significant role in the skin’s water-holding capacity.

Ceramides are a significant component of the inner cellular lipids and essential moisturising ingredients for maintaining skin health and improving dry skin conditions.

Moisturisers and collagen

Collagen and other proteins, such as keratin and elastin, claim to rejuvenate the skin by replenishing essential proteins within your skin.

This is unlikely to happen since protein molecules are too large to penetrate the skin’s outer layer.

When applied topically, these ingredients shrink slightly, providing a temporary protein film that smooths the skin and stretches fine lines.

Alpha hydroxy acids 

Alpha hydroxy acids, like glycolic and lactic, absorb deep within the skin tissues.

Because of their small molecular structure, they can dissolve surface cells that adhere to the skin’s surface, helping to make skin smooth and hydrated.

If you want to learn more about moisturising ingredients, follow the link.

To conclude. The naked truth

Moisturisers play a crucial role in maintaining skin health and appearance, and their significance is often underestimated in dermatology textbooks.

They operate through a multifaceted process, encompassing the repair of the skin barrier, hydration, prevention of moisture loss, and enhancement of skin function.

Understanding the components and mechanisms of moisturisers empowers individuals to make informed choices about their skincare routine.

Ingredients such as occlusives, humectants, and emollients work synergistically to protect the skin, maintain moisture, and promote a youthful complexion.

By decoding moisturising ingredients, we can unlock the secrets to healthier, more resilient skin, ensuring that this vital aspect of skincare receives the attention it deserves.


The importance of moisturising:
Why moisturising your face is essential:
Five reasons to moisturise your skin:
The role of moisturisers: s://

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