Emollients are substances that fill in the spaces between the skin cells, making the skin smoother and protecting it from water loss.

Emollients are nourishing and moisturizing. Their regular application will please generally dry and irritated skin types, while it can also help normal skin to stay healthy and elastic when exposed to drying winter wind, summer heat or frequent washing. Emollient creams and ointments can be prescribed to people with medical conditions like eczema or psoriasis.

Emollient agents include vegetable oils and butters, like castor oil, jojoba and grape seed oil, shea an cocoa butter; waxes: acacia flower wax or sunflower seed wax, esthers: cetyl acetate or isopropyl palmitate; silicones: cyclomethicone, dimethicone; mineral oils and petrolatum. Simplest emollient molecules which help to build up many of the listed substances are fatty acids like oleic, stearic or linoleic acid.

  • Emollients do not attract water to the skin, but trap already present moisture inside. Applying them after a shower or in combination with a humectant is not a bad idea.
  • Water-based emollient lotions cause a lighter feeling on the skin and are easier to apply, but more oily products keep the hydration longer. The drier your skin is, the more lipid formulation of emollient is recommended.
  • Some emollients are also occlusive agents. Select them carefully according to individual skin type.
  • Some emollients like lauric acid are contained in breast milk, which might be considered as the very first and safest baby cosmetics.
  • Applying petrolatum and other paraffin-based emollients is not compatible with smoking, as they are easily inflammable.

Generally safe.