Dry skin and hair are common issues that trouble most of us. Not only can dry skin cause discomfort, but it can aggravate skin woes like eczema and increase the risk for skin infections. Whereas dry hair makes the hair brittle and damaged resulting in the mane losing its natural luster. Lack of moisture is the common cause of dry skin and hair. The best possible way to help the skin and hair preserve moisture is to use products with humectants.

Read this article to get an overview of humectants, how they work and what to keep in mind when choosing the best humectants.

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What Are Humectants?

Humectants are compounds that attract water from the atmosphere or from deep within the skin. They are available in three different forms natural, naturally obtained, and synthetic. It is a moisturizing agent found in lotions, shampoos, and various beauty care essentials used for skin and hair. They are well-known to lock in moisture while also sustaining the overall quality of the product.

Also, many industries like food manufactures use them as anti-caking agents. Further, they are found in a few medications, and agricultural products.

Also Read: 5 Amazing Natural Remedies To Combat Dry Skin - Infographic

Humectants are used in personal care products like

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body lotion
  • Skin cream and body butter
  • Face cleanser
  • Lip balm
  • Eye cream
  • Cosmetics

How Do Humectants Work?

Generally, humectants bind with water and help to lock in moisture, but a few of them have an additional role. They break down dead skin cells clogging up the skin’s surface and the dead skin cells drop off in a process called cell turnover. But when the water in the top layer of skin (stratum corneum) falls below 10% these dead cells build up and result in dry, rough skin. Humectants work to loosen dead cells; they retain moisture from the deeper layers of skin.

Occlusives And Emollients

Occlusives: These are compounds that make a barrier on the surface of dry skin or hair to lock in moisture.

Emollients: These compounds help to smoothen the skin’s surface to create a supple texture, filling gaps and cracks that make the skin rough. Additionally, emollients can also repair and strengthen the skin’s natural protective barrier.

While some humectants work like both emollients and occlusives. For humectants to work effectively they need to stay in the skin and hair, that’s why most beauty products combine humectants with occlusives to ensure that moisture doesn't evade into the air. While adding emollients to the products creates a smooth surface.

Types Of Humectants

Some of the most common types of humectants include:

Hyaluronic acid: This is a component found naturally in the system, which the body makes less of it as you age. This is one of the contributing factors that lead to skin dryness and aging.

Glycerin.: Glycerine or glycerol is a clear element that is found naturally in plant tissue and animal, including that of human beings. Most of the glycerine is made from soybean and sugarcane. It is one of the most potent humectants and it also aids to maintain the skin barrier strong and healthy.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA): It is similar to glycolic acid, lactic acid, and citric acid which are naturally obtained acids from fruit and milk sugars. It helps in locking moisture and getting rid of dead skin cells.

Aloe Vera Gel: This natural ingredient possesses humectant and emollient qualities that help to keep the skin and hair surface supple and smooth.

Also Read: Glycolic Acid: How To Use This Amazing Ingredient In Your Skincare Regimen

What To Look For In Humectant Products?

The type of humectant compound that you need depends on your overall skin and hair care needs. If you have acne-prone skin, then a salicylic acid-containing product can support eliminating dead skin cells to combat acne while retaining skin moisture. AHAs also help to get rid of skin cells and it's beneficial for all types of skin.

Consider adding an occlusive ingredient into your beauty care regimen if you have trouble with dry skin. As a rule of thumb, products that are oily tend to contain occlusives.

Furthermore, most moisturizing products contain added components like fragrances and preservatives. However, these ingredients can aggravate certain skin problems. Hence go for a fragrance and preservative-free formula if you have:

  • Eczema
  • Rosacea
  • Sensitive skin

Humectant beauty products can benefit skin and hair’s ability to retain moisture.

Follow the below steps to help lock moisture:

  • Use lukewarm water for bathing and washing your face and hands
  • Limit shower time to not more than 10 minutes at a time
  • Ensure to use fragrance-free products, including soaps and detergents
Use a humidifier in your home, during cold, dry weather