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Moisturising Creams - What are Some of the Common Ingredients?

Eczema, Skin Conditions | November 28, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

Skin conditions, eczema

Moisturising Creams - What are Some of the Common Ingredients?

You may be wondering what are some of the ingredients in your moisturisers, and what they do. This article looks at some of the ingredients in popular products.

People may choose to moisturise their skin to combat that feeling of dryness, especially in Australia, or they may be advised by their health care practitioner to apply a moisturiser for skin conditions such as eczema, again usually to combat dryness. So, skin moisturiser should help to reduce moisture evaporation from the skin or increase moisture content in the skin. It may do this by supporting the barrier function of the skin. As we age or in conditions such as eczema, the protective layers of our skin can become thin and its ability hold in water is reduced.

Dry skin is not caused by a single condition, but a morphology within the skin depending on internal and external stressors. It is the loss of intercellular lipids; the ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids that form the bilayers, leading to damage of the water barrier formation and resulting in dry skin.

Dry skin is when the stratum corneum, the dead layer close to the surface of the skin, and often thought of as the bricks and mortar of the skin, loses its continuity and moisture content is registered at less than 10%.

What could be in your moisturiser

What could be in your moisturiserEmollients

Emollients – Help with skin barrier function. They are the oils fats that help with soft, smooth and flexible skin. Examples of emollients include:

  • Isopropyl Palmitate
  • Stearyl Alcohol
  • Castor oil
  • Jojoba oil
  • Glyceryl stearate
  • Squalene

Jojoba oil is a yellow wax like liquid extracted from the seed/nut of the jojoba shrub, a plant found in North America.
Click Here for Article on Jojoba

Squalene is a lipid produced by our skin that starts to reduce as we get older, contributing to skin dryness. Squalane is a saturated form of squalene and is often found in moisturisers, it is odourless, antibacterial, non-comedonal and suitable for sensitive skin.


A humectant is a substance that is water attracting.

It can attract the water in the atmosphere to the skin or the water in the lower dermal layers drawing it to the surface of the skin. Examples of humectants include:

  • Urea
  • Sodium lactate
  • Propylene glycol
  • Alpha hydroxyl acids
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Sorbitol
  • Gelatin
  • Honey

What could be in your moisturiserUrea is an endogenous product that has been found to not only help with skin hydration, but also to enhance the barrier function of the skin and antimicrobial defence. This is particularly useful for skin that is damaged such as in atopic dermatitis/ eczema.
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Hyaluronic Acid Is a substance that occurs naturally in humans and is found in skin, joint fluid and connective tissue. It cushions and lubricates, but depletes as we age.
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Whilst a humectant is drawing water from the dermis to hydrate the surface of the skin, unfortunately it can also mean that the moisture will get lost to the environment. This is where an occlusive substance comes into play in a moisturising cream.

Occlusives are fatty substances that diffuse into the outer layer of the epidermis offering protection from water loss.

Examples include:

  • Fatty acids such as lanolin and stearic acid
  • Hydrocarbons such as petrolatum, mineral oils (liquid paraffin) – derived from petroleum; squalene
  • Fatty alcohols – cetyl alcohol, lanolin
  • Phospholipids like lecithin
  • Sterols like cholesterol
  • Vegetable waxes
  • Wax esters such as beeswax, lanolin, stearyl stearate

What could be in your moisturiserBeeswax (Cera alba) is the natural wax from honeycomb after the honey has been extracted.

Lanolin is a fatty substance secreted from the sebaceous skin glands of sheep and used to condition their wool.

Petrolatum is the most effective substance for reducing water loss – you may be familiar with petroleum jelly, just not very pleasant to use as a moisturiser on its own.

Purified water

Water that has been put through a purification system to remove any microbes, toxins and impurity is used in moisturizing and other skincare and personal care products. Its purposes being to act as a solvent of other ingredients, or to form emulsions of oil and water for creams and lotions.

Don’t forget drinking plenty of water also helps with skin hydration

How to use

Finding the right product is basically individual and could be based on ease of use, feel, effectiveness and cost. Result are usually found when product is used regularly as instructed. If results are not obtained it is usually because product has not been applied constantly to enable results to be produced, rather than a problem with the product.

What do you want from your moisturisers

  • Increase the water content of the skin – apply regularly especially in dry conditions
  • Reduce inflammation – soothing effect on the skin
  • Antipruritic action – reducing dryness can reduce itching and cool the skin
  • Protection from UV damage - choose a moisturiser with UV protection included
  • Antimitotic action – stop cell division. Important in conditions such as psoriasis. Mineral oils have been found to have a low antimitotic action.
  • Antimicrobial action – reduce skin infection – urea can help with this
  • Offer smooth, hydrated and fresh-looking skin
  • Ease of use

Caution is always advised when introducing any new skin care product in case of allergy.


Evidence exist that show moisturisers are beneficial for various skin conditions by improving dryness. Some ingredient in products improve skin barrier function making them useful in conditions such as atopic dermatitis and eczema.
Click Here For Further Reading on Natural Skin Care Products  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Urea uptake enhances barrier function and antimicrobial defence in humans by regulating epidermal gene expression.

Dietary water affects human skin hydration and biomechanics

Moisturizers: The Slippery Road

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