If You Aren't Using Emollients in Your Skincare, Are You Even Hydrated?



Prior to chatting with Christine Chang and Sarah Lee, co-founders of Glow Recipe and the authorities on all things dewy skin, I had been layering serums and essences with abandon, wrongly assuming that all this hydration was doing me a world of good. I'd been skipping cream moisturizers altogether after learning that they were responsible for my morning whiteheads and trusting active-packed hyaluronic acid serums and natural viscous essences to do the heavy lifting instead. But despite practically drenching my skin in clear hydrating liquids, I was still super dry come morning. That's when Chang and Lee turned my skincare world upside down: They told me that without an emollient to seal in my diligently layered moisturizing products, they evaporate from the skin. Crazy, right?

For a bit of science behind this phenomenon, celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau sheds a bit of light: "The drier the air, the more quickly the evaporation process will occur," she explains. "Moisture acts like a magnet in that it is drawn to the driest areas. Once you rinse off your cleanser and your skin is damp, you have a 60-second window before evaporation begins to occur, so it's important to move quickly. The key here is the last step should be a moisturizer with protective emollients or oils that act as a seal to keep moisture in your skin. Anything that is water-based simply cannot perform that function."

Turns out I have what Rouleau calls "dehydrated skin" or skin that's lacking water. (Dry skin is skin that lacks oil, and I certainly produce enough of that throughout the day.) For people who fall under the latter umbrella, you'll need an emollient moisturizer with ingredients like glycerin, sodium hyaluronate (the salt of hyaluronic acid with a lower molecular size for maximum absorption), sodium PCA, sorbitol, allantoin and various forms of algae. On the other hand, dry skin is still prone to moisture loss, but because of the lack of oil, this skin type needs richer emollient moisturizers with ceramides, shea butter, beeswax, squalene, jojoba oil, and sunflower seed oil. Take a look at some of our favorite sealing moisturizers below.