In general terms skin conditioning is the kingpin of topical skin treatment. The most familiar term is “moisturization”, misconstrued with terms such as humectants and emollients, which resonates with the consumer to denote improvement of the skin to a natural healthy state.Humectants help to modulate the water content by enhancing surface water availability;
Occlusivity agents, typically denoted as moisturizers, modulate the water content by slowing down TEWL;
Keratolytic agents, stimulate cell renewal, by cleaning the surface of dead cells and exciting new cells to form at the surface for a better and healthier barrier;
Emollients provide the topical aesthetics and lubrication that enhance the perception of soft, smooth skin. They can provide some level of moderate TEWL improvement topically.
The Epidermis is a key barrier layer and is most important in modulation of skin’s moisture content. When this layer is damaged or compromised, the result is increase trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) that is noticed by the consumer as dry skin, cracking skin, irritated skin, less flexible skin. The skin is in a naturally healthy state when the moisture in the skin’s topical layers is optimally modulated. In order for water to reach the skin surface, it needs to find a path through or around the lipid bilayers between the corneal cells. The passage of water molecules is facilitated by barrier damage of the stratum corneum and low ambient relative humidity.
So, moisturization could be postulated as to how performance property of water modulation enhances the skins barrier and restores skin back to a more normal healthy steady-state condition. Thus, if we improve this layer by modulating the skin’s moisture content, we could expect to achieve to drive the skin back to a healthier state.
The take-away from this is the need to understand how to employ key moisturizer properties so as to extract their full value-added benefits. Then, through a better understanding of how to test for delivery of these benefits, it will be clearer on what is really being delivered to the consumer.
Choosing the right moisturizer, skin hydrating agent, and skin softening/smoothing ingredient requires knowledge of their chemical, physical and performance properties and how to best utilize them against the target performance claim, and consumer perception and expectation. My hypothesis is that moisturization should be thought of as combination of humectants, occlusivity agents, keratolytic agents, and skin enhancing emollients:
So, now we think about these differences between humectants, emollients, and occlusive agents to enhance the ultimate moisturization. We need to explore the complex selection and chemistry of ingredients within each category, what is being delivered to the skin and why, skin type and what is wrong with the skin … or who is the target consumer for the product you are developing.
For more on the topic of moisturization, attend my online course "Four Key Elements of Moisturization”.
This webinar will provide an understanding of what a moisturizer is, how to formulate by using the four key elements of moisturization, and how to measure moisturization. We will conclude with a discussion on practical execution of moisturization and how to utilize them through a review of some commercial products to extract the benefits of the four key elements to produce improved the natural moisture barrier of skin.
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