How Do Moisturizers Work?

woman stands before a mirror takes care of the skin

When you have dry or damaged skin, moisturizers are often the first line of defense. But with the overwhelming choice of moisturizers on store shelves, deciding what is best for your skin can be difficult. There are creams, lotions and ‘barrier’ products. There are basic formulations, and pricier formulas with fancy ingredients. Some moisturizers are scented, others are not. There are formulas for every skin type imaginable. When it comes right down to it, all moisturizers have one job: to hold water in your skin. How moisturizers work depends on what is in the formula.

The Three Keys to Moisturization

In order to hold water in your skin’s outer layers, moisturizers generally do three things. They lock moisture in, draw water to the surface and smooth out rough cells.

1. Moisturizers create a barrier
Creating a barrier between your skin and the environment is the most basic function of any moisturizer. Using ingredients called occlusives, this barrier keeps water in the upper layer of your skin (called the stratum corneum). It also protects this layer by preventing outside elements like soap, dry heat and cold winds from stripping your natural skin oils away.

2. Bringing water to the surface plumps up skin
Ingredients classified as humectants draw moisture from the air and hold it in your skin. They also encourage water to migrate up to the stratum corneum, where the emollient barrier keeps it in place. This results in a supple, hydrated appearance.

3. Filling in micro-ridges smooths the skin’s appearance
Moisturizers use emollients, which are different kinds of oils, to smooth the edges between the cells on the skin’s upper layers. By rounding out these edges, the cells will appear smoother and flakes will be less noticeable.

When Moisturizing Is Not Enough

Some conditions need special attention and medical intervention to repair the skin’s barrier and defenses. If a consistent moisturizing routine doesn’t improve your skin, or is only one part of your skin problems, see a dermatologist. Contact Medical Dermatology Specialists today to receive a customized skin care plan for your unique needs. We can help you have better, healthier skin.

Medical Dermatology Specialists, Inc.
5730 Glenridge Dr, Suite T-100
Atlanta, GA 30328
(404) 939-9220

Monday – Thursday 7:30 AM – 5:00 PM

Posted on behalf of Dr. Jamie Weisman, Medical Dermatology Specialists, Inc.