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 viscous essences to do the heavy lifting instead. But despite practically drenching my skin in 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 would evaporate from the skin. Crazy, right?

For a bit of science behind this phenomenon, celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau offered me insight: “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 former umbrella, you’ll need an emollient moisturizer with hydrating 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. Conversely, dry skin is still prone to moisture loss, but because of the lack of oil, this skin type needs an even richer emollient moisturizer with heavier ingredients like ceramides, shea butter, beeswax, squalene, jojoba oil, and sunflower seed oil.

Take a look at some of our favorite sealing moisturizers below.

Advanced Ceramide Capsules
Elizabeth Arden Advanced Ceramide Capsules $80.00

These fun little gold capsules just need to be twisted to pop open the silky-soft ceramide oil for glowing skin.

Elta MD Barrier Renewal Complex $52.00

Made up of five different ceramides, this cream increases water retention and strengthens your complexion for smoother, more even skin.

Roxelle Sandal
Origins Plantscription $80.00 $54.00

Perfect for all skin types, this hydrating cream promotes elasticity for bouncier, more youthful skin.

PCA Skin Collagen Hydrator $50.00

Hyaluronic acid and shea butter come together to drive moisture in while keeping it sealed in tight—the ultimate hydration duo.

Renée Rouleau Hydraboost Rescue Creme $75.00

A favorite of Demi Lovato’s, this soothing blend of niacinamide and passion fruit diminishes redness, dehydration and surface irritation.

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