The 5 Best Emollient Moisturizers (Dry & Flaking Skin) 2020
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The 5 Best Emollient Moisturizers (Dry & Flaking Skin)

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best emollient moisturizer
In a hurry? Here are our top picks:
BEST FOR SENSITIVE AND ACNE-PRONE SKIN ZELEN Life Moisturizer

 

In skincare, choosing a suitable formula is important, and adding an emollient moisturizer may be the key to getting plump, soft skin.

Emollients are particularly beneficial to sensitive and irritable skin types and those who suffer from dry skin conditions such as eczema. They have a soothing and hydrating effect, making the skin feel more comfortable by filling in cracks on the surface.

In this article, we will share with you our complete list of the best emollient moisturizers on the market. For each product selection, we will discuss their strengths and weaknesses while picking out their best features and whom they are most suited for.

We know you may have questions when it comes to emollients, so we have answered the most frequently asked questions.

But before you purchase your next emollient moisturizer, here are some pointers on what you think about during your decision process

Quick summary

bb2-table__imageZELEN Life Moisturizer
  • Loaded with bio-active organic ingredents, emollient properties
  • Absorbs fast to repair cracks in skin barrier, forms a protective layer
  • Boosts hydration without blocking pores, non-comedogenic formula
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bb2-table__imageREN Clean Skincare Vita Mineral Emollient Rescue Cream
  • Soothes dry, flaky skin
  • UV protection
  • Protects skin from environmental stress and bad weather
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bb2-table__imageBliss Ex-glow-sion Super Rich Face Moisturizer
  • Shea butter formula nourishes skin
  • Rich in vitamin C and free of chemicals
  • Brightening effect, evens skin tone
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bb2-table__imageBioderma Sensibio Light Cream
  • Super absorbing formula leaves skin silky soft
  • Lightweight texture
  • Improves skin tolerance
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bb2-table__imageMario Badescu Hydro Emollient Cream
  • Superior hydration, can also be used on the body
  • Fast absorbing emollient cream
  • Contains vitamin A
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Before you buy: 5 Things to consider when purchasing an emollient moisturizer

Before you decide to go and pick up an emollient moisturizer this winter, you must consider a few things.

1. Skin type

It’s crucial to understand your skin type before purchasing an emollient moisturizer. This is usually great for people with dry skin but for every skin type that needs moisture. Emollient moisturizers add hydration to the skin.

There are many formulated for sensitive and combination skin. For those with oily skin, you might want to exercise caution. These moisturizers can clog pores and make your skin greasy. For oily skin, use one which is lightweight and has a matte finish.

2. Texture

Emollient moisturizers come as lotions, gels, and creams. Some of the emollient moisturizers have a lightweight formula. Others are thick creams that need to be massaged into the skin.

Some leave a protective film to prevent any moisture loss. You need to consider the level of texture you’re looking for and how much hydration you need.

3. Finish

Emollient moisturizers tend to have different finishes. Some lightweight formulas have a matte finish. In contrast, others contain mica glitter and have a satiny, glowing finish.

People may consider this a greasy look, but it depends on you. Each emollient moisturizer is different, and if you are unsure of your preferred finish, you might want to test a sample before purchasing one.

4. Skin issues

Emollient moisturizers, depending on the consistency, can clog pores or exacerbate eczema or acne. It’s up to you to do your homework and consider your skin issues. Do you have acne or secondary dermatoses?

Research whether an oil-based or water-based moisturizer is best for you. Many of the moisturizers are created for acne-prone skin or skin with an uneven skin tone. You can find one that targets your skin issue.

5. Allergies

While emollient moisturizers are formulated and tested by dermatologists, it is always a possibility that you may be allergic to some ingredients in them. So check out the ingredient list and consider anything that might cause you to have a rash or break out. Do a skin patch test with a sample if possible before splurging on a big jar.

6. Price

Emollient moisturizers can be pricey, and if you’re looking for one that you want to apply to your body as well, you might have to find one that is affordable. Based on the ingredients, there are many different price points for emollient moisturizers.

For example, one which contains rose flower oil will be more expensive as it takes 3000 rose flowers to produce one gallon of oil. The price reflects the ingredients and how difficult it has been to source them.

Find one that suits your budget based on how often you’ll need it.

The 5 best emollient moisturizers in 2020

1. ZELEN Life Moisturizer

ZELEN Life moisturizer

Best features:

  • Smoothing, calming, and soothing effect while leaving the skin refreshed
  • Loaded with vitamins, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids that provide emollient qualities
  • Organic formula, hypoallergenic and chemical-free

The best emollient moisturizer for:

All skin types, particularly those with sensitive or acne-prone skin.

Overview:

ZELEN Life’s Moisturizer is handmade with organic oil-based jojoba, calendula, and clary sage. It is packed with vitamin C, vitamin E, and antioxidant-rich compounds.

The light, non-greasy formula absorbs into the skin fast to boost hydration, while soothing and repairing the skin’s natural layers thanks to its emollient properties. It leaves your skin soft, smooth, and provides all-day protection from the environment.

Key ingredients:

Jojoba is the carrier oil that has anti-aging properties that fight wrinkles and other signs of aging; it speeds up the skin’s healing process; and it regulates the production of sebum, the oil produced by the body.

Studies have shown that jojoba has an anti-inflammatory effect, and it can be used in various skin conditions like skin infections, skin aging, and wound healing.[1]

Calendula is a natural oil derived from the marigold flower, and it provides daily moisture while nourishing the skin. It’s a natural antiseptic, as well, and it helps to heal the skin while reducing redness.

Clary sage is a flowering herb that’s native to the Mediterranean region. It tightens skin while giving it a youthful, radiant glow, and it’s an anti-inflammatory that prevents skin irritation. It’s also an antibacterial that curbs the growth of bacteria.

This emollient day cream also contains sweet almond oil, among many other botanical ingredients.

Sweet almond oil is an oil that contains high levels of fatty acids. Traditionally, it is used to treat eczema and psoriasis. In a study, a moisturizer with 7% sweet almond oil was found to be safe and effective in treating patients with moderate to severe hand dermatitis.[2]

The ZELEN Life Moisturizer is all-natural and completely chemical-free. It is also cruelty-free and suitable for vegans.

The good:

  • Moisturizes and hydrates the skin without clogging pores
  • Suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin
  • Matte finish
  • Vegan-friendly and not tested on animals

Things to think about:

  • No SPF

Bottom line:

This is an excellent emollient moisturizer that is good for acne-prone skin.

2. REN Clean Skincare Vita Mineral Emollient Rescue Cream

REN Clean Skincare Vita Mineral Emollient Rescue Cream

Best features:

  • Rehydrates skin
  • Moisturizes and protects from UV
  • Makes flakiness disappear

The best emollient moisturizer for:

Those with skin affected by eczema.

Overview:

REN’s Clean Skincare Vita Mineral Emollient Rescue Cream is a luxurious cream formulated to provide instant relief for moderate to intense dryness, dehydration, skin roughness, and sensitivity.

You can use this twice a day, and it will leave your skin feeling rehydrated, restored, comforted, and re-energized.

It offers protection against environmental stress and aggression like UV, cold, wind, dryness, and pollution, leaving the skin feeling soft and nourished. It must be blotted onto the skin and not rubbed. It contains White Beeswax, Cranberry Seed Oil, Rose Flower Oil, Sunflower Seed Oil, and Rosemary, among other ingredients.

Sunflower oil has low occlusive chemical components, like essential fatty acids, proteins, vitamins B1, B2, and vitamin E high in antioxidant properties, minerals, and trace elements.[3] 

White beeswax forms a film on the skin, but does not clog the pores, allows skin breathing as opposed to mineral films, improves skin regeneration, has bactericidal and calming properties, and prevents inflammation.[4] 

Rose flower oil has antiaging properties, as studies have shown.[5]

The good:

  • No odor
  • Prevents dryness
  • Provides instant relief

Things to think about:

  • High viscosity (thickness)

Bottom line:

This is a very good emollient moisturizer for eczema-prone skin.

3. Bliss Ex-glow-sion Super Rich Face Moisturizer

bliss ex-glow-sion super rich moisturizer

Best features:

  • Brightens skin tone
  • Promotes collagen synthesis
  • Contains stabilized vitamin C

The best emollient moisturizer for:

Those with an uneven skin tone.

Overview:

Bliss’ Ex-glow-sion Super Rich Face Moisturizer is a velvety, skin-brightening cream.

It contains stabilized vitamin C that takes skin from dry and lackluster to dewy and luminous in seconds. The Vitamin C visibly brightens for mega radiance.

The super-rich formula restores and revitalizes tired, dry skin with an emollient boost of skin-softening hydration. Its African shea butter nourishes to combat flakiness and dry skin.

While an advanced complex of squalane, Aquaxyl, and Pro-Vitamin B5 work synergistically to boost the skin’s natural moisture barrier for a supple, dewy texture. Vitamin C brightens skin tone while also supporting collagen synthesis and defending against free radicals, leaving your complexion looking dewy and radiant.

It also contains Pear Fruit Extract and Lavender Oil, among other ingredients. Pears provide antioxidants and are concentrated in flavonols, particularly anthocyanins.[6] Lavender essential oil presented anti-inflammatory activity, involving the participation of prostanoids and histamine, which cause inflammation.[7]

The good:

  • Cruelty-free and vegan
  • Free from the common chemicals, such as parabens, phthalates, sulfates, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), petrolatum, mineral oil, and formaldehyde
  • Subtle iridescent sheen provides an instant, healthy glow
  • Hypoallergenic, dermatologist tested

Things to think about:

  • Some may find it greasy
  • May not be suitable for sensitive skin
  • Contains mica glitter
  • Must be massaged into the skin

Bottom line:

This is an excellent emollient moisturizer for skin with an uneven skin tone.

4. Bioderma Sensibio Light Cream

Best features:

  • Extra-absorbent silky texture makes the skin soft and supple
  • Excellent make-up base for those who need it
  • Does not fluff

The best emollient moisturizer for:

Sensitive skin types.

Overview:

Bioderma’s Sensibio Light Cream is a lightweight textured cream that hydrates and soothes combination to oily, sensitive skin. It contains the Toleridine™ patent and their D.A.F. complex that helps to improve the tolerance threshold of the skin.

Sensibio Light-textured Cream helps to hydrate and soothe sensitive normal to combination ones. The Toleridine patent, boosted by the D.A.F. (Dermatological Advanced Formulation) patented natural complex, inhibits the production of pro-inflammatory molecules and thus makes the skin less reactive.

It also contains glycyrrhetinic acid, which instantly soothes sensations of overheating and tightness and ensures instant comfort.

It is formulated with active ingredients that have been rigorously selected for their safety, Sensibio Light guarantees optimum tolerance.

It is hypoallergenic, surfactant-free, paraben-free, alcohol-free, and non-comedogenic. It has no fragrance.

Glycerin and Canola moisturize and strengthens the skin’s barrier function. Laminaria and Vitamin E soothes, repairs, and makes the skin more resistant to dryness.

Glycerin, with various other compounds, does improve skin hydration.[8] Laminaria extract hydrates the skin through the hydrocolloids it contains.[9]

The good:

  • Instantly soothes heating sensations and increases the skin’s sensitivity threshold
  • Perfectly moisturizes
  • Fragrance-free

Things to think about:

  • May aggravate acne in some

Bottom line:

This is a great lightweight emollient moisturizer for those with sensitive skin and who are looking to improve skin tolerance.

5. Mario Badescu Hydro Emollient Cream

Best features:

  • Contains Vitamin A
  • Hydrating and moisturizing

The best emollient moisturizer for:

Dry to combination skin.

Overview:

Mario Badescu’s Hydro Emollient Cream famous in-flight cream, forms a layer of protective moisture for skin-drying conditions in flight or high climates.

Collagen and peanut oil are added to this formulation for intense nourishment for the skin.

The good:

  • Fast absorbing
  • Can be used on the body as well

Things to think about:

  • Requires an accompanying occlusive moisturizer
  • Smells like old fashioned soap

Bottom line:

This is a good moisturizer for dry to combination skin.


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How we chose these products

We choose emollient moisturizers that hydrated and moisturized the skin. Therefore, we looked at something that would cover every skin type. Moisturizers are the most important step in the skincare routine, and often emollient moisturizers are the best.

So we chose ingredients that were both water and oil-based. We covered a variety of textures from creams to gels to lotions. Many of the emollient moisturizers tackle problems associated with dry skin, flakiness, eczema, and skin tone.

They have several additional active ingredients that would tighten the skin, addressing aging, protect from UV radiation, and improve collagen synthesis. Many of the emollient moisturizers are also for vastly different budgets.

Some have a scent, others have a subtle fragrance.

They are mostly hypoallergenic for those who are very sensitive. Some are suitable for acne-prone skin and eczema-prone skin. So there’s something for everyone on this list.

Frequently asked questions

frequently asked questions

What is an emollient moisturizer?

An emollient moisturizer spreads easily on the skin and increases the rate of skin barrier restoration. The skin has a natural lipid barrier that depletes with age, and emollients can improve the appearance of wrinkles and firmness.

An emollient moisturizer adds and replaces this barrier.

Who should use an emollient moisturizer?

Emollient moisturizer is suitable for most skin types except for oily skin. It’s mostly aimed towards those with dry skin or those experiencing skin conditions with flakiness and peeling.

There are lightweight emollient moisturizers that can be used by those with oily skin, but it can make you look greasy.

When to apply an emollient moisturizer?

An emollient is best used liberally after cleansing the skin.

How often can I apply it?

It can be applied twice a day. For those with eczema, it can be applied more often. For those with psoriasis and eczema, apply as often as needed.

How to use an emollient moisturizer?

An emollient moisturizer can be applied to the face in sweeping motions. Many people often complain that it simply sits on the skin and feels oily.

However, thicker emollient moisturizers need to be massaged or blotted into the face. Unlike lotions, these thicker creams can’t be applied and left alone. You need to work them into the skin.

Can I use it with other skincare cosmetics?

Yes, emollient moisturizers tend to work very well with other skincare ingredients. They can be used with occlusive and humectant moisturizers. They also work well with various botanical extracts and plant stem cells. However, be careful with irritants like retinol and alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids.

You don’t want these to be sealed under the skin once you apply your emollient moisturizer. So try not to pair these together. Do not also use them after micro-needling, peels, or laser therapy as the pores are open.

What are some examples of emollient ingredients?

Butters, oils, esters, lipids, and fatty acids are all considered emollients. They can be either natural such as shea butter, cocoa butter, or coconut oil, or synthetically derived ones, such as mineral oil.

There is also a water-based emollient, which contains a lesser percentage of emollient ingredients and comes as lotions.

What are the benefits of emollients?

They keep the skin moist, restore the skin barrier, soothe inflammation and replenish the natural oils which are stripped away by the environment, makeup, soaps, and face washes or cleansers.

What are the side effects of emollient moisturizers?

Emollient moisturizers can clog pores or occlude sweat glands because they tend to be thick and viscid. As a result, you may be more prone to acne or breakout frequently.

A hair follicle might get plugged and subsequently infected. Blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples are not uncommon with some of these thick moisturizers.

What to do if I’m prone to acne?

Select a lightweight emollient moisturizer that is quickly absorbed into the skin. There are several that are formulated for acne-prone skin. Use these instead.

Also, use products that contain some anti-microbial action. These will reduce the bacterial count and kill any microbes in the skin. Apply the emollient moisturizer only after thoroughly cleansing the skin.

Exfoliate once a week so that there is no build-up of sebum or dead cells. If you develop persistent breakouts, then discontinue the moisturize.

Can I use an emollient moisturizer if I have secondary skin conditions?

Yes. Emollient moisturizers have been studied extensively in people with psoriasis, eczema, and other dermatoses where this flaking, peeling, and drying of the skin. You can use them as often as is needed in this to keep the skin moist and healthy. An emollient moisturizer can replace the moisture and also restore the skin barrier that is often destroyed by inflammation in these skin conditions.

Can I apply makeup with emollient moisturizers?

Emollients tend to be oily. Oil-based makeup can be applied over an emollient moisturizer. Water-based makeup might not adhere to your skin.

However, in most cases, makeup over a layer of emollient moisturizer may clog your pores even more as there’s little room for your skin to breathe. Sebum can build up with the makeup and may cause you to have acne.

Can I use an emollient with a humectant or occlusive?

Yes. Many emollient moisturizers have humectant and occlusive compounds to seal in and hydrate simultaneously. Research your moisturizer and check if they may have multiple moisturizing mechanisms of action at work.

Are emollients suitable for sensitive skin?

Emollients tend to have many organic ingredients and organic oils, including nut oils. Always do patch tests before you use a product. Mica, silicone, and other minerals may also cause you to have a rash or reaction.

Identify your own intolerance to ingredients and choose your emollient moisturizer based on that. If you do develop a rash, discontinue the product and wash it with cold water.

If the rash persists and doesn’t subside with an antihistamine, you might want to visit a dermatologist.

Conclusion

Have you found the best emollient moisturizer for you?

There are plenty of choices based on your specific skin type and requirements.

If you’ve found one, let us know, and we’ll consider adding it to our list.

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References

  1. Pazyar N, Yaghoobi R, Ghassemi MR, Kazerouni A, Rafeie E, Jamshydian N. Jojoba in dermatology: a succinct review. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2013 Dec;148(6):687-91. PMID: 24442052.
  2. Zeichner JA, Berson D, Donald A. The Use of an Over-the-Counter Hand Cream With Sweet Almond Oil for the Treatment of Hand Dermatitis. J Drugs Dermatol. 2018;17(1):78-82.
  3. Danby S.G., Alenezi T., Sultan A., Lavender T., Chittock J., Brown K., Cork M.J. Effect of olive and sunflower seed oil on the adult skin barrier: Implications for neonatal skin care. Pediatr. Dermatol. 2013;30:42–50. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1470.2012.01865.x.
  4. Bogdanov S., editor. Beeswax: Production, Properties Composition, and Control. Beeswax Book. Bee Product Science; Muehlethurnen, Switzerland: 2009. Chapter 2.
  5. Boskabady MH, Shafei MN, Saberi Z, Amini S. Pharmacological effects of rosa damascena. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2011;14(4):295-307.
  6. Leontowicz M, Gorinstein S, Leontowicz H, et al. Apple and pear peel and pulp and their influence on plasma lipids and antioxidant potentials in rats fed cholesterol-containing diets. J Agric Food Chem. 2003;51(19):5780-5785. doi:10.1021/jf030137j
  7. Cardia GFE, Silva-Filho SE, Silva EL, et al. Effect of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Essential Oil on Acute Inflammatory Response. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018;2018:1413940. Published 2018 Mar 18. doi:10.1155/2018/1413940
  8. Milani M, Sparavigna A. The 24-hour skin hydration and barrier function effects of a hyaluronic 1%, glycerin 5%, and Centella asiatica stem cells extract moisturizing fluid: an intra-subject, randomized, assessor-blinded study. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017;10:311-315. Published 2017 Aug 11. doi:10.2147/CCID.S144180
  9. Choi JS, Moon WS, Choi JN, et al. Effects of seaweed Laminaria japonica extracts on skin moisturizing activity in vivo. J Cosmet Sci. 2013;64(3):193-205.

About The Author

Dr. Pamela Q. Fernandes
Dr. Pamela Q. Fernandes

Pamela Q. Fernandes is a doctor and medical writer. Born and raised in Kuwait, she graduated from Angeles University College of Medicine, Philippines in 2007. Soon after that, she started her career as a medical writer and physician. Pamela is an advocate of preventive health, rural medicine, women’s health and tele-medicine having been active in these roles for the majority of her decade long career in medicine. As a seasoned medical writer, she has worked with many medical publishing houses and doctors, as well as pharmaceuticals, hospitals and practices. She specializes in training material for doctors and patient education material. As an academic writer, she is a qualified writer of articles for medical journals, case reports and medical presentations.

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