The 5 Best Emollient Moisturizers (Dry & Flaking Skin)

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The 5 Best Emollient Moisturizers (Dry & Flaking Skin)
In a hurry? Here are our top picks:

BEST FOR CLEAN SKINCARE

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

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

ZELEN Life Moisturizer (Best for clean skincare)

ZELEN Life Moisturizer


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Organic formula without chemicals
  • Completely handmade
  • Airless pump bottle with matte silver detailing

The best emollient moisturizer for:

Men and women of all skin types who are clean skincare enthusiasts. It is particularly suitable for those with sensitive or acne-prone skin.

Notable ingredients:

Jojoba, Calendula, Clary Sage

Overview:

Emollient moisturizers are often thicker in texture and are subject to blocking the pores. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The ZELEN Life Moisturizer has an emollient action while being lightweight and non-greasy on the skin. It all comes down to its organic formula.

Let’s take a look at its key ingredients:

Jojoba oil is an emollient powerhouse. In fact, it’s an emollient, occlusive, and humectant all wrapped into one. It has a very similar composition to our skin’s natural oil (sebum). On a molecular level, it is actually a wax. This makes it an effective repair option for those with damaged skin barriers.

By mimicking the properties of human sebum, it is quickly absorbed by the skin. While its waxy nature enables it to seal in moisture on the surface. Jojoba’s also, quite cleverly, tricks the sebaceous glands into thinking the skin has adequate amounts of sebum. This prevents sebum from being overproduced. Consequently, reducing the chances of blocking the pores and causing acne outbreaks.

Also, studies have shown that jojoba is rich in anti-inflammatory properties, and it is used to treat numerous skin conditions such as skin-related infections, aging, and wound healing.[1] It deeply moisturizes dehydrated skin while revitalizing it with its abundance of healthy nutrients and vitamins. In true emollient style, these nourish and smoothen the skin, keeping it soft and supple.

Calendula oil contains linoleic acid, which is especially known for its long-lasting moisturizing abilities. It enables your skin to absorb moisture faster and retain it for extended periods of time. As calendula is a powerful antioxidant, it protects against environmental stressors and signs of aging. Due to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, it also assists in reducing redness and blemishes (i.e. from acne).

Clary sage assists in tightening up the skin while preventing irritations. It is well-known for its calming anti-inflammatory properties and its sebum balancing effect. It also prevents the growth of bacteria and prevents acne breakouts.

Bonus:

As we are focusing on emollient properties, it is worth noting that ZELEN Life’s Moisturizer also contains sweet almond oil. It is incredibly hydrating by being rich in water and essential fatty acids that trap moisture. Furthermore, it can be used to assist skin prone to irritation such as eczema and psoriasis. Whatsmore, it has been shown that a moisturizer containing sweet almond oil was safe and effective in the treatment of individuals with mild to severe dermatitis.[2]

It’s action:

Even though ZELEN Life’s Moisturizer is lightweight, I was impressed that it did not lose out on any hydrating capabilities compared to thicker emollient creams. I believe this is down to the handmade, quality ingredients. It absorbs easily and the skin feels immediately well-nourished. By sinking into the skin so quickly, you can feel that protective layer forming right away.

It locked in moisture for longer than I expected, as my skin lasted the whole day without experiencing any dryness. This is a moisturizer powerful enough for colder climates and wintertime. While also being light and non-greasy enough for the summer season. It does not contain SPF, though.

Although, it should be noted that my skin is more on the oily side. If you have extremely dry skin, I think you’d find REN’s Rescue Cream or Mario Badescu’s Hydro Emollient Cream more suitable. They will be effective for your flaky skin but you may find them more greasy.

If you like a strong scent to your moisturizer, then you won’t find it in this product. But it does have a light natural citrus/floral scent. Similar to its texture, it is not overpowering. If you prefer a more powerful scent, then Mario Badescu’s on our list has that. Alternatively, if you prefer a moisturizer completely unscented, the Bioderma’s Sensibio Light Cream will be more for you. These products are around the same price point as the ZELEN Life Moisturizer but they have less natural ingredients and more basic packaging.

On the subject of packaging, this is a big plus for this moisturizer in my book. It is very premium. Not only in appearance but also in functionality. The bottle looks luxurious and features an airless pump, which prevents the risk of contaminants and the growth of bacteria. The airless pump is very useful for people who suffer from acne. And also a good mechanism to dispense the right amount of cream, helping you to avoid over-moisturizing.

This moisturizer provides a natural matte finish. Sound news for those with oily skin and makeup users. These natural botanicals are sure to make your skin look healthy and luminous. But if you are looking for a more specialized brightening moisturizer, then you might think Bliss’ Ex-glow-sion is a better option due to its inclusion of mica and shea butter.

The ZELEN Life Moisturizer and Bliss’ Ex-glow-sion are the only moisturizers on our list that are both cruelty-free and vegan-friendly.

The good:

  • Suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin
  • Organic formula, hypoallergenic and chemical-free
  • Loaded with vitamins, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids that provide emollient qualities
  • Matte finish
  • Vegan and not tested on animals

Things to think about:

  • No SPF

Bottom line:

The ZELEN Life Moisturizer is a lightweight, plant-based emollient moisturizer that maintains long-lasting hydration while soothing troubled skin. It smells lovely too!

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.5 Overall Score

REN Clean Skincare Vita Mineral Emollient Rescue Cream (Best for eczema-prone skin)

REN Clean Skincare Vita Mineral Emollient Rescue Cream


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Rich moisturization
  • Premium brand
  • Contains beeswax

The best emollient moisturizer for:

Very dry skin types, particularly those who are prone to eczema.

Notable ingredients:

Beeswax, cranberry seed oil, lingonberry seed oil, rose flower oil, ochroleuca seaweed extract

Overview:

Is your skin in need of some ’emollient rescue?’

REN’s Clean Skincare Vita Mineral Emollient Rescue Cream is specifically suitable for those with extra dry skin, making it great for conditions such as eczema.

It’s extremely rich in moisture, which all boils down to its enriching formula:

Beeswax naturally attracts water to sustain hydration while creating a protective layer on the skin. It does this without clogging the pores. It also improves skin regeneration, has antibacterial and calming properties, and prevents inflammation.[3] Cranberry oil and lingonberry oil help to soothe and soften the skin. They are rich in omega 3 and vitamins which help prevent water loss. They also provide antioxidant benefits, assisting in protecting the skin from environmental stressors and signs of aging.

Rose flower oil has great anti-aging properties. Studies have shown that it can help to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.[4] Ochroleuca seaweed reduces skin inflammation by helping to soothe irritated skin. Whatsmore, it provides moisturizing benefits.

These ingredients are infused in a thick and nourishing cream. This product is so rich and hydrating, I think it could easily work well as a moisturizer overnight. Goodbye night cream, this versatile product can save you some coin. However due to its thickness, perhaps you should skip this one if you have oily skin. That said, it is relatively non-greasy for its thickness.

If you are looking for a moisturizer that is more suitable for oilier skin types, then you should consider Bioderma Sensibio Light Cream. As the name suggests, it is very lightweight and provides adequate moisture without the risk of over-moisturizing. This leaves less chance of blocking pores and leaving a greasy finish.

But if you prefer a thick moisturizer that is more budget-friendly, then consider Mario Badescu’s Hydro. It offers great moisturizing capabilities comparable with REN’s but you should note that it contains parabens. It may irritate very sensitive skin types.

Pro tip:

Apply it on dry (not wet) skin, as I found that it doesn’t blend easily with water.

The good:

  • Rehydrates skin to prevent dryness
  • Provides instant relief
  • Moisturizes and protects from environmental stressors
  • Makes flakiness disappear

Things to think about:

  • High viscosity (thickness)

Bottom line:

REN’s Clean Skincare Emollient Rescue Cream is a thick and nourishing emollient moisturizer that quickly curbs dryness and flakiness. It can be a useful choice for those who experience eczema.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.5 Overall Score

Bliss Ex-glow-sion Super Rich Face Moisturizer (Best for brightening skin)

Bliss Ex-glow-sion Super Rich Face Moisturizer


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Boosts luminous skin
  • Vibrant packaging
  • Formulated with advanced shea butter

The best emollient moisturizer for:

Dry skin types and those with an uneven skin tone.

Notable ingredients:

African shea butter, squalane, rosemary, lavender flower and green tea leaf extracts, cucumber, and pear extracts.

Overview:

Are you looking for an explosion of glow? Then as the name suggests, Bliss’ Ex-glow-sion is a moisturizer that claims to offer a “glow boost” to make the skin brighter.

How it achieves that?

First and foremost, it consists of a rich blend of very hydrating ingredients such as shea butter, squalene, and selected plant oils.

If there is an ingredient that characterizes glowing skin, I’d say Shea butter is one of them. It is a fantastic emollient that is highly hydrating due to its essential fatty acid compounds. It smoothes out and nourishes the skin, encouraging its natural glow to shine through. It is also well regarded to promote collagen production and combat flakiness. Squalane also provides rich moisturization due to its effect to lock in hydration. It also acts as an antioxidant assisting in tightening up the skin and combating free radicals.

Bliss’ Ex-glow-sion also contains plant oils such as pear fruit extract and lavender oil, among other ingredients. Pears provide antioxidants and are concentrated in flavonols, which are particularly known for their skin brightening and lighting capabilities.[5] The lavender essential oil has great anti-inflammatory action, reducing this way inflammations and irritations such as redness.[6] Rosemary oil assists not only in minimizing swelling but also in lightening any dark spots.

Bonus:

It also features mica – a mineral whose unique purpose is to add sparkle and glow.

In terms of texture, this moisturizer is on the thicker side but it is not the thickest option on our list. I found REN’s Emollient Rescue Cream to be a little heavier.

I like this product’s ease of use. It applies effortlessly and is well received by the skin, but it can feel slightly greasy compared to a more lightweight moisturizer, such as ZELEN Life’s or Bioderma’s. It also comes with a wonderful subtle scent.

Make-up users, look here:

Since it gives a good glow, it is advisable to use it alone without makeup – great for minimalists or those who are trying to cut down their makeup usage.

However, when applied in small amounts, it still offers up a suitable makeup base. Do note that if you overapply, it can feel greasy. This will make it very difficult to layer makeup on top. In my view, Bioderma Sensibio serves better as a makeup base. With a more lightweight and easily absorbable texture, it has been formulated with makeup in mind.

On the other hand, it doesn’t provide the extreme brightening and moisturizing effects of this moisturizer by Bliss. The ZELEN Life Moisturizer offers a balance between the two. Its lightweight and mattifying texture prime the skin for makeup while being very moisturizing and glow-boosting.

As for the packaging, Bliss’ Ex-glow-sion comes in a colorful jar that reflects its skin brightening purpose. In my view, it is will be more appealing to younger users. For a more elegant style, I’d say REN’s or ZELEN Life’s packaging is superior.

The good:

  • Promotes a healthy glow
  • Brightens skin tone
  • Contains stabilized vitamin C
  • Cruelty-free and vegan
  • Free from the common chemicals

Things to think about:

  • Some may find it greasy
  • May not be suitable for sensitive skin
  • Must be massaged in well

Bottom line:

Bliss Ex-glow-sion Super Rich Face Moisturizer is an energetic emollient moisturizer that injects life into your skin. It aims to brighten complexions, which is useful for those with an uneven skin tone.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.0 Overall Score

Bioderma Sensibio Light Cream (Best for oily skin)

Bioderma Sensibio Light Cream


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Unscented
  • Very lightweight
  • Provides a make-up base for those who need it

The best emollient moisturizer for:

Oily and sensitive skin types.

Notable ingredients:

Glycyrrhetinic acid, glycerin, laminaria.

Overview:

Does your skin often display a shiny or greasy appearance? If yes, then you’ll be familiar with oily skin.

You’re not alone. Bioderma’s Sensibio Light Cream could be the solution you are looking for.

Formula check:

Glycerin is a good emollient that not only helps the skin to retain its hydration but also softens and nourishes it.[7] It also contains antimicrobial and exfoliating properties that help to accelerate wound healing and remove dead skin cells. This makes it useful for skin issues such as acne and psoriasis. It can also help to reduce the appearance of dark spots.

Glycyrrhetinic acid sounds complicated to pronounce but its benefits are very straightforward. It has the ability to calm the skin and minimize the sensation of irritation. It also assists in improving uneven skin tone. Laminaria extract contains ‘hydrocolloids’ which hydrate the skin.[8] It also helps to fend off free radicals which help to support the skin’s overall health.

Simple but effective:

What I admire about this product is its uncomplicated approach. The ingredients list is nothing to rave about. But it simply gets on with the job without the fuss that sometimes comes with a flamboyant formula. Bioderma’s Sensibio Light Cream ‘does what it says on the tin’ per se. It’s very lightweight and goes on the skin smoothly without a greasy or sticky feel.

This moisturizer will be music to the ears of those with sensitive skin. It’s completely unscented, hypoallergenic, and non-comedogenic. It’s also paraben-free, surfactant-free, and alcohol-free.

The packaging is as unflamboyant as this moisturizer’s formula. But again, it works. There is nothing luxurious about it but I found the tube design very functional. When compared to moisturizers in jars, you are always at risk of contaminating the cream with your hands. Plus, it’s easy for water to enter the cream and become a breeding ground for bacteria.

But if you value a moisturizer with more jazz and personality, then we have others on our list that tick these boxes. The Bliss’ Ex-glow-sion is an exuberant emollient moisturizer with a formula that will brighten your skin, as well as packaging that will brighten your mood. It is not as reliable as a makeup base, though.

If you are a person who enjoys an uplifting scent in their moisturizer, then the ZELEN Life Moisturizer or Mario Badescu’s Hydro Emollient Cream. ZELEN Life offers a natural and refreshing hint of citrus while Mario Badescu offers a stronger floral-ish aroma. But do note, Mario Badescu’s fragrance is synthetic.

Now, circling back to hydration. Even though this moisturizer is up to the task and favors oily skin, I believe it may not provide enough moisture for dry skin types. If you are on the hunt for richer hydration then REN’s Emollient Rescue Cream is better in that department. However, the trade-off is that the texture is much heavier.

The good:

  • Super absorbent
  • Adequately moisturizes without being thick and greasy
  • Calms irritated skin sensation
  • Fragrance-free

Things to think about:

  • Simple product, lacks personality

Bottom line:

Bioderma Sensibio Light Cream is a no-nonsense emollient moisturizer that causes no unexpected complications for oily and sensitive skin types.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.0 Overall Score

Mario Badescu Hydro Emollient Cream (Best for dry skin)

Mario Badescu Hydro Emollient Cream


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Intense moisture
  • Strong scent
  • Smaller size – good travel option

The best emollient moisturizer for:

Dry skin.

Notable ingredients:

Carrageenan, collagen, peanut oil.

Overview:

Here’s another straight-up emollient moisturizer for your consideration.

Introducing:

The Mario Badescu Hydro Emollient Cream. It’s an intense one too. Here’s how:

Peanut oil is a rich emollient with excellent moisturization properties. It has a conditioning effect on the skin which promotes a smooth and soft texture on the surface. It is an anti-inflammatory that helps alleviate skin irritations and redness. Its soothing properties help to relieve flaky, dehydrated skin, and it is also useful for eczema sufferers. Peanut oil contains vitamin E which comes with antioxidants that can counteract free radicals and environmental stressors such as UV rays.

Carrageenan assists the skin to retain hydration for longer periods of time. Collagen is a protein that provides structure to the skin. It keeps our skin looking firm and youthful. It helps to improve elasticity which the visibility of wrinkles and fine lines.

It is clear to me that from its formula and its rich texture, this is a cream specifically for dry skin types. It is an intense hydrator and surprisingly, I found that it absorbs into the skin very well. I am also found the scent quite satisfying. It has a very distinct floral smell to it, which may be a bit strong for some.

It’s not strong on your pocket, though. This is the cheapest option on our list, which will suit those looking for a good budget pick. However, I should mention that it comes in a smaller jar of 1 fl oz, which is lower than the average 1.7 fl oz / 50 ml that you find with most moisturizers.

Its packaging is on the more basic side too, which reflects the lower price point. You should also take into account that this moisturizer contains parabens. Parabens are a group of chemical preservatives that cause much debate in the skincare world. If you are looking for a more natural and chemical-free emollient moisturizer, then consider the ZELEN Life Moisturizer. It is not a thick cream like this one, though.

For a comparable thick cream that in my opinion has a more generous formula for sensitive skin, you may find REN’s Clean Skincare Emollient Rescue Cream more suitable. Although, be prepared to pay a higher price.

The good:

  • Fast absorbing
  • Can be used on the body as well
  • Contains Vitamin A
  • Hydrating and moisturizing

Things to think about:

  • Contains parabens
  • Small size

Bottom line:

Mario Badescu Hydro Emollient Cream is a thick emollient moisturizer that suits dry skin. A good all-rounder with a modest price tag. A day cream to conveniently throw in your bag and use throughout the day.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
3.5 Overall Score

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 they 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 moisturizer.

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 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. Bogdanov S., editor. Beeswax: Production, Properties Composition, and Control. Beeswax Book. Bee Product Science; Muehlethurnen, Switzerland: 2009. Chapter 2.
  4. Boskabady MH, Shafei MN, Saberi Z, Amini S. Pharmacological effects of rosa damascena. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2011;14(4):295-307.
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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.
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About The Author

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Doctor and Seasoned Medical Writer

Doctor of Medicine MD (Angeles University College of Medicine)

United States

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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