The 5 Best Humectant Moisturizers (Skin-Quenching) in 2020
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The 5 Best Humectant Moisturizers (Skin-Quenching)

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best humectant moisturizer
In a hurry? Here are our top picks:
BEST FOR SENSITIVE AND ACNE-PRONE SKIN ZELEN Life Moisturizer
BEST FOR COMBINATION SKIN boscia Cactus Water Moisturizer

 

A humectant moisturizer is one that attracts water molecules and locks in the moisture.

It keeps your skin hydrated all day long. Humectants are water-loving ingredients and are perfect for winter or dry environments.

In this post, we’re going to talk about the best humectant moisturizers for your skin.

We will share our top choices with you, and for each one, we will give you a rundown of its best features, who it is most suited for, and highlight the things to keep in mind.

We will also answer the common questions that arise with humectant moisturizers.

First, let’s cover the most important things to consider before buying a humectant moisturizer to assist with your decision process.

Quick summary

bb2-table__imageZELEN Life Moisturizer
  • Natural humectant ingredients, deeply moisturize without clogging pores
  • Light, non-greasy formula for fast absorbing, long-lasting hydration
  • Organic formula contains essential vitamins and antioxidants
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bb2-table__imageL’Occitane Moisturizing Ultra Thirst-Quenching Cream
  • Recharges skin with water
  • Softens skin and maintains moisture all day
  • Contains hyaluronic acid, a strong humectant
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bb2-table__imageBoscia Cactus Water Moisturizer
  • Contains humecants aloe vera and "queen of the night" cactus
  • Absorbs fast for instant hydration
  • Can act as a primer for makeup
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bb2-table__imageMario Badescu Honey Moisturizer
  • Nice scent when applied, leaves skin silky soft
  • Honey provides humectant qualities
  • Contains AHA's
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bb2-table__imageToo Cool for School All-in-One Egg Mellow Cream
  • Packed with egg yolk and egg white extract, humectant properties
  • Multi-purpose 5-in-1 moisturizer
  • Firms skin, improves elasticity and skin tone
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Before you buy: 5 Things to consider when purchasing a humectant moisturizer

Humectant moisturizers are deeply moisturizing creams that add hydration to your skin.

They’re particularly useful for folks with dry and normal skin looking to add moisture to the skin. Especially during the winter months, when the skin feels dry and tight, a humectant moisturizer can draw in moisture.

Before you go and buy one, here are a few things to be aware of.

1. Skin type

Humectant moisturizers are water-loving, and hence they are not ideal for people with oily or combination skin. They tend to give you a wet glow, and that’s not needed with oily skin.

These tend to keep the skin moist, and so they are great for those with dry skin, eczemas, and dermatoses where the skin is peeling or dry.

There are humectant moisturizers formulated for oily and combination skin too. Some formulas have a matte effect. However, humectants are best for dry skin.

2. Ingredients

The one thing that is common to humectant moisturizers is its hydrophilic, water-loving ingredients. These tend to attract water like seaweed, hyaluronic acid, honey, and egg, among many others.

You need to specifically read the ingredients to know if a moisturizer is a humectant. Most won’t advertise their product as humectant moisturizers. They’d more often say they are hydrating and moisturizing.

Often many moisturizers are not just humectants but emollient or occlusive as well. It’s up to you to do the research.

3. Allergies

Humectant moisturizers tend to have organic ingredients that can be allergic to some. Honey, Queen of the night cactus, peanut oil, honey, and eggs can cause allergic reactions to some, especially those with sensitive skin.

Do you have allergies? This is something to consider before you purchase a humectant moisturizer. If you find one you like, go through the ingredients list and see if you’re allergic to anything.

Alternatively, do a patch test with a sample and see if it agrees with you.

4. Hours of hydration

Not all humectant moisturizers provide all-day hydration. Some need to be replenished every few hours to keep the skin moisturized. As you choose a humectant moisturizer, you need to review how long it will last before a reapplication.

Many humectant moisturizers draw water from the atmosphere, and so the humidity also matters. If you live in an area where there is high humidity, you will find that your humectant moisturizer works very well.

People in dry areas complain that their moisturizer is doing nothing for them. That’s because there’s little moisture to draw into the skin.

5. Budget

Since organic ingredients that act as humectants are mostly natural and difficult to source, they tend to be priced higher than regular moisturizers. Consider your budget before you pick one of these.

The 5 best humectant moisturizers in 2020

1. ZELEN Life Moisturizer

ZELEN Life moisturizer

Best features:

  • Moisturizes and hydrates the skin without clogging pores
  • Suitable for women and men of all skin types, including sensitive and acne-prone skin
  • Hypoallergenic and chemical-free

The best humectant moisturizer for:

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

Overview:

This humectant moisturizer by ZELEN Life lasts all day. It’s lightweight and leaves your skin soft and smooth.

The handmade moisturizing cream is made with a natural formula packed with organic ingredients like jojoba, calendula, and clary sage. It contains vitamin C, vitamin E, and antioxidant-rich compounds. Its non-greasy formula glides on effortlessly, providing fast-absorbing advanced hydration.

It’s chemical-free and doesn’t contain parabens, sulfates, petrochemicals, or synthetic colors and fragrances.

Also:

This moisturizer is cruelty-free.

Jojoba, the carrier oil in ZELEN Life’s Moisturizer, has anti-aging properties that fight wrinkles and other signs of aging. It speeds up the skin’s healing process and regulates the production of sebum, which helps limit acne breakouts.

Studies show that the “nanolipidgel” formulations with jojoba oil had a greater increase in skin hydration.[1]

Calendula is a natural oil derived from the marigold flower and acts as a humectant ingredient by providing moisture while nourishing the skin. It’s a natural antiseptic, and it helps to heal the skin while reducing redness.

Various experiments have shown that calendula when used with rosemary and other herbs, can reduce inflammation.[2]

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

The good:

  • Has a soothing, calming, and soothing effect on the skin while leaving it refreshed and revitalized
  • Contains essential vitamins, essential fatty acids, as well as essential antioxidants
  • Skin-quenching humectant properties that last all-day

Things to think about:

  • Has no SPF

Bottom line:

This is an excellent humectant moisturizer for those sensitive to chemicals or prone to blemishes. If you are looking for an organic humectant moisturizer packed full of vitamins and antioxidants, then look no further!

2. L’Occitane Moisturizing Ultra Thirst-Quenching Cream

L'Occitane Moisturizing Ultra Thirst-Quenching Cream

Best features:

  • Enriched with hyaluronic acid
  • Retains moisture in the skin

The best humectant moisturizer for:

Dry, sensitive skin.

Overview:

This Ultra Thirst-Quenching fresh melting cream from L’Occitane recharges skin with water, leaving it glowing with moisture and softness all day long. It retains the natural moisture within the skin, making the skin feel refreshed and radiant.

It is enriched with Reotier water and hyaluronic acid.

The body itself produces hyaluronic acid. It is the key molecule involved in skin moisture. It has a unique capacity for retaining water. Skin hyaluronic acid accounts for about 50% of the total body content.

As the skin ages, the skin amount of hyaluronic acid decreases. Progressive reduction of the size of the HA polymers in the skin also causes aging.[3] This moisturizer can replace this lost hyaluronic acid, which improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.[4]

L’Occitane’s Thirst-Quenching Cream acts like a magnet to recharge the skin with water. Skin feels softened by a silky veil, and it feels plumper. Skin’s natural moisture is improved, giving it a revitalized look.

For centuries, a natural water spring has been running at the heart of the Provence mountains, collecting rich minerals and rising at the Reotier Spring.

Thanks to its high calcium content, this incredible water helps the skin maintain its hydration barrier and retain moisture. L’Occitane has paired this powerful Provence water with hyaluronic acid in an ultra-hydrating skincare range for healthy-looking skin.

The good:

  • Provides 24 hours of hydration
  • For all skin types
  • Helps soften skin

Things to think about:

  • Can feel sticky to some
  • Has a scent

Bottom line:

This is a water-based humectant moisturizer that is ideal for dry, sensitive skin. The inclusion of hyaluronic acid makes it a suitable anti-aging option.

3. Boscia Cactus Water Moisturizer

Boscia Cactus Water Moisturizer

Best features:

  • Fast-absorbing, lightweight formula
  • Free of harmful chemicals
  • Can be used as a primer for those who wear makeup

The best humectant moisturizer for:

Dry and combination skin.

Overview:

Rejuvenate and hydrate your skin with boscia’s gel face moisturizer made from Queen of the Night Cactus and Aloe Vera.

This fast-absorbing moisturizer can be used in the morning and at night. It nourishes the skin, leaving it soft, smooth, and supple.

The Cactus Water formula delivers instant hydration without the weight of a heavy cream, which is ideal for priming makeup and perfecting the skin before makeup application.

What is “Queen of the Night” Cactus?

This is a succulent plant found in Mexico that adapts to drastic climate conditions and rebounds from dramatic dehydration. It helps rejuvenate, nourish, and rebound desert-dry skin while helping to condition and moisturize the complexion. It imparts intense hydration and conditioning.

Apart from Queen of the Night Cactus, it also contains Peptide Complex, Aloe Vera Flower Extract, South African Resurrection Plant Infusion, Turmeric Root Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Flower Extract, Eggplant Fruit Extract, Basil Flower/Leaf Extract, and Jojoba.

Aloe vera contains improved skin hydration, possibly through a humectant mechanism, according to some studies. This could be due to the mucopolysaccharides that help bind moisture to the skin.[5]

This is a preservative-free and clean humectant moisturizer. It is also gluten-free, cruelty-free, and suitable for vegans.

The good:

  • Good for winter
  • Instant hydrating
  • Rejuvenates skin

Things to think about:

  • Dries and flakes off
  • Does not last 24 hours

Bottom line:

This is a good chemical-free moisturizer for dry and combination skin.

4. Mario Badescu Honey Moisturizer

Mario Badescu Honey Moisturizer

Best features:

  • Contains honey, which gives you a natural glow
  • Has a lovely scent
  • Makes the skin feel super soft

The best humectant moisturizer for:

Blemish prone skin.

Overview:

Mario Badescu’s Honey Moisturizer contains botanical ingredients like antioxidant peanut oil, orange, and honey extracts, making this product nourishing and moisturizing, leaving skin soft and smooth.

This gentle AHA and vitamin moisturizer is greaseless, absorbent, and is suitable for almost all skin types.

Honey exerts emollient, humectant, and soothing effects. Doing so keeps the skin juvenile and retards wrinkle formation, regulates pH, and prevents pathogen infections.[6] 

This helps prevent acne and secondary bacterial infections of the skin.

The red-orange extract can strengthen antioxidant skin defenses, protecting skin from photoaging, and improves skin appearance and pigmentation.[7]

The good:

  • Has AHA action
  • Has many antioxidant properties
  • Greaseless formula

Things to think about:

  • Contains parabens
  • Not suitable for those with peanut allergies

Bottom line:

This is a good humectant moisturizer for dry, blemish-prone skin.

5. Too Cool for School All-in-One Egg Mellow Cream

Too Cool for School All-in-One Egg Mellow Cream

Best features:

  • Multifunction cream
  • Increases skin elasticity

The best humectant moisturizer for:

Those with aging skin.

Overview:

Egg Mellow Cream is an all-in-one firming/anti-aging moisturizer that serves as a serum, priming moisturizer, neck cream, eye cream, and sleeping mask for plump, supple, resilient, and well-moisturized skin.

It is a one-stop-shop solution for dryness, dullness, and loss of elasticity.

It’s highly enriched with egg yolk extract, albumen or egg white extract, and inka omega oil to provide intensive nourishment to the skin. Egg extracts offer moisture-protection for cosmetic use, according to various studies.[8]

It is also infused with collagen fiber to support the appearance of more elastic skin. Niacinamide drastically improves tone and brightness. Ceramides create a protective barrier on the skin to repair and nourish.

This uniquely formulated face cream is made even to be safely used under the eye area. Studies have shown that a combination of ceramide formulations with other ingredients repair the skin barrier and retain moisture.[9]

Too Cool for School’s All-in-One Egg Mellow Cream also contains Burdock Root Extract, Mushroom Extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Kudzu vine Root Extract, Rhizozyme Root Extract, Licorice Root Extract, Peony Root Extract, Sacha inchi Seed Oil, and Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice.

The good:

  • Improves skin tone and brightness
  • Repairs the skin
  • 5-in-1 firming moisturizer

Things to think about:

  • Contains egg

Bottom line:

This is a great multi-purpose humectant moisturizer for aging skin.


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How we chose these products

We chose all the products based on their ability to hydrate the skin. As you can see, all the products on our list have water-loving ingredients that deeply hydrate the skin. Most of them are formulas that are aimed at retaining moisture in the stratum corneum.

They are mostly formulated with organic ingredients that are safe for sensitive skin. However, you would have to see if they’re suitable for you. These humectant moisturizers have few side effects and contain a range of humectants from aloe vera, cactus, jojoba oil, honey and eggs.

These moisturizers also serve additional purposes like brightening the skin, improving the skin elasticity, and lightening skin blemishes. The price range varies so that every budget is covered, and there’s something for everyone on the list.

Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions

What is a humectant?

A humectant is a molecule that retains or preserves moisture.

What are some examples of humectant ingredients?

Some examples of humectant ingredients in skincare formulations include propylene glycol, hexylene glycol, butylene glycol, aloe vera gel, alpha-hydroxy acids such as lactic acid, egg yolk, and egg white, glyceryl triacetate, honey, molasses, urea, castor oil, and sugar alcohols.

How do humectants work in the skin?

Humectants work through various mechanisms. Some participate in hydrogen bonding and attract water. They do this by attracting moisture from the outer layer of the skin or areas with high humidity from the atmosphere.

The moisture is trapped against the epidermis or the shaft of the hair. Some draw water from the inner layers of the dermis.

Can I use humectant moisturizer if I have oily skin?

Yes, many lightweight formulas are quick-absorbing and can be used for people with oily and combination skin. You need to pick the right one after going through the ingredient list.

Can I use humectant moisturizer if I have atopic dermatitis?

Yes. People with dermatoses, eczemas, xeroses usually have very dry and flaking skin. Adding a humectant moisturizer in addition to their emollient will help trap moisture within the skin and keep it moist. It will also prevent the skin from drying out too quickly.

Are there humectant moisturizers for sensitive skin?

Many humectant moisturizers contain allergens like peanut oil, eggs, ceramides, etc. It’s important to review the ingredient list yourself and determine if you are allergic to a humectant moisturizer.

How can I prevent an allergy to humectant ingredients?

Always do a patch test on your neck to see if you are allergic or develop a reaction to any of the ingredients in a humectant moisturizer. If you do, ice the area and stop the product. Take an anti-histamine medication if you have wheals and flares.

Aren’t other moisturizers and humectant moisturizers theoretically the same?

No. Moisturizers are usually divided into humectants, emollients, and occlusives. All three have different mechanisms of action. Occlusives tend to form a barrier on the skin and prevent the skin from losing moisture.

They do not love water. Examples of occlusive ingredients in skincare include oils, lanolin, waxes, and silicone. Emollients tend to restore the skin barrier.

Examples of emollient moisturizing ingredients in skincare ingredients include lipids, shea butter, and oatmeal.

How long does a humectant moisturizer last?

The efficacy of a humectant moisturizer depends on many factors, the condition of your skin, the humidity of the atmosphere, and the season. Most of them last all day, which means you might need to reapply it every 12 hours.

In the winter, you might need more. It also depends on the formula. You might need more than a pea-size amount for light formulas that are quick absorbing during the winter.

Is a humectant moisturizer enough for dry skin?

Once you add moisture to the skin, you need something to seal it in, like an occlusive moisturizer. This is why many humectant moisturizers have an occlusive ingredient.

If yours does not, then add an occlusive moisturizer to your skincare regimen so that the moisture you’ve added stays trapped in the skin.

Is there something such as too much moisture?

Too much moisture can also be a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. Some humectant ingredients tend to have antibacterial and antifungal activity. So these ingredients will prevent bacterial and fungal skin infections.

It will also stave off acne. However, not all of them do this. You need to be careful about these secondary problems while adding moisture to the skin. Or you can simply pick a humectant moisturizer that has these additional antibacterial and antifungal properties.

What to do if I develop a breakout?

Find out what has caused the breakout. Is it a single pimple, or are multiple follicles infected? Also, initially, some humectant ingredients like honey and seaweed may not just draw water but also exfoliate and thus reveal already existing clogged follicles that surface and resemble acne.

For any breakouts, discontinue your moisturizer and wait till the breakout subsides. If you develop a breakout out on resuming the application, you should discontinue the product.

Can I exfoliate with a humectant moisturizer?

Yes, you can. However, every time you exfoliate, you will need to double up the humectant moisturizer, as exfoliation strips the top layer of the epidermis and any moisture with it.

Use a humectant plus occlusive moisturizer after exfoliation.

Conclusion

After reviewing our list, we hope you’ve been able to pick the best humectant moisturizer for your skin.

There’s one out there for you, especially if you live in a dry area or are experiencing dry weather.

Have you found the best humectant moisturizer for your skin?

Let us know, and we might consider adding it to our list.

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References

  1. Estanqueiro M, Conceição J, Amaral MH, Sousa Lobo JM. Characterization, sensorial evaluation and moisturizing efficacy of nanolipidgel formulations. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2014 Apr;36(2):159-66. doi: 10.1111/ics.12109. PMID: 24772476.
  2. Fuchs S, M, Schliemann-Willers S, Fischer T, W, Elsner P: Protective Effects of Different Marigold <i>(Calendula officinalis L.)</i> and Rosemary Cream Preparations against Sodium-Lauryl-Sulfate-Induced Irritant Contact Dermatitis. Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2005;18:195-200. doi: 10.1159/000085865
  3. Papakonstantinou E, Roth M, Karakiulakis G. Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012;4(3):253-258. doi:10.4161/derm.21923
  4. Narurkar VA, Fabi SG, Bucay VW, Tedaldi R, Downie JB, Zeichner JA, Butterwick K, Taub A, Kadoya K, Makino ET, Mehta RC, Vega VL. Rejuvenating Hydrator: Restoring Epidermal Hyaluronic Acid Homeostasis With Instant Benefits. J Drugs Dermatol. 2016 Jan;15(1 Suppl 2):s24-37. PMID: 26741392.
  5. Gupta VK, Malhotra S. Pharmacological attribute of Aloe vera: Revalidation through experimental and clinical studies. Ayu. 2012;33(2):193-196. doi:10.4103/0974-8520.105237
  6. Burlando B, Cornara L. Honey in dermatology and skin care: a review. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2013 Dec;12(4):306-13. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12058. PMID: 24305429.
  7. Puglia C, Offerta A, Saija A, Trombetta D, Venera C. Protective effect of red orange extract supplementation against UV-induced skin damages: photoaging and solar lentigines. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2014 Jun;13(2):151-7. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12083. PMID: 24910279.
  8. Yoo J, Park K, Yoo Y, Kim J, Yang H, Shin Y. Effects of Egg Shell Membrane Hydrolysates on Anti-Inflammatory, Anti-Wrinkle, Anti-Microbial Activity and Moisture-Protection. Korean J Food Sci Anim Resour. 2014;34(1):26-32. doi:10.5851/kosfa.2014.34.1.26
  9. Draelos ZD, Raymond I. The Efficacy of a Ceramide-based Cream in Mild-to-moderate Atopic Dermatitis. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2018;11(5):30-32.

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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