Moisturisers: How Do They Work?

Moisturisers: How Do They Work?

Cleanse, tone, and moisturise—it’s the basic skincare routine we have all been following for years, even if not always precisely.

Moisturisers are generally good for the skin. They prevent and treat dryness, protect sensitive skin, improve its texture, and keep it soft and plump. There are plenty of moisturising products in the market and you can hardly go wrong with what you use.

The fact is, regardless of the long lists of obscure ingredients and claims, all moisturisers work nearly the same way: they supply moisture to the skin and their greasy substance locks it in, keeping it from evaporating. However, your preference should be based on your skin type and its specific needs.

In this article, we are going in-depth about moisturisers by answering the following questions:

  • How do moisturisers work?
  • How do they benefit your skin?
  • What’s the best moisturiser for you?
  • Can you over-moisturise?

How Do Moisturisers Work?

Skin isn’t always dry. But, when the humidity drops, the air becomes dry and the dryer it is, the more moisture it will pull from your skin, leaving it cracked, flaky, even irritated.

Moisturisers work to prevent these effects of dry skin by either trapping moisture in your skin or restoring what’s lost. They can be broadly classified into three categories, but most products today do all three.

3 Types of Moisturizers

  1. Occlusives – These form a barrier on the skin surface that water can’t penetrate. They lock in the moisture that’s already in the skin, keeping it hydrated for a while. Petroleum jelly is the most common type of occlusives.
  2. Emollients – While occlusives form a barrier on the outermost layer, emollients, on the other hand, penetrate deep into the skin and fill the gaps between skin cells, making it feel smoother. Shea butter is a plant-derived emollient which is present in many organic skincare products in the UK.
  3. Humectants – Humectants draw water to the skin to keep it hydrated. When applied on the skin, it attracts moisture from the environment and keeps any water loss in check. Many lotions today content humectants, which also work great for avoiding flaky skin.

No matter how expensive your moisturiser is, all moisturising products in the market basically work on the same principle. But, what can separate others are their additional features which may include being all-natural and organic.

How Moisturising Can Benefit Your Skin

A daily moisturiser is necessary to keep your skin healthy and prevent environmental damages to your skin. As it turns out, moisturising not only feels great, but is also key to keep your skin clear, smooth, and young, even as you age.

Our signature, natural skincare product, Shealove London Mother’s Skin Cream is even formulated to prevent stretch marks, soothe dry, cracked, chapped, and irritated skin.

Prevent Dryness

The cold and hot weather, air conditioning, and even your seemingly innocent hot showers are all factors that can dry your skin. Taking the time to apply a moisturiser will not only keep your skin clean but plump and hydrated as well.

Slow the Signs of Ageing

Moisturised skin is younger-looking skin. That soft, plump, and firm feeling you get after moisturising your skin is actually helping you slow down the signs of ageing including fine lines and wrinkles.

Reduce the Risks of Skin Problems

Using the right moisturiser keeps your skin from being too dry or too oily—two conditions that can trigger your skin to produce more oil that can clog your pores and cause breakouts, among other skin issues.

Protect Sensitive Skin

Sensitive skin requires special care. The good news? By applying moisturiser daily, you can keep your skin from drying out and prevent symptoms including rashes, itchiness, swelling, burning, and tenderness.

The Best Moisturisers for Every Skin Type

It’s recommended to use a daily moisturiser with sunscreen every day in the morning and again in the evening. If you need help selecting the right moisturiser, most guides base their recommendations depending on your skin type, your age, and specific skin conditions. Take this quiz to know your skin type.

  • Normal Skin – Normal skin is a well-balanced skin that’s neither too dry nor too oily. To maintain this, use a water-based moisturiser with a light, nongreasy feel.
  • Dry Skin – Restore moisture to dry, flaky, itchy, and rough skin by using heavier, oil-based or occlusive moisturisers. You can also use petroleum jelly and ointments if you have very dry and cracked skin.
  • Oily Skin – Oily skin is greasy, shiny, and prone to acne breakouts. Use a lightweight, water-based moisturiser that’s labelled oil-free or non-comedogenic to keep it from clogging your pores.
  • Combination Skin – Combination skin is characterized by having an oily T-zone and dry cheeks. You can try using a medium-weight lotion that isn’t too heavy on the oily areas but also isn’t too thin for the dry parts of your face.
  • Sensitive Skin – Sensitive skin is prone to irritation, itching, rashes, and redness. Look for gentle moisturisers with soothing ingredients like chamomile and aloe or mild products labelled as fragrance-free and hypoallergenic.
Skin Types

There are also a few lifestyle changes you would want to make to maximise the benefits of having healthy, moisturised skin such as shortening your shower time or investing in a humidifier.

6 Steps to Maximise the Benefits of Moisturising

6 Steps to Maximise the Benefits of Moisturising

  1. Lower the thermostat. Hot air can dry out your skin as much as colder air can. Try setting the thermostat to a lower temperature or between 16°C-18°C.
  2. Use a humidifier. If possible, invest in a humidifier which restores moisture into the air. The ideal relative humidity for your skin is somewhere between 30-50%.
  3. Take short, warm baths and showers. Hot water not only dries out the skin but can also damage it and result in more serious skin conditions. Dermatologists recommend taking lukewarm showers instead.
  4. Use mild products. Use gentle-cleansing products instead of harsh cleansers which can strip moisture away from your skin, leaving it dryer than necessary.
  5. Stay protected. Keep your skin from the damaging effects of the sun by applying a sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher. On cold, windy days, make sure to bundle up by wearing scarves and gloves.
  6. Moisturise after cleansing and exfoliating. Cleanse and exfoliate first to remove any dead skin cells or particles that can keep your skin from absorbing the product. Many dermatologists recommend exfoliating 1-2 times a week.

Can You Over-Moisturise?

With all these benefits, you’ll probably be surprised to know that over-moisturising is actually a thing.

Moisturisers are designed to be concentrated, and applying more than necessary doesn’t cause better skin results—sometimes, it can even do the opposite. Some signs of using too much moisturiser include clogged pores, blackheads, uneven skin texture, and excess oil. This can particularly happen if you’re not exfoliating.

Your method of applying moisturiser also matters. You should always gently massage the product onto your skin as using pressure can leave it irritated. This much is true if you have sensitive skin or suffering from skin conditions like eczema. Your skin will still absorb the active ingredients from the moisturiser without you pressing hard.


Moisturising prevents dryness, makes your skin look more youthful, and slows down the signs of ageing. It also decreases the risks of inflammation and protects your skin from the damage caused by harmful environments.

Taking good care of your skin means investing time and effort in a skincare routine that’s tailored according to your skincare needs.

Do you have any other moisturising tips to share?