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What You Need to Know about Moisturizing

by Michelle-Adeline Noche-Apacible M.D, FPDS

What You Need to Know about Moisturizing

by Michelle-Adeline Noche-Apacible M.D, FPDS

Why is it important to moisturize? 

“I don’t need to moisturize because I only have oily skin.” This is just one of the many myths surrounding moisturizing. The most important truth you need to know about moisturizing is simple- it’s extremely important for the skin’s integrity and appearance. Moisturizers come in different types and contain various components but they mainly improve skin hydration and enhance skin barrier repair. They target the stratum corneum, the outermost layer in the epidermis, necessary for retaining hydration. Its structure is the most important contributor in the overall moisturizing level. 

These involve four key processes namely corneocyte, stratum corneum lipid, natural moisturizing factor (NMF), and desquamation. All these processes aim to lead to the formation of an efficient moisture barrier. First, Corneocytes serve as the stratum corneum’s physical barrier by regulating water flux and retention. Next, stratum corneum lipids block external compound invasion and provide a barrier to water movement. Then, the natural moisturizing factor maintains the corneocytes’ hydration. Lastly, in desquamation, stratum corneum with a lack of moisture functions much less efficiently. This is why moisturizers step in to make sure that all these four processes are fulfilled. 

When these processes are successfully carried out, the level of stratum corneum hydration significantly increases. Moisturizers do this by directly providing water to the skin and increasing occlusion to mitigate trans-epidermal water loss. Your skin’s appearance is positively affected because it smoothens the skin’s surface. 

How do you choose the right moisturizer? 

Choosing the right kind of moisturizer is not an easy task. It’s very easy to be overwhelmed with the sea of moisturizers being sold. Here are a few tips to find your skin’s match. 

First, consider the factors that make a reliable moisturizer. These are particularly the natural moisturizing factor, ceramides and aquaporins (AQPs). Ceramides, a class of lipids, are essential building blocks of epidermal barrier structure. They also contribute to epidermal self-renewal and immune regulation. Aquaporins which come in many types contribute to water transport to the epidermis and hydration. For example, moisturizers with APQ3 spread both water and glycerol around the epidermis. It has also been proven to improve lipids’ metabolism which greatly contributes to the skin’s moisture. 

Second, consider what your skin needs. Maybe if your skin is sensitive, you should avoid occlusives which can cause irritation. If your skin is dry, you should try a moisturizer with both an occlusive and humectant. This is because your skin may not have the protein-binding capacity to trap and retain moisture. Watch out for moisturizers with alcohols or fragrances as this may make your skin’s condition worse. 

Lastly, consult with a board-certified dermatologist. Only a board-certified dermatologist will be able to recommend the most suitable moisturizer for your skin. They also have the necessary expertise in the different types of moisturizers and their respective mechanisms of action. 

What are the kinds of moisturizers? 

These usually come in three main kinds- emollients, occlusives, and humectants. Each has their own unique function that benefits your skin. Emollients, commonly used in topical pharmaceuticals, seal water into the skin. These provide a stronger skin barrier and appearance. Humectants on the other hand increase water absorption from the dermis into the epidermis where evaporation is easily possible. Occlusives have the most important effect when applied to wet skin since they prevent water from escaping the skin. These come in mineral oils, petroleum jelly and much more. 

All of us have different skin types. Some people’s skin has a stronger ability to maintain moisture while others lack it. It is necessary for your skin’s health no matter the type. Moisturizers do this for you. Don’t let them sit in your vanity cabinets. Know what they do and integrate it into your skin care routine today. 


Visscher, M. O. (2003). Effect of soaking and natural moisturizing factor on stratum corneum water-handling properties. PubMed.

Coderch, L. (2003). Ceramides and skin function. PubMed.

Purnamawati, S., Indrastuti, N., Danarti, R., & Saefudin, T. (2017). The Role of Moisturizers in Addressing Various Kinds of Dermatitis: A Review. Clinical Medicine & Research, 15(3-4), 75–87. 

Draelos, Z. D. (2013, June 19). Modern moisturizer myths, misconceptions, and truths. PubMed.

Li, Q. (2019, December 5). The role of ceramides in skin homeostasis and inflammatory skin diseases. PubMed.

Boury-Jamot, M. (2009). Skin aquaporins: function in hydration, wound healing, and skin epidermis homeostasis. PubMed.

Smeden, J. (2016). Stratum Corneum Lipids: Their Role for the Skin Barrier Function in Healthy Subjects and Atopic Dermatitis Patients. PubMed.

Rawlings, A. V. (2004). Moisturization and skin barrier function. PubMed.

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