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Humectants, the Skin Benefits, and How They Work

DEC 22, 2021 · Written by Melissa Arpino


Today, we're talking about humectants: a type of ingredient you probably already use in your everyday skincare routine. Humectants are responsible for keeping your skin hydrated and happy, thanks to their ability to retain moisture. Since all skin needs hydration, humectants are perfect for all skin types, including dry, sensitive, oily, acne-prone, and everything in between.

So, how do Humectants work?


Humectants work to hydrate your skin by attracting water molecules in a magnetic-like way. In scientific words, humectants are hygroscopic substances that form hydrogen bonds with water molecules. This bonding helps moisturize your skin by drawing water from the lower cell layers. Using products containing humectants can make your skin appear plumper, less tired and reduce the effects of dehydrated skin. Since humectants love water, sometimes they can feel drying. It's best to use them with an occlusive ingredient, another type of moisturizing ingredient that forms a protective barrier over your skin. This will help seal in water and retain moisture.


There's no exact limit on how often to use humectants; 1-2 times a day will definitely suffice. Humectants hydrate your skin and are great for all skin types, but you should still be cautious when mixing strong acids and retinoids. It's best to consult your esthetician or dermatologist before starting a new skincare routine.

Luckily, humectants are found in just about every lotion, serum, and cleanser, so you're already using them and getting all the skin benefits. Our top favorite humectants you'll find at Stripped Beauty are Glycerin and Hyaluronic Acid. 


Glycerin is a small molecule that penetrates deep into the skin, making it great to absorb at the skin's surface. It is one of our favorite ingredients because it can increase skin hydration, relieve dryness, and emollient properties. Different from Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid is a larger molecule that sits on top of the skin, creating a hydrating layer of plump dewiness. Hyaluronic Acid is one of those superstar ingredients that work with every skin type because your skin cells already produce Hyaluronic Acid, but this production slows down over time. We like to combine both of them, like in Fountain of Youth, to provide maximum hydration to your skin. 


Both Glycerin and Hyaluronic Acid are excellent ingredients for improving skin elasticity, softness, and suppleness, which is why we love and use both!  We always recommend applying your products from thinnest to thickest based on their consistency. Always follow up with a moisturizer or face oil after applying a product containing humectants for ultimate skin results. 


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