Humectants in cosmetics

Humectants in hair products – what are they?


Humectants are strongly moisturizing substances that bind water in the skin, preventing its loss. They belong to hygroscopic compounds, i.e. compounds that have a very high capacity to absorb water from the environment and retain it for a longer time in the stratum corneum.

The article was written to answer basic questions:

  • what are humectants and what are their properties,
  • what role they play in cosmetics,
  • What kind of substances are they – a list of 10 examples.

If the name of these substances has so far sounded mysterious to you, you were curious what it meant, but were afraid to ask, this article will dispel your doubts and unravel the meaning of a foreign-sounding word.

If you are looking for expert advice on hair and hair care check out the Viola Hair Extensions store blog. Here you will find professional products such as:

Humectants in cosmetics – how to recognize them? What is their function?

Humectants in cosmetics

Humectants in cosmetics are a very important group of ingredients, which can be found in almost all products for moisturizing the skin and hair. And as you already know from previous articles on our blog, moisturizing the skin plays a key role in caring for all skin types and at every stage of life.

They are substances that are soluble in water and blend very well with it. They are able to penetrate deep into the epidermis and retain water in the stratum corneum, making the skin long-lasting moisturized, soft and supple. In addition, humectants in cosmetics prevent products from drying out.

In cosmetics, they have a moisturizing function, but unlike emollients, they do not form an occlusion on the skin. Therefore, the use of humectants alone can have the opposite effect – drying and tightening of the epidermis. Humectants should be used together with emollients, because the former bind water in the epidermis and prevent it from escaping, while emollients form an occlusive layer on the skin, a protective film that envelops the skin and prevents evaporation of moisture, allowing it to reach deep into the skin.

Humectants and emollients should be used together, which is why cosmetic formulas contain substances from both groups of compounds.

You can read much more about emollients in the article: Emollients – what are these ingredients

Water deficiency in the epidermis has a very bad effect on the condition of the skin which becomes dry, rough and prone to irritation because the hydrolipidic film is disturbed. Inadequate hydration of the skin also adversely affects the state of collagen fibers, which in turn contributes to faster aging of the skin. Wrinkles appear, the skin loses elasticity and proper tension. It sags faster.

Humectants – examples of substances that are found in cosmetics

Humectants in cosmetics
Humectants in cosmetics

These ingredients are commonly referred to as “moisturizers“, and as I mentioned above, this is their primary function.

I’m almost certain that humectants are ingredients that you use but don’t even know it. Learn about 10 common humectants that are very common in cosmetics for every skin type: dry, combination, oily, mature or sensitive. Each of them needs hydration for health and a glowing appearance.

You already know what these potent moisturizers do, so now it’s time for you to learn their specific names. The list of “moisturizers” in cosmetics, which are used in modern skin care, is long, so I focused on 10 substances that are worth a closer look, so you can find them in the composition of cosmetics and choose a product whose “moisturizers” will best support the care of our skin.


by Sorin

Sorin is a freelance travel writer. He is an experienced travel writer and traveller. Since 2012 he explored more than 60 countries on 4 continents: Asia, Europe, Africa and North America. Currently is based in Romania after spending the last 7 years in Myanmar.