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Moisturizing Agents: Selection and Formulation Tips

Moisturizing agents modulate the moisture content of the skin and protect the skin barrier from drying. In order to avoid skin damage, it is mandatory to obtain a product with good moisturizing performance to match up with the consumer expectations.

Get detailed understanding on the different classes of moisturizing ingredients and how to best utilize them against the target performance claim, consumer perception and expectations by reviewing:


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What are Moisturizers?


TAGS:  Moisturizing Agents      Skin Care      Hair Care    

Moisturizing Agents Selection Tips and Formulation ExamplesHuman skin is covered with the stratum corneum, which is a thin biological protective membrane. This stratum corneum exposed to the external world allows us to live in the dry atmosphere without losing water.

  • The stratum corneum is thin and supple.
  • It contributes to maintenance of healthy skin by preventing loss of body water.

Healthy skin is generally said to have a water content of 10 to 20%.

The term “Moisturizer” resonates with the consumer and denotes improvement of skin, thus projecting the perception of healthy skin. In general terms, “moisturization” (or skin conditioning) is the kingpin of topical skin treatment.


Skin discomfort is not acceptable, and moisturizers containing primarily emollients and humectants can help alleviate the symptoms of “dry” skin and uncomfortable skin symptoms.

Moisturizers are misconstrued with terms such as “Humectants” and “Emollients”, and are usually associated with skin or hair conditioning.

So choosing the right moisturizer, skin hydrating agent, and skin softening/soothing ingredients requires:

  • Knowledge of their chemical, physical and performance properties, as well as
  • How to best utilize them against the target performance claim, consumer perception and expectations

 »  View All the Moisturizing Agents Commercially Available in the Market Today!

The cosmetics ingredients database is available to all, free of charge. You can filter down your options by INCI, origin, applications, end consumer benefits and many more dimensions.

Let's explore the classification and performance matrix of moisturizing agents...


Classification of Moisturizers


Since dry skin and combinations of it requires barrier repair of some type, it will be necessary to consider incorporation of four classes of functional ingredients to achieve optimal consumer perceived moisturization.

The four classes of functional ingredients are:

  • Humectants help to modulate water content by enhancing surface water availability.
  • Occlusivity agents, typically denoted as moisturizers, modulate water content by slowing down TEWL.
  • Keratolytic agents stimulate cell renewal by cleaning dead cells from the skin's surface and exciting new cells to form at the surface for a better and healthier barrier.
  • Emollients provide topical aesthetics and lubrication that enhance the perception of soft, smooth skin; they can provide some level of moderate TEWL improvement topically.

Classes of Functional Ingredients
Classes of Functional Ingredients

"Moisturizer" technologies utilized to provide consumer perceived moisturization are as diverse, in a general sense, as the total available chemistry in personal care. Achieving acceptable moisturization does not necessary require new technology, but can draw from the extensive list of already available chemistries mainly:

  • Esters
  • Hydroxyl-functional
  • Vegetable oils/butters
  • Organic salts, and
  • Nitrogen containing

There are many options to enhance moisturization performance in skin and hair care formulations.

Generally, there is required a balance of the four categories listed above to elicit both a consumer perceived moisturization affect and a clinical enhanced performance. Further, there is a synergistic gain when combinations of each technology classification are employed. Let’s discuss each of them in detail...

Humectants


Group of hydroscopic substances – Attracts and retains the moisture in the air or skin.

Strengths: Ability to modulate available moisture on and in skin.

Hurdles: Tend to be aesthetics.

Opportunities: Synergies to enhance humectancy (seen as TEWL and Conductance improvements) at reduced levels, and thus improved aesthetics and performance.

Classification Examples
Trihydroxy Polyol
Best humectant with desquamation properties; high conductance generator
Alkanol Amine
Provide synergy with glycerin; increased skin barrier build
Carbohydrate
Work as moderate humectant; good aesthetic enhancing properties combined with Glycerin
Polyols
Hydroxyl groups hydrogen bonding to water
Carbamide
Good humectant with keratolytic properties; good synergy with glycerin and other humectants
Carboxylic Acid
One of the original NMF ingredients
  • PCA Salts & Derivatives
Amino Sugars –
Reported humectancy; noted for potential for skin turn-over properties
Quaternary Amine –
Mild humectant with aesthetic enhancing properties
Sebaceous Gland Extract –
Strong occlusivity agent with hydrating properties and increased cell turn over; reported improved skin barrier repair
  • Lanolin & Derivatives
  • Alcohol-Acetylated
Organic Acid Salt –
Strong hydrating properties & some keratolytic action
Humectants Functionality Matrix

 »  Check Out the List of Humectants Here!


Occlusivity Agents


Air and Water barrier – Prevents significant evaporation of skin's internal water, and prevents topical ingredients from penetrating the skin's barrier.

Strengths: They are natural skin's moisturization balance.

Hurdles: Tend to be aesthetics.

Opportunities: Utilization of petrolatum with aesthetic enhancing occlusivity agents.

Classification Examples
Hydrocarbon
Occlusivity agents (Petrolatum considered the benchmark), but can have some tacky aesthetics
Siloxane
Almost equivalent to petrolatum without the negative aesthetics; excellent combination with Petrolatum to soften skin feel
Nut Butters
It has very good occlusivity and some humectancy properties; excellent replacement for Petrolatum
  • Shea Butter (and other nut butters)
Occlusivity Functionality Matrix


Keratolytic Agents


Benefits: Removal of dead skin to enhance skin barrier repair and renewal.

Strengths: They are more rapid cell turnover to strengthen the skin's barrier.

Hurdles: They are primarily increased skin irritation.

Opportunities: Compatible to skin's pH mantle without loss of the keratolytic properties.

Classification Examples
Carboxylic Acids
Strong keratolytic action without the strong skin irritating properties
Fruit Acids
Excellent keratolytic action, strong skin irritants (before pH modified that can reduce effectiveness)
Diureide
Keratolytic and desquamation action
Keratolytic Functionality Matrix


Emollients


Generally noted for their enhanced skin aesthetics with improvements in tactile soft/smoothness properties. They also act as a non-greasy fiction reducer.

Strengths: Ability to modify the skin's tactile surface perception.

Hurdles: Ability to choose the right emollients from the expansive candidates represented by a diverse selection of chemistries.

Opportunities: Understanding the emolliency cascading affects of blended emollients to trigger changing feels during and after application.

Classification Examples
Siloxane
A diverse group of compounds from dimethyl substituted to virtually and organic substitution; candidates are measured by compatibility in formula and cost constraints
  • Dimethicone, Gums & Crosspolymer
  • Alkyl Methyl (Distearyl Methicone)
  • Amino functional (e.g., Amodimethicone)
Fatty Acid Esters
A diverse group of compounds that are selected based on a skin feel; can be combined to create a cascading emolliency
  • Linear (e.g. Cetyl Palmitate, Behenyl Lactate, Archidyl Propionate)
  • Branched (e.g. Isonononyl Isononoate Behenyl Isostearate, Triisodecyl Myristate)
Glyceride Derivatives
Provide excellent emolliency and organic coupling; some having good co-emulsification properties
Ether
Good emolliency
Dimer Dilinoleate Derivatives
Good emolliency; some having good co-emulsification properties
Polymeric
A diverse group of compounds based on acrylic, polyether, polyamide, polyurethane chemistry
Vegetable Oils and Derivatives
A very popular natural choice for emolliency; need to formulate around potential oiliness of straight oil triglycerides
  • Olive Oil and esters/transesters
Emollients Functionality Matrix

 »  Choose the Emollients Here!


Performance of Moisturizers


Moisturization performance is a critical balance between the consumer perception of the change in the skin characteristics and clinical validation of the claims that the product is working in a way to match up with the consumer expectations of the change in the skin's health.

Main Performance Expected from Moisturizers
TEWL
Conductance
Source: Prohealthcareproducts.com
TEWL Conductance
Observed Dryness
Desqumatry
Observed Dryness Desquamatry

The table below sums up the main performances expected from moisturizers in cosmetic & personal care applications:

Performance Description
Trans-epidermal Water Loss (TEWL)
  • TEWL measures the occlusivity of water as it migrates to the surface of skin.
  • Occlusive films can disguise the real health of skin because they create an occlusive barrier (e.g., Petrolatum) and reduce the ability to predict the actual transpiration rate of moisture evaporation from the stratum corneum.
Conductance
  • Conductance (Galvanic skin response) measures electric changes (resistance) of the skin due to water-binding capacity of the stratum corneum.
  • Hydrated skin produces a conductance or capacitance. More water increases in conductance and decreases in impedance.
Observed Dryness
  • Observer Dryness assesses skin’s healthiness through subjective trained clinician grading usually tied in with Panelist Dryness gradient.
  • Observer Dryness is both an objective indication of the appearance of the skin (via trained clinicians) and subjective indication of the skin’s healthy look (via consumer self- scored observations. Both are a good way to predict the consumer’s match to expectations of stated claims.
Desquamatry
  • Desquamatry assesses the degree of flaking and scaling on the skin.
  • D-Squames® are collected and both visually scored and stained and color evaluated (squamometry) with a colorimeter (C* value) and is a good way to determine if dry skin is alleviated by looking for the degree of reduction in flaking on the skin after treatment.
Moisturizers Performance Matrix


Selection Criteria for Your Moisturizer


  • TEWL is a good tool to evaluate an ingredient/formulation's ability to modulate the moisture content on the skin and the barrier integrity. Lower TEWL denotes barrier health and ability to retain its natural moisture content; particularly in dry environments.

  • Occlusivity should act as a good protectant to the skin's barrier. So patch testing and 7-day mini-regression where conductance and TEWL are measured should be a good determinant for occlusivity performance.

  • Keratolytic agents help clean the skin's surface, restore a healthy skin look, and stimulate cell turnover. The best way to evaluate this is via visual count, but observer dryness is a complimentary test procedure.

  • Emolliency denotes an aesthetic change in the skin's tactility.

 Face care
Conductance
TEWL
 7-Day regression
Observer Dryness  Desquame  Barrier Integrity (patch test)
Sensory
 Humectancy goodgoodgood goodgoodgoodgoodgood
good   good
good good goodgood
 Occlusivity goodgoodgoodgood
goodgoodgoodgood goodgoodgood
goodgoodgoodgoodgood good
goodgoodgood
goodgood
 Keratolytic good
good
good
goodgoodgood
goodgoodgoodgoodgood
good
good
 Emolliency goodgood
good
goodgood
goodgoodgood
good
goodgood
goodgoodgoodgoodgood
Moisturization Agents for Face, Hand and Body Care



Applications of Moisturizers in Cosmetics


The use of various functional agents to improve moisturization of the skin can be translated to many body parts (body, legs, hands, face, feet). The key is more what claim and consumer experience is required, not whether one needs a humectant, occlusivity agent, emollient, etc. For instance:

  1. If the face needs to remove the dryness of the skin, then a combination of humectants and keratolytic action would better achieve this. Through a 7-day mini regression study, the change can be followed and various formulations can be compared.
  2. If the legs need to remove the scaly white flakes that can be associated with dry skin, then a combination of keratolytic agents and humectancy are the primary agents to use. Including emollient will improve the initial skin feel that denotes skin softness/smoothness.
  3. If the hands have rough skin that feels tight, especially during the dry cold winter months, then a balanced combination of humectants, occlusivity agents and emollients will improve the skin's barrier to reduce the trans-epidermal water loss, while providing a soft smooth skin feel through the plasticization of stratum corneum.


Starting Point Formulations


Learn More About Face and Body Formulations like:



Face Care Moisturizing Lotion


Clinique's Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+


CliniqueThe moisture "drink" developed by Clinique's dermatologists to maintain optimal moisture balance for very dry skins, or skins dry in the cheeks, comfortable to oily in the T-zone. It softens, smooth's & improves the skin.

The big plus with a new complex is that this formula strengthens skin's own moisture barrier by 54%. More moisture stays in and the skin feels soft, springy.

INCI Ingredient
Functionality
Estimated %
Water
Carrier
q.s. to 100%
Mineral Oil
Emollient – Occlusivity agent
4.0
Glycerin
Humectant
3.5
Petrolatum
Emollient – Occlusivity agent
2.0
Stearic Acid
Co-emulsifier (Structurant) 1.5
Glyceryl Stearate
Emulsifier
2.0
Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Oil
Emollient - Aesthetic
1.0
Urea
Humectant – Synergy with Glycerin
0.75
Lanolin Alcohol
Emollient – Occlusivity agent
0.5
Triethanolamine
pH Adjustor
> 0.5
Hordeum Vulgare (Barley) Extract
Benefit - Claim
> 0.1
Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract
Benefit - Claim
> 0.1
Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seedcake
Benefit - Claim
> 0.1
Propylene Glycol Dicaprate
Emollient
 
Sodium Hyaluronate
Humectant – Keratolytic activity
0.25
Butylene Glycol
Humectant & Solvent Carrier
0.5
Pentylene Glycol
Preservative
0.5
Trisodium EDTA
Chelating Agent
0.05
Phenoxyethanol
Preservative
0.4
Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Red 33
Colorant
To match
Ingredients of Clinique's Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+

  • Combination of glycerin and urea act as a synergistic humectant, lanolin alcohol has good moisture retaining properties.
  • Combination of Petrolatum, Mineral oil, and Lanolin alcohol provide good balanced moisture loss control.
  • Combination of Propylene Glycol Dicaprate, Sesame oil, and Sunflower Seedcake, along with the balanced combination of butylene glycol and pentylene glycol (both also acting to enhance preservation of the system), should develop a soft smooth pliable skin surface.
  • Sodium Hyaluronate, along with the glycerin will provide exfoliating keratolytic activity.


Face Care Wrinkles Repair


Rapid Wrinkle Repair® Night Moisturizer


NeutrogenaFeaturing its unique combination of Retinol SA, Glucose Complex, and Hyaluronic Acid; Rapid Wrinkle Repair® Night Moisturizer moisturizes & renews the look of skin throughout the day.

  • It helps to smooth wrinkles fast and diminish the look of age spots.
  • Skin is left feeling smooth and looking younger.

Accelerated Retinol SA fades the look of stubborn wrinkles, brightens skin tone, smooth fine lines & texture.

INCI Ingredient
Functionality
Estimated %
Water
Carrier
q.s. to 100%
Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate
Occlusivity agent
2.75
Dimethicone
Emollient – Aesthetic  2.5
Glycerin
Humectant
2.5
PPG-15 Stearyl Ether
Co-Emulsifier (Low HLB)
1.5
Stearyl Alcohol
Co-Emulsifier – Structurant
1.5
Cetearyl Alcohol
Co-Emulsifier – Structurant
1.25
Butylene Glycol
Emollient – aesthetics & solvent carrier
1.0
Trisiloxane
Emollient – transient
1.0
Ceteareth-20
Co-Emulsifier & Structurant
1.0
Isohexadecane
Emollient – Transient
0.75
Dimethicone Crosspolymer
Emollient – Aesthetic modifier
0.25
Caprylyl Glycol
Preservative
0.5
Phenoxyethanol
Preservative
0.4
Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer
Associative thickener
0.2
C13-14 Isoparaffin
Emollient – Aesthetic modifier
0.5
Polyethylene
Emollient – Structurant
0.25
Fragrance
Perfume
q.s.
Polyacrylamide
Emollient – film former
0.25
Chlorphenesin
Preservative
0.4
PTFE
Emollient – slip agent
0.1
Myrtus Communis Leaf Extract
Benefit Claim
> 0.1
Disodium EDTA
Chelating agent
0.1
Sodium Hyaluronate
Humectant & keratolytic activity
0.1
BHT
Anti-oxidant
0.05
Retinol
Emollient – claim benefit
0.1
Polysorbate 20
Co-Emulsifier & Co-solubilizer
0.25
Laureth-7
Co-Emuslifier (high HLB)  0.25
Ascorbic Acid
Antioxidant & pH modifier
q.s.
Sodium Hydroxide
pH Adjustor
q.s.
Ingredients of Neutrogena's Rapid Wrinkle Repair Moisturizer


Body Care Moisturizing Lotion


Aveeno® Skin Relief 24 hr Moisturizing Lotion


Aveeno This rich formula powered with ACTIVE NATURALS® Triple Oat Complex moisturizes skin for 24 hours.

  • It is clinically shown to help relieve itchy, extra-dry skin.
  • This fast-absorbing, hydrating lotion starts to work immediately to nourish and restore essential moisture to extra-dry or sensitive skin so it looks and feels healthier".

INCI Ingredient Functionality Estimated %
Dimethicone (1.3%)
(OTC Skin Protectant)
1.3
Water
  q.s. to 100%
Glycerin
Humectant
5.0
Distearyldimonium Chloride
Emuslifier – cationic
4.0
Petrolatum
Emollient – Occlusivity agent
4.0
Isopropyl Palmitate
Emollient – Aesthetic
2.5
Cetyl Alcohol
  2.5
Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Flour
Benefit – Claim
0.25
Benzyl Alcohol
Preservative & Perfume – masking agent
0.25
Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Oil
Benefit – Claim
0.1
Steareth-20
  0.75
Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract
  0.1
Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter
Emollient – Occlusivity agent
0.5
Sodium Chloride
Viscosity Modifier
q.s.
Ingredients of Aveeno's Skin Relief Moisturizer

  • Glycerin acts as the primary humectant.
  • Combination of dimethicone, petrolatum, Shea Butter should act as acceptable occlusivity agents.
  • Combination of Isopropyl Palmitate, cetyl alcohol, and Oat Kernel oil should develop a smooth skin surface.


Selecting Ingredients for Your Moisturizers!


Successfully deliver on today's consumer needs for long-lasting skin hydration, reduced blemishes, reduced flakes by best selecting your moisturizers from the whole host of ingredients. Register Now to Take the Course entitled "Skin Moisturization: Practical Ingredients Selection & Formulation" by Eric Abrutyn.

Skin Moisturization: Practical Ingredients Selection & Formulation


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