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The world’s top 5 skin moisturizing oils

Pamela Ponders: Since the weather is getting drier, I’ve decided to look for some cuticle treaments to help them from drying. I’ve noticed that a lot of them include very similar ingredients, like jojoba oil, apricot kernel oil, shea butter, and in particular sweet almond oil and lavender oil. Do these ingredients really help to moisturize and what exactly do they do? I’ve noticed a lot of body care products emphasize shea butter. I’ve also noticed them some body lotions have coconut oil in it, is this another beneficial ingredient?

The Right Brain Responds:

All the oils you mentioned can moisturize skin – but they’re not the BEST moisturizers. What are the best, you ask? Ah, that is the question. But first you have to sit through this quick explanation:

How Oils Moisturize

Moisture evaporates from your skin by slipping though tiny cracks and fissures. Oils form a barrier layer on top of the skin that prevents the water molecules from escaping. It’s all about stopping evaporation! This property is called occlusivity and it’s measured by a rating called Transepidermal Water Loss, or TEWL. (pronounced “tool.”) The TEWL value has been measured for various oils, and the ones that have the highest rating (in other words, the ones that stop the most water from escaping your skin) are as follows:

1. Petroleum jelly

(in a minimum concentration of 5%, reduces TEWL by more than 98%)

2. Lanolin

3. Mineral oil

4. Dimethicone

a type of silicone

5. Coconut Oil and Others

including other oils (like coconut oil), fatty alcohols, and waxes

Some of the other oils you mentioned are still beneficial – they can make skin feel softer and smoother. But if really want to keep your skin moist, you need to reduce evaporation with one of these top 5.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Natalie Lozano July 21, 2014, 2:34 am

    Thank you so much for this post. I have really had some troubles with my skin. I love making my own all natural beauty products, so I have been on the hunt for the best moisturizers for my skin. Is it true that avocado oil is another good carrier oil for moisturizing? 🙂

  • Charlie Tellsall October 18, 2015, 3:14 am

    Can facial oils be used alone or do they need a moisturiser/nightcream on top. Lots of my clients have been asking about the new Body Shop Oils for Life and I wondered if it would be hydrating enough on a dehydrated mature skin, bearing in mind it doesn’t contain any of the top 5 oils you recommend
    Full Ingredients

    Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (Emollient), Olea Europaea Fruit Oil/Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil (Emollient), Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil/Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil (Skin Conditioning Agent – Occlusive), Camelina Sativa Seed Oil (Emollient), Rosa Canina Fruit Oil (Skin Conditioning Agent), Camellia Oleifera Seed Oil (Skin Conditioning Agent – Emollient), Nigella Sativa Seed Oil (Emollient), Parfum/Fragrance (Fragrance Ingredient), Tocopherol (Antioxidant), Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-t-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate (Antioxidant), Limonene (Fragrance Ingredient), Linalool (Fragrance Ingredient), Citronellol (Fragrance Ingredient), Geraniol (Fragrance Ingredient), Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil (Fragrance Ingredient), Rosmarinus Officinalis Leaf Oil/Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary Leaf ) Oil (Fragrance Ingredient), Origanum Majorana Leaf Oil (Refreshing Agent), Anthemis Nobilis Flower Oil (Fragrance Ingredient), Coumarin (Fragrance Ingredient), Lavandula Angustifolia Oil/Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil (Natural Additive), Lavandula Hybrida Oil (Fragrance Ingredient), Citral (Fragrance Ingredient), Citrus Aurantium Dulcis Peel Oil/Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil (Fragrance Ingredient).
    Thank you

    • Randy Schueller October 18, 2015, 5:38 pm

      The main ingredient, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, is a decent emollient but it doesn’t seal water in as well as typical moisturizer ingredients. Same for the oils in the formula. For some people, this may be enough but others may find they need to use a lotion in addition to this oil.

  • Charlotte G May 29, 2016, 5:22 am

    Is it true that oils can’t penetrate the skin unless mixed with water? Do serums need a fat molecule added to them to enable penetration?

    Thank you

    • Randy Schueller May 29, 2016, 8:20 am

      No that’s not true. Some oils can penetrate skin by themselves. It’s also true that some ingredients need to have a fatty part grafted on to them to penetrate better. (Ascorbyl palmitate for example.)

  • Stephen January 6, 2018, 5:00 am

    Hi, I recently started taking Petroleum Jelly and I read that oils may potentially build up in the lunges resulting in a disorder called, “Lipoid Pneumonia”. While the disorder is rare, at least through documentation, it looks like there is a connection between daily use, extended periods of time, and unintentional inhalation of the product. It kind of scares me. Should I be worried about It? What’s a safer alternative to apply to my skin that doesn’t result in this disorder. Thanks and hope to hear from you soon!

    • Perry Romanowski January 9, 2018, 10:21 am

      I don’t see any reason for you to worry. Petroleum Jelly is not a volatile oil so you won’t breath in a significant amount of it. But of course, we’re not doctors so you should check with your doctor to be sure.