Beauty Q&A: What’s the difference between oil and moisture?

Tabitha Asks: Is there a difference between adding oil and adding moisture to the skin? This is usually a line used by those same sales people, who explain that dry skin needs a product that will add oil, but normal skin needs a product that adds *moisture*, NOT oil. A product that adds oil is easy enough to comprehend, but how do you add moisture? Won’t the water just evaporate without something (like an oil) to ‘seal’ it in?

The Right Brain Replies:

We love it when the readers answer their own questions!

Water and oil

Tabitha is right, pure moisture (which is just WATER!) will evaporate from the surface of the skin very quickly. Dry skin needs to be occluded, which means it needs something to prevent water from evaporating from the deeper, moist layers of the skin. Oily materials are very good at sealing moisture in the skin. That’s why you see things like petrolatum, lanolin, and mineral oil in most moistuirizers. All skin types need some degree of “oily” materials.

Now, having said that, if you have very oily skin you don’t want a moisturizer that has a lot of heavy oils. And similarly, if you have dry skin, you don’t want a moisturizer that doesn’t have enough heavy oils. Finding the balance or your skin type is the trick.

How about humectants?

Oh, there is another option: some moisturizing ingredients known as a humectants are not oils and they work by attracting mosture from the air. Glycerine is an example of this kind of ingredient. However, we’re not aware of any lotions that ONLY use glycerine because a blend of humectants and oils is usually best.

The Brains Bottom Line:

Skin needs oil AND moisture to survive!