26 October 2022
What are emollients?

To properly understand the meaning of “emollient,” it is necessary to distinguish this concept from “soothing.”

Creams with soothing agents are used in cases of dermatitis, as they have a drying and astringent and anti-inflammatory action. Soothing agents are occlusive, and these include vaseline, vegetable oils such as avocado oil, and vitamin E acetate, which reduce water loss from the skin state.

Emollients or humectants, on the other hand, are wetting agents such as glycerol or low molecular weight hyaluronic acid, which can capture and retain water, thereby increasing the epidermal moisture state.

In cosmetics, emollients (from the Latin word “molire,” meaning to soften) are cosmetic ingredients that are intended to make the skin soft, smooth and supple, giving it some elasticity. For this reason, they are found in various dermocosmetics and personal care products.

These raw materials are lipophilic, meaning they are related to lipids and fats and therefore make up the oily phase of emulsions.
By creating an oily layer on the skin, a lipid barrier is formed that prevents excessive evaporation of water from the skin, thus making it more nourished and moisturized. In general, the emollient effect lasts from 4 to 6 hours.

Emollients also serve as solvents to dissolve lipophilic active ingredients.

For example, Dibutyl Adipate is an emollient particularly suitable for solubilizing organic filters or lipophilic active ingredients such as vitamin E.
Dibutyl Adipate has several functions, among them:

  • Emollient, as it softens and smooths the skin.
  • Film-forming agent, as it can produce a continuous film on skin, nails and hair.
  • Plasticizing agent, as it softens and makes flexible other substances, which otherwise could not be easily dispersed and processed.
  • Skin care agent, to keep the skin in good condition.
  • Solvent, in that it can dissolve other substances.

Emollients, which include active oils such as Argan oil, are therefore indispensable components in the formulation of creams and emulsions.

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