The winter is coming, and so is the skin dryness that comes with it. Or maybe you’re getting the signs of over-exfoliation, and you want to repair the damage asap? This means you should slather your skin in rich, reparative ingredients and have it all soft and glowy.
With the best emollient moisturizers listed here, you can have all that. But unfortunately, things are not that easy. As in, not everybody can use emollients. Buckle up; you’re about to find out whether an emollient moisturizer is for you or not. Ready?
What are emollients?
Emollients are ingredients added in moisturizers, creams, and lotions to soften the skin and repair the protective barrier. Unlike humectants, which pull water in the skin, or occlusives, that form a protective layer, preventing water loss, emollients have a key role in alleviating dry, cracked skin, soothing a weakened barrier, and comforting the skin.
How emollients work
When there’s not enough water in the top layer tissue, and it dries out, it leads to cracks, rough, flakey skin. When that happens, the cells present open spaces, reflecting as cracks. Welp, what emollients do is fill those spaces with fatty substances (lipids), softening and smoothing the skin. My analogy to this is a bricklayer that fills in the tiles with grout.
Which are the best emollients?
The best emollients are fatty ingredients, like lipids, esters, oils, butters, and fatty acids (think omega-3). Other praised emollients in the skincare world are cupuaçu, shea, murumuru, cocoa butters, floral and bee waxes, squalane, lanolin, petrolatum, jojoba esters, oatmeal, peptide, and paraffin. At the same time, oils rich in oleic acid are also great emollients. The best examples are olive oil, avocado oil, marula oil, sesame oil, sweet almond oil, coconut oil, and argan oil.
Who can use emollient moisturizers?
Everybody can use emollient moisturizers, with one exception only: acne-prone skin. This is because emollients are thick and heavy, meaning they can clog pores, cause sweat buildup, and produce blackheads and whiteheads. Don’t get upset yet, there are also emollient moisturizers that are non-comedogenic and won’t freak out your skin.
The best emollient moisturizers
When not cared for, dry skin may lead to many unfavorable upshots, such as redness, eczema, inflammation, and is more susceptible to oxidative stress. A weakened skin barrier allows moisture to evaporate, and external aggressors get in easily, so you’d definitely want to avoid that. Now, below are the best emollient moisturizers that’ll bring you closer to soft skin, a robust barrier, and a healthy glow.
Best Overall: SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2
Designed for dry, damaged skin, SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore has been formulated with ingredients to refill and nourish cellular lipids — all of which are incredibly gentle. With 2% ceramides, 4% natural cholesterol, and 2% fatty acids, it helps add moisture back into the skin whilst calming redness and acting as a veil that protects your complexion from harsh external aggressors.
Best Natural: Biossance Squalane + Omega Repair Cream
With a clean, natural formula, Biossance Repair Cream takes the well-deserved first spot of the best emollient moisturizers. Having sugarcane-derived squalane second on the label, shea butter, jojoba esters, ceramides, and omega-3, 6, 9 fatty acids, this moisturizer does wonder at repairing dry, cracked skin. While it does that, it also supports the skin’s natural moisture barrier, repairing and feeding it with the necessary nutrients to stay strong and firm.
Best for Anti-Aging: Chanel Le Lift Creme Huile
This formula improves elasticity while working to firm and repair the skin — reason is among the best emollient moisturizers out there. Super rich in squalane and shea butter, plus meadowfoam seed and jojoba seed oils, the Chanel Le Lift Creme Huile is genuinely great at rebalancing the skin and reviving its suppleness. At the same time, the oil-in-cream texture feels like nothing, but a dream.
Best for Barrier Repair: The Body Shop Oils of Life Intensely Revitalising Cream
Infused with three reparative botanical seed oils, shea butter, and soy protein, The Body Shop Oils of Life is by far one of the best emollient moisturizers to restore your skin to its best. More than that, its silky soft texture instantly melts onto the skin, leaving a light, satisfying finish without stickiness or greasiness. At $31 it won’t break the bank and is perfect for keeping sensitive skin happy through the cold season.
Best at Protecting Skin: L’Occitane Shea Butter Ultra Rich Comforting Cream
The 25% organic shea butter in the L’Occitane Comforting Cream formula says more than enough about its emollient benefits. More precisely, the moisturizer packs chestnut seed extract and sunflower seed oil, another two natural emollients that aim to comfort the skin, repair and protect it against external damage. As you’d guess, this moisturizer was made with very dry skin in mind, and while it repairs, it plumps the look of wrinkles, making the complexion appear bouncy and dewy. That’s why everyone loves it!
Best for Dry Skin: Murad Intense Recovery Cream
This moisturizer is filled with a mingle of botanical emollients, such as macadamia seed oil, lavender oil, and jojoba seed oil, to soften skin and boost its resilience. In addition, the shea butter gives it even more reparative and soothing power, working to calm and relax the skin in no time. Murad created Intense Recovery Cream to help you regain your skin resilience, alleviate signs of stressed skin and diminish redness associated with irritations and dehydration. Say hi to your new skin.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturizing Cream
The MVP in this formula is squalane, an emollient that mimics the oil your sebaceous glands naturally produce. It’s paired with apricot kernel oil, avocado oil, and olive oil — also powerful emollients — to maintain your skin moisturized and balanced. All these and much more skin-loving ingredients are added to keep the skin barrier protected and seal in moisture for softer skin that looks and feels healthy. All while being paraben- and fragrance-free.
Best for Stressed Skin: Kate Somerville DeliKate Recovery Cream
Kate Somerville products occupied our bathroom cabinets for a while now, and there’s no chance we turn back. This moisturizer helps offset symptoms of stressed skin and boost its resilience to become stronger. To do that, the formula is enhanced with shea butter, honey extract (which also acts as a humectant), peptide, ceramide, cholesterol, and adenosine. All these ingredients and many others work synergistically to calm stressed skin, relieve tightness, reduce redness and strengthen the barrier — isn’t this what you need?
Best Heavy Formula: Belif The True Cream Moisturizing Bomb
This highly emollient heavy moisturizer contains macadamia seed oil, oat extract, and comfrey leaf, emollients that target dry, dull skin. Moreover, the formula packs humectants, glycerin, and vitamin B5, attracting and holding moisture, making the skin appear plump and bouncy. It’s best used as an everyday moisturizer and will help diminish any flakey patches instantly, making it the best canvas for makeup too! It’s equal parts soothing, calming, and hydrating — making it a three-hit wonder.
Best for Night: Lancôme Absolue Premium Bx Night
Layering Lancôme Absolue Premium Bx Night on your face and neck before hitting the hay will help you wake up to plump, rested, smoother skin. It not only is boosted with potent emollients (shea butter, carnauba wax, petrolatum, vitamin E, adenosine), but the formula also contains plant proteins that speed up skin healing and recovery. Use it nightly so that you help your skin regain its firmness, substance, and clarity. Its powers are transformative.
Best for Eczema: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration
The star ingredients in this formula are colloidal oatmeal, shea butter, squalane, and allantoin, all known emollients that are mild even to the most easily-reactive skin types. First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream is among the best emollient moisturizers because it has a gentle formula that gives instant and long-term relief, making the skin feel comfy and eased in the blink of an eye. In a 14-day consumer-perception study, 100% of participants experienced soothed, moisturized, and conditioned skin.
Best Luxurious: Guerlain Orchidee Imperiale Exceptional Complete Care The Cream
For more than a decade, this moisturizer has been hailed for its effectiveness and luxurious sensorial texture. The emollients in this formula are jojoba esters, oat kernel extract, beeswax, adenosine, and, last but not least, orchid extract. Orchid contains mucilage that functions as a moisturizer and emollient due to its high water-binding capacity. All in all, your skin should feel blessed to be slathered in this rich moisturizer that has the role of reducing the look of wrinkles, improving firmness, density, and elasticity.