Moisturiser: the right stuff

In partnership with SA’s top medical aesthetic companies

A moisturiser is just a moisturiser, right? Not quite. What they put in – and leave out – can make a huge difference to your skin.

So what should you look out for when choosing a moisturiser? Simply put, moisturisers are substances that keep the water in your skin. But then things can get a whole lot more interesting – a good moisturising cream contains a combination of humectants, emollients and occlusives, which work in synergy to do so much more than prevent moisture escaping. Time to read your labels…

The uniters

Emollients (such as ceramides, vitamin B3 aka niacinamide, and fatty acids) help skin feel more comfortable, soothed and smoothed, keeping it moist and flexible and helping to prevent cracks, by ‘sealing’ the skin’s surface to prevent water escaping.

Ceramides, probably the most well known emollients, are waxy, lipid molecules (made up of fatty acids and sphingosine) naturally present in the skin’s outer layer, and which play a key role in the skin’s barrier function. When applied in a cream, ceramides; a) help increase skin hydration and b) promote optimal barrier function, acting as the mortar in the “brick wall” of your skin, repairing and strengthening the skin barrier.

  • SkinCeuticals synthetic ceramides are bioidentical to skin’s natural ceramides. Find them in Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2
  • Lamelle’s patented Ceramide-P, found in Dermaheal Renewal Cream and Ultra Renewal Cream as well as the Serra range, is an exact replica of the lipids that make up your skin barrier. It enters the skin and physically fills in the gaps in the skin barrier.

Vitamin B3 or niacinamide is a water-soluble vitamin found naturally in yeast, meat, fish, milk, eggs, green vegetables, beans, and cereal grains. In a skin cream, niacinamide has been shown to strengthen skin’s moisture barrier and reduce the appearance of discoloration and blotchiness.

  • Find it in SkinCeuticals Metacell Renewal B3, Lamelle Luminesce range.
  • Obagi Hydrate Facial Moisturizer contains innovative Hydromanil, clinically proven to improve the moisture content of the skin through immediate moisturisation, as well as retaining water and gradually and continuously releasing active moisturising compounds within the skin. This ultra-rich night cream also contains shea and mango butters, avocado and glycerine.
  • Neostrata Bio-Hydrating Cream contains various emollient fatty acids, including palmitic acid, humectants and vitamin E.

The attractors

Humectants (such as hyaluronic acid, lactic acid, sorbitol, urea, and glycerine) attract water and help the skin to retain moisture.

Glycerine is probably the most commonly used ingredient. Synthetically derived or found naturally in the lipids (fats) of animals and vegetables, this powerful humectant has water-binding properties that help deliver intense hydration.

  • SkinCeuticals only uses vegetable-derived sources of glycerine, and Metacell Renewal B3contains a 15% concentration of glycerine.

The Big Kahuna is Hyaluronic Acid (HA) – a natural humectant that can hold 1000 times its own weight in water, which is why it is used in injectable fillers to plump up specific areas. It’s the body’s natural hydrator, and is an excellent moisturiser when applied on your skin. The molecule is quite big, however, and various layers of skin can only absorb hyaluronic acid in specific sizes of molecules, so various technologies have been developed to allow the HA to penetrate beyond the superficial skin layers.

  • Lamelle has developed HAFi fragments – hyaluronic acid molecules that have been processed into a series of molecules that are the exact size to be absorbed by all parts of the skin. It’s basically the most advanced form of hyaluronic acid you can take. They are found in found in Lamelle’s advanced Dermaheal Ultra Renewal Cream and Hydrating HA Serum Plus.
  • SkinCeuticals also uses it in its Hydrating B5 range.

Lactic acid is the stuff that gave Cleopatra her legendary complexion, thanks to her regular baths in asses’ milk. This alpha-hydroxy acid, found naturally in sour milk, loosens and exfoliates old, dead skin cells to effectively bring fresh, young skin cells to the surface.

  • Found in Obagi Exfoderm Forte exfoliator and Neostrata Problem Dry Skin Cream and Neostrata High Potency Cream which contains Lactobionic Acid.

The sealers

Occlusives (such as lanolin or petrolatum) are also known as barrier creams.  They form a film on the surface of the skin that seals in moisture.

Some of the most common occlusive emollients are petroleum jelly, coconut oil, jojoba and olive oil, lanolin, and shea butter.

  • Lamelle Nourish Revitalise Cream is a medium weight moisturiser for drier skin and combination skins in dry climates during winter. It contains shea butter, avocado oil, urea as well as bio-mimicking NMF amino acids (natural moisturising factor)
  • Neostrata Ultra Moisturizing Face Cream helps calm and restore dry, stressed and sensitive skin while significantly improving texture, firmness, lines and overall skin clarity. It features evening primrose oil, palmitic and stearic fatty acids, Macadamia seed oil and glycerine.

Texture talk

Due to their ingredients and for specific reasons, moisturisers have different textures. It makes sense that a richer, more nourishing cream works for dry skin, whereas a lotion suits oily skin types better. And, of course, lighter textures suit warmer seasons and climates, while a richer cream comforts skin during cold months and dry climates.

To help identify your skin type and the moisturiser suitable to yours, visit Skin Renewal at

Take the quick Beyond Beauty Survey and you could win a R2 000 Skin Renewal voucher to spend in our online store, with free delivery within South Africa. T&Cs apply.



(Visited 31 times, 1 visits today)