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Do you suffer from dry, rough, or flaky skin? Perhaps you have a common skin condition such as eczema, psoriasis, or dermatitis?

If yes, then you need to know about emollients.

Often confused with moisturisers, emollients are actually a key ingredient in high-quality moisturisers and are responsible for keeping your skin smooth and soft. Keen to know more about this miracle ingredient and how it can help improve the appearance and feel of your skin?

What are emollients?

Emollients are found in medical moisturisers and are used to keep your skin hydrated for longer. The word emollient means soother or softener, as this key ingredient is designed to soften and soothe dry, rough, and flaky skin.

To better understand the job of emollients, it is first a good idea to take a look at what happens when your skin becomes too dry.

When the top layer of your skin does not get enough water, it starts to dry out. Eventually, this can lead to flaking and cracking of the skin. However, when you apply an emollient to dry skin, it fills the spaces between the cells in your skin with fatty substances known as lipids.

Emollients also contain oils known as occlusive agents. These coat your skin and seal in moisture.

The results? Smoother, softer, and more nourished skin.


What are the benefits of emollients?

There are many benefits to applying emollients to your skin, and these can be used to treat a whole host of skin conditions and irritations, including:

  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Burns
  • Rashes, including nappy rash
  • Radiation treatment

They can also be used to relieve skin irritations caused by diabetes, kidney disease, and hypothyroidism.

Other causes of dry skin that can be treated using an emollient include:

  • Bathing or showering in very hot water
  • Taking frequent long baths/showers
  • Exposing your hands to water for prolonged periods of time
  • Placing your skin close to hot temperatures for too long
  • Using harsh soaps or chemicals
  • Spending too much time in the sun

Whatever the cause of your dry, rough, or cracked skin, emollients can help manage your symptoms and improve your skin’s overall appearance and texture.

What do emollients contain?

There are two main active ingredients in emollients: occlusives and humectants. They also often contain other ingredients such as surfactants, fragrances, and preservatives.


Occlusives are oils that are often mixed with water and an emulsifier to form a cream or lotion. They provide a layer of oil on the skin’s surface which helps to reduce water loss and retain moisture.

Bath oils, lotions, creams, and ointments all typically contain occlusives, and your choice of occlusive emollient will be dependent on how dry your skin is and where your dry skin appears.


Humectants work by increasing the water-holding capacity of the skin. Common humectants include:

  • Glycerine
  • Urea
  • Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as lactic acid
  • Salicylic acid

What are the different types of emollients?

Emollients come in many forms, and the type of emollient you need will be dependent on the kind of skin irritation you have, where it is on your body, and how severe your symptoms are.

The different types of emollients available are as follows:


Ointments has a high percentage of fat and are thick. This type of emollient, such as Locobase Protect, is designed for thick and flaking skin, and can be purchased over-the-counter.

Ointments are designed to help prevent water loss, and, as they are sticky and hard.


Creams are designed to be easier to spread on the skin and contain a good oil and water balance. Although they are less moisturising than ointments, they are still highly effective at combatting dry skin.

They are much easier to apply than ointments and can therefore be worn during the day without fear of mess or staining.

Emollient creams are also easily absorbed, so you do not need to reapply as often as you do when using an ointment.


Lotions are the least effective type of emollient as they contain mostly water. If you only have a mild case of dry skin, you may want to try a lotion first to see if this is enough to soothe and soften your skin.

Lotions are generally less thick than creams and ointments, so they are easy to spread on the skin. However, this also means that they need to be reapplied more frequently.

Many lotions have preservatives that can irritate sensitive skin, so it is always good to test a new lotion on a small patch of skin before applying it all over or look for a special lotion for sensitive skin.

Other types of emollients include:

  • Gels
  • Sprays
  • Bath oils
  • Soap substitutes
  • Leave-on products

If you have dry feet, you may want to try Footner, a type of exfoliation sock that breaks down dead skin on your feet. Containing a specially formulated solution of glycolic acid, mandelic acid, and lactic acid, this is a highly effective emollient treatment for dry skin and calluses.

How to use emollient cream?

Emollients are easy to use and apply. For optimum results, follow the below steps:

  • Apply an adequate amount of emollient to the affected area
  • Apply within 2-3 minutes of washing your hands or getting out of the shower or bath
  • Apply to slightly damp but not wet skin
  • Gently rub in the emollient
  • Always rub downward in the direction of hair growth
  • Use your chosen emollient between 2-4 times per day
  • If you have severe symptoms, apply more frequently
  • If you exercise or go swimming, reapply your chosen emollient afterwards

What are the best emollients for eczema?

The best emollient for eczema is different for each individual. You may also find that you need to use different emollients on different parts of your body to get the best results. A bespoke cream for Eczema is the cortison free Locobase Eczema Cream, it effectively treats the symptoms for eczema.

When using an emollient for eczema for the first time, make sure to test the cream or lotion on a small patch of unaffected skin first. You then need to wait 48 hours to see if you have an adverse reaction.

Some people with eczema choose to alternate between a lighter emollient such as a Locobase Everyday Special Body Lotion during the day and then apply a heavier emollient such as Locobase Eczema Cream overnight.

What are the best emollients for psoriasis?

Emollients can be effective in helping to improve the symptoms of psoriasis. They can be used to remove scales, soften the skin, and soothe irritation and itching.

The best emollient for psoriasis is the one you use most frequently. If you have very dry, thickened, or brittle skin, then an ointment emollient such as Locobase Protect is the best choice. However, if you have moderate psoriasis symptoms, an allergen free lotion such as Locobase Everyday Special Body Lotion can be applied both during the day and night.

If your skin is sore and inflamed, a spray can be a good idea as you don’t have to touch the affected areas to rub this in as you would have to with a cream or lotion.

What are the best emollients for dry feet?

Dry, cracked heels are common and occur when hard, dead skin cells are left to build up on the skin. To treat dry feet and other common foot problems such as calluses, use exfoliating socks such as Footner Exfoliation Socks. These are designed to accelerate the skin’s natural shedding process and to soften hard skin.

For optimum results, use this treatment once every 2-3 months and apply a thick moisturising cream after each application.

feet happy family

What is the best face moisturiser?

There are so many different types of face moisturisers on the market which can make it difficult to choose just one. Trial and error is the best method when finding the best face moisturiser, although it is important to use one that is specially formulated for your skin type.

If you have a specific skin condition such as dermatitis, eczema, or psoriasis, it is important that you find a moisturiser that contains ingredients that are known for helping soothe these skin complaints such as Locobase Eczema Cream or Locobase Protect.

What is the best body moisturiser?

The best body moisturisers contain high-quality active skincare ingredients and are easy to apply. When choosing a body moisturiser, you first need to determine what your skin type is.

Do you have dry skin? Sensitive skin? Mature skin? Or maybe you suffer from a specific skin condition. Then you should use a bespoke lotion, such as Locobase Everyday Special Body Lotion.

What is the best moisturiser for oily skin?

If you have oily or combination skin, you need a non-comedogenic moisturiser that promises not to clog up your pores and cause breakouts.

If you suffer from acne or blackheads, you may also want to look for a moisturiser that contains salicylic acid (which actively unclogs pores) and benzoyl peroxide (which fights acne-causing bacteria).

Although you may be tempted to forgo moisturiser, even oily skin needs to be hydrated and nourished.

What is the best moisturiser for sensitive skin?

If you have sensitive skin, you need a moisturiser that is free from fragrances and allergens such as Locobase Everyday Special Body Lotion. If you have very dry and sensitive skin, a cream with more fat such as Locobase Protect is better.

What is the best moisturiser for mature skin?

Mature skin is often drier and thinner than young skin. Therefore, it needs a moisturiser that both protects and strengthens the dermis and provides moisture retention and barrier renewal.

Look for moisturisers that contain hyaluronic acid, ceramides, niacinamide, and retinol, as all of these ingredients can help improve the appearance of mature skin.

What is the best moisturiser for dry skin?

Dry or dehydrated skin needs a thicker emollient cream such as Locobase Protect rather than a lotion, as this will help to replenish hydration and lock moisture in.

When your skin is very dry, your skin’s barrier has already been compromised, which can lead to flaking, itching, and irritation. To combat this, you need a moisturiser that is specially formulated to hydrate very dry skin such as Locobase Repair and Locobase Protect. This moisturising cream can be applied on the face and body and is available at most pharmacies and online.

Emollients FAQs

What is the difference between emollient and moisturiser?

An emollient is a key ingredient in many medical and some cosmetic moisturisers. Its job is to soften and smooth the skin. Emollients are needed to treat dry and very dry skin, as well as skin affected by conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Is aloe vera an emollient?

Aloe vera is not an emollient. It is a humectant that helps to keep the skin hydrated. However, aloe vera does have moisturising and emollient qualities.

Is petroleum jelly an emollient?

Petroleum jelly is an occlusive moisturiser which means that it actively seals moisture into the skin. It also has emollient properties.

Is vitamin E an emollient?

No, vitamin E is not an emollient. However, it is an antioxidant and can help to fight free radical damage and hydrate the skin.

Is coconut oil an emollient?

Coconut oil is a good emollient as it contains lauric acid, which actively soothes and softens the skin. It is also a great occlusive.

Is Aquaphor an emollient?

Yes, Aquaphor is an emollient as it helps to lock in moisture. It is also an occlusive which means it can help to seal in other skincare products.

Is beeswax an emollient?

When used in skincare products such as moisturisers, beeswax can act as both an emollient and a humectant. Beeswax also contains vitamin A which can help to soften and smooth dry and dehydrated skin.

Is glycerine an emollient?

Yes, glycerine is an incredibly effective emollient and moisturiser which is able to capture and retain water on the surface of the skin. Glycerine is most commonly used with occlusives.

Is oil an emollient?

Yes, oil is considered to be an emollient. Both natural oils such as coconut oil and synthetic oils like mineral oil can be used as emollients to combat dry skin.

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