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Humectants, Emollients, and Occlusives...What do they mean; what do they do?

Skin layers:

The human skin is comprised of three main layers being the epidermis, or the outermost layer of skin, the dermis, or the middle layer of skin, and the subcutaneous tissue which is the deepest layer. The outermost layer of the epidermis—the stratum corneum—helps with holding in moisture and with providing a protective barrier for the deeper layers of skin.

The dermis serves different functions than the epidermis. Amongst other tasks, the dermis contains glands that produce the body oil sebum as well as sweat. While what goes in our body plays a huge role in the health of our skin, so does what we put on it. So how do we best support these skin layers through our skincare routines?

Today’s post will introduce you to the basics of skincare ingredients. We can promote healthy, glowing skin through incorporating all the ingredients our skin needs in our daily routines- humectants, emollients, and occlusives! It’s not as complicated as it sounds; let us break it down for you.


The science

Humectants are water-philic, meaning they love and attract water. They pull moisture to the top layer of skin by attracting water molecules from the environment and from the deeper layers of skin.

The bottom line

Due to their water-attracting properties, humectants enhance the appearance of the skin by plumping the skin with the water it draws. Natural ingredients that function as humectants include honey, which can be found in our Matcha Face Mask. Apply humectant-containing products to damp skin rather than dry in order to maximize the benefits of humectant ingredients.


The science

Emollients help to repair the skin barrier by filling oil into gaps between skin cells. Ingredients that are considered emollients are mainly oils and lipids. Lipids that make up the stratum corneum layer of skin are cholesterol, free fatty acids and ceramides. In a future blog, we will cover what impacts the balance of these lipids in the body (hint: it is largely impacted by diet and other factors outside of skincare!).

The bottom line

Emollients are your moisturizing and conditioning ingredients! Red raspberry seed oil is found in our lip balm, and jojoba oil is a staple base for our products including our Green Tea Balm, Hibiscus Face Oil, and Matcha Face Mask. Jojoba oil is a star ingredient in our products due to its shelf stable nature, and its structure which closely mimics human skin, making it both easy and effective for the skin to absorb and utilize!


The science

Occlusives serve an opposite function of humectants. Rather than attracting water, occlusives tend to repel it. Occlusives sit on the surface of the skin and create a physical protective barrier on the top layer of the skin. This helps to lock moisture in the skin while also protecting the skin from external irritants.

The bottom line

Occlusives are important to protect your skin from outside exposures and to lock in water and moisturizing ingredients from humectants and emollients. Some occlusive ingredients you may find in some of our products include beeswax in our Green Tea Balm and Lip Balm and mango butter in our Lip Balm and Lip Scrub.


Brannon, H.L. (2023, March 20). Skin Layers and Their Functions. Verywellhealth. Skin Layers: Structure, Function, Anatomy, and More (verywellhealth.com)

Kolarsick, P., Kolarsick, M. & Goodwin, C. (2011). Anatomy and Physiology of the Skin. Journal of the Dermatology Nurses Association, 3(4), 203-213. DOI: 10.1097/JDN.0b013e3182274a98

Van Smeden, J, & Bouwstra, J.A. (2016). Stratum Corneum Lipids: Their Role For the Skin Barrier Function in Healthy Subjects and Atopic Dermatitis Patients. Current Problems in Dermatology, 49, 8-26. DOI: 10.1159/000441540

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1 Comment

Karla Nitz
Karla Nitz
May 11, 2023

Loving these informative posts! Even though I am a bit of a skin care enthusiast, I steer clear of pretty much all social media stuff (I’m a boomer and don’t even know the right verbiage). I am often skeptical- not knowing who or what to believe, but I am loving my recent purchase and excited to place another order. There is something about Shula - I am believing in this co. and I am a fan.

Am I supposed to sign my name here?


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