Moisturizing creams

Dre Émilie Bourgeault

Friday, 28 January 2022

Many new moisturizing products appear every year on drugstore shelves and over-the-counter online stores. It is becoming particularly difficult to choose the right cream for our skin.

During her recent appearance on Aventures du Pharmachien, dermatologist and founder of dermago, Dr. Émilie Bourgeault, discussed the issue of moisturizing creams with Olivier Bernard.

Here are a few tips to help you see things a little more clearly!

The skin, an ingenious system!

The skin is actually composed of several layers that play fundamental roles in our health.  When we talk about hydration or moisturizing products, we are mainly talking about the outer layer of the epidermis, the stratum corneum.  This last layer, made up of cells, water and natural oils of the body, acts as an envelope and protective barrier. The stratum corneum will protect from wind, cold, UV rays, the environment and even bacteria.

A healthy skin has several mechanisms of repair and regeneration.  Do you remember the scraped knees or a cut with a piece of paper? The blood formed a membrane (a gall) under which your skin repaired and healed itself! 

An equivalent principle applies to skin hydration. In an ideal situation, the skin hydrates itself.  This principle, called homeostasis, is the natural function of the skin to hydrate itself by itself through the inner layer of the epidermis or through the ambient moisture.   However, certain factors such as age, temperature, cold, wind, sun or frequent washing can disrupt homeostasis and cause the outer layer of the skin to dry out.  

Indeed, the skin draws water from the body to the surface, but drinking a lot of water does not have a direct impact on skin hydration. However, since the human body is composed of 80% water, it must be well hydrated.  A well-hydrated body will help the skin's natural homeostasis to take place.

Is dry skin serious?

In general, since the skin regenerates itself, it is not serious to have dry skin on occasion.

The skin's role is to protect us from external agents. When it is damaged, it becomes more vulnerable to external agents and prone to infections or inflammations. As it dehydrates, it loses its elasticity.  It is at this point that the skin will appear drier, rougher, chapped or even discolored.  

One of the first problems encountered is often a feeling of itchiness or discomfort. 

However, some extreme dry skin conditions can also lead to more serious skin diseases.  

Types of skin

We often hear about skin types: dry skin, oily skin, normal skin.  This is mainly a marketing principle to facilitate the choice and sale of over-the-counter skin products. 

Oily skin

 It is quite natural to have slightly oily or greasy skin on the face. This is due to the work of the sebaceous glands, which are present in greater quantities on the face and genitals.  The sebum secreted by the glands doesn't really have much of an impact on skin hydration, but it can leave a more oily or greasy appearance. Products for oily skin will be lighter, often in gel form, to avoid clogging the pores of the skin and causing pimples.

Dry skin

Products for dry skin are simply creamier, thicker and have better occlusives to allow for better absorption of water into the skin.

Why use moisturizer?

Moisturizing creams keep water inside the skin, that's the primary function of a moisturizing product!  Certain ingredients contained in creams help to retain or attract water from the lower layers of the skin to the outer layer, thus allowing for better hydration

In the vast majority of products, water will be one of the first ingredients in order to bring some water into the cells.  Next, oils will be used to solidify the links between each of the cells and close the skin barrier.  Afterwards, the occlusive elements are petroleum or silicone derivatives, shea butter or beeswax for example.  The role of occlusives is to allow active ingredients such as water and oils to do their work while being protected from environmental factors and evaporation. 

Several other ingredients can be found in creams.  Let's take ceramides as an example.  Ceramides are present in the surface layer of the skin and are therefore important ingredients for hydration. There are some nice over-the-counter products with these molecules, which can help keep moisture and the skin barrier intact.

How do I choose a good moisturizer?

Canadian dermatologists do a good job of reviewing creams, so the Canadian Dermatology Association logo is a good first step!

The hypoallergenic label is also often applied to the jars found in pharmacies.  First of all, the companies want to say that the cream contains as little as possible of fragrance, coloring or agents that can create contact dermatitis.   However, hypoallergenic does not mean that there is no risk of allergic reaction.  

When it comes to choosing a cream, don't look at the price.  Contrary to some beliefs, it is not because a cream is expensive that it is more effective. Instead, you should look at the ingredients and make sure that the product is suitable for you. There are more expensive creams that are considered "medical grade". These creams bring a sophistication in moisturizing but for most people, a product found in a pharmacy is very adequate.

It is therefore important to choose your moisturizer according to the function for which you need it and especially adapted to your skin condition.  There is no miracle solution for everyone, everyone has their own cream!

In any case, we have only one skin, let's take care of it!


Information taken from the episode of Aventures du Pharmachien, broadcast on December 31, 2021 on ICI tou.tv.

Les aventures du Pharmachien | ICI Explora (exploratv.ca) (in french only)

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