Lotions, Emulsions and Creams: hydration, power on!

Lotions, Emulsions and Creams: hydration, power on!

So finally we’re there! The last steps of our skin care routine, where everything is all about hydration and moisturizing. What products are on the market? And which one suits best your skin needs? We got you covered! Follow our story : )

We’re at that step where our skin is all happy for having received many good active ingredients to keep it young and bright. As I said before in my post regarding essences, serums and ampoules, those steps are mainly focused on giving nutrition to our skin. Now, it’s time to hydrate and moisturize it.

Even if the two terms might seem to bring the same meaning, they actually are pretty different. Hydration is all about binding water behind our skin; moisturizing aims at preventing that water from leaving it. In this sense, as you can easily understand, hydration should come, on a time scale, before moisturizing: you bring water in, then you lock it in.

These effetcs are brought from 3 different families of ingredients that, if mixed in the right way, can provide to our skin the perfect mixture it requires. We’re talking about humectants, emollients and occlusives.


Humectants are water rich ingredients that mimic the skin’s sweat. They’re basically water binders: they have this amazing ability to draw water from the surroundings into themselves. They usually pull water from the dermis (the second and thickest layer of the skin) into the epidermis (the outermost layer), and if humidity is above 70 percent, they can even draw in moisture from the air.

There are two types of humectants: synthetic and natural.

Synthetic humectants are quite common. They do lock in moisture to some extent, but they don’t provide any noteworthy nutrients or benefits to the skin. They essentially moisturize in the short-term and dry out the skin in the long-term.

Natural humectants serve a dual purpose: they attract moisture to the surface of the skin and they deliver major moisture and nutrients to the deepest layers of the skin. Natural humectants improve the skin’s ability hydrate itself on its own.

I prepared this illustration to show you the most common types of humectants, both synthetic and natural:


Emollients are oils rich ingredients that mimic the skin’s natural sebum (the emollients lipids are the more similar to the ones found naturally in our skin). They are supple, waxlike, lubricating, thickening agents that prevent water loss (they are hence slightly occlusive) and have softening and soothing effects on the skin, reducing scales and flakes. Emollients are basically what gives moisturizers their creamy texture (the more emollients in the formulation, the thicker the cream is).

The emollients more commonly found in moisturizers are:


Occlusive agents form a film over the skin to trap in the water brought from humectants.

When weather is really dry, particularly during winter and in arid climates, humectants can actually pull too much moisture out of the skin, without replenishing it. Skin stays hydrated for a period of time, but skin is dry overall.

Using a moisturizer that contains occlusive ingredients can counteract this loss of moisture. Occlusives help the stratum corneum retain moisture by creating a barrier layer of oil. Occlusives are generally richer in texture and more oily by nature. They are ingredients like:

Lotions and Emulsions

Our skin needs both oils rich and water rich ingredients, so the best moisturizers have a good combination of humectants, emollients and occlusives. The lipid/liquid ratio is what makes the consistence of moisturizers so different.

On one side we have lightweight and hydrating products like lotions and emulsions.

Lotions are great for hydration: they are furmulated to contain many humectants and just a few oils. Or no oils at all, like the super famous Oil-Free Ultra-Moisturizing Lotion (with Birch Sap) from COSRX.

COSRX | OIL-FREE Ultra-Moisturizing Lotion (with Birch Sap)

COSRX is a brand I’ve been personally loving lately, but it was already well known and appreciated by several YouTubers and bloggers before me(watch this COSRX haul video with the super cute Joan Kim!). Their products are packed with great quality ingredients and, as you can see from their packaging, they focus more on quality than on marketing here. And in any case, marketing comes right from their happy customers, more than willing to share their positive experiences on social media -this is smart advertising huh ; )

This lotion has dramatically changed (in a very positive way) my beauty routine and I can definetely tell the difference in my skin texture after a continuous use of this product for a few weeks now.

Its first ingredient is not the usual water you find in other products, but Betula Platyphylla Japonica Juice (a.k.a. birch sap) in the luxurious quantity of 70% -which is really, like, amazing! Other great humectants you can easily recognize from the label are, among others: glycerin, betaine (a type of amino acid), sodium lactate and sodium hyaluronate (salt derived from hyaluronic acid). Its formula is so well balanced that it makes the product suitable for all skin types, including sensitive, oily and acne-prone skin.

Emulsions are lightweight moisturizers, with a balanced ratio of oil and water in their composition. I particularly like the Yuja Water C Emulsion from Skinfood, a brand that I often mention in my posts because it includes great ingredients that come directly from plants and fruits.

SKINFOOD | YUJA Water C Emulsion

Yuja Water C Emulsion is made with yuja extract and yuja essential oil. Yuja is a citrus fruit that is cultivated in Asia (it’s called yuzu in Japan). Its juice is particularly sour and forms the base for yujacha, a citron tea which Koreans swear by as a cold and flu remedy (effective or not, I love it!).

The health benefits also spill over into its cosmetic benefits. Yuja has three times more vitamin C than lemon! Vitamin C is essential to the body’ s production of collagen, a necessary component of healthy skin, hair, and nails. As a potent antioxidant, vitamin C also reduces free radical damage and boosts the body’ s immune system. Skinfood claims that they only use Goheung organic yuja , grown by artisan Taehwa Park with organic fertilizer made from seawater and organic compounds. Everything sounds so natural! I own many other products from the same line, because I think it really works well with my skin ; )

Lotions and emulsions are aften called pre-moisturizers, since they are used (after essences and serums) to provide hydration to the skin, that will then be sealed in by moisturizers.

However, I suggest that you read the label for each product, especially when it comes to emulsions: not very intuitevely, these are sometimes used right after toners and before essences/serums. It’s all in the formulation, so the manufacturers know better when a certain product can achieve its maximum efficacy -just trust them!


Creams are the last step! As said, you need to prevent water from leaving the skin, so occlusive agents are used to create a physical barrier to epidermal water loss.

Dry skins need thick creams, rich in emollients and occlusives -like Pongdang Moisturizing Cream: it contains humectants like honey and glycerin, plus nourishing ingredients from plants like portulaca and swiss alpine herbs, that also carry anti-bacterial and calming effects.

PONGDANG | Moisturizing Cream

Oily skins, on the other side, work better with creams that are more hydrating, rich in humectants and less greasy. That’s why they often come in a gel-like texture, that soothes and refresh without leaving that sticky feeling.

My holy grail is BelifThe True Cream Aqua Bomb“: it’s soooo fresh and it absorbs in literally seconds. It contains Lady’s Mantle extract, a natural exfoliant herb that helps minimize the appearance of pores, plus Plantain to create moisture seal on skin and Oat Husk to attract moisture (humectant).

BELIF | The True Cream – Aqua Bomb

I totally understand why this product is a serious cult favorite in Korea! It is part of the “bounce cream” craze that took Korea by a storm a couple of years ago, aiming to obtain dewy, taut complexions thanks to light, refreshing, and above all, ultra-hydrating formulations. This got me for real! Due to my oily skin, I can’t handle the typical heaviness of traditional moisturizing creams…this means that I don’t have to give up on hydration now. Yay!


Curious to see how lotions, emulsions and creams look like in real life? Simply watch the video down here ; )

And yes, it seems like this long post has finally come to an end! I hope you found it interesting despite its lenght!

Did you discover any interesting info that you will use in your skin care routine? Is there anything else you want to add that I forgot to mention? Don’t be shy and comment to your heart’s content! I’ll be happy to read your thoughts ^^

Take care until next post! Bye (^_^)

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