Sensitive Skin? – Why Water-Free Moisturisers are Better for You

You friends may tell you how well they get on with this face cream or the other, but if you have sensitive skin, you may find that most water-based moisturisers you’ve tried are causing more problems that they solve.

Here’s why: in order to create a water based-cream, cosmetic manufacturers have to use two categories of substances that are not exactly skin-friendly: emulsifiers and preservatives. They often add a third type of additive called penetration enhancer  – a solvent that makes the product penetrate the skin faster.

  1. EmulsifiersFats and water don’t naturally mix, so an emulsifier is needed to create a smooth emulsion. Emulsifiers are designed to change the properties and behaviour of the fats and oils in the moisturiser, but there is a problem – our skin also uses an orderly structure of fats to maintain its integrity. It is called the intracellular matrix – if exposed to a lot of emulsifier, it will break down, causing a variety of problems from dryness to irritation and, in the long run, to more serious conditions like eczema.
  2. PreservativesThese are added to keep micro-organism off your face cream, which otherwise would really be a tasty snack to scores of bacteria, moulds and fungi. These are pretty resilient creatures – defeating them is quite a challenge and  it takes a pretty aggressive additive to keep them out. No wonder these additives often melt plastic, as described in this post:
  3. Penetration enhancersUnlike the two additives above, penetration enhancers are not a must, but cosmetic manufacturers often add them – if the skin doesn’t care to take in the product, then it must be made to. Penetration enhancers are solvents that react with fats and - like emulsifiers – they don’t discriminate between the fats in the moisturiser and the structural fats of our skin.

Healthy, strong skin has mechanisms to cope with these additives – after all, our skin is a barrier organ, designed to keep out substances that would harm us. In sensitive and  problem skin the barrier function is impaired, the offending substances have more of a chance to get into the living tissue of the epidermis and cause damage.

For all these reasons, a water-free face cream that nourishes your skin without exposing it to harmful additives is a lot more likely to  help your skin get back on its feet.


Leave a Reply