Occlusives, Emollients and Humectant Moisturizers: What’s the difference and how do we use them?

evanhealy oil serum and shea butter

Our holistic approach to moisturizing is to work with the rhythms and physiology of the body, and to support long-term skin health and radiance. All of our products work synergistically and are meant to be used together. 

What is a humectant?

Humectants are at the lightest end of the spectrum. They bond with water molecules and hold them in the skin’s surface. The most well-known humectant is hyaluronic acid, which holds 1,000 times its weight in water. Other common humectants include aloe vera, glycerin and seaweed extracts. Using humectants helps keep your skin plump. If the humidity is high enough, they can even pull water out of the air, but in arid environments, they might actually begin to pull water from the deeper layers of the dermis into the skin’s surface. This can end up making the skin feel tight and dry, because once water is on the top layer of skin, it can more easily evaporate. 

For this reason, humectants shouldn't be used alone. They should be sealed under a butter, balm, moisturizer or oil serum to protect your barrier function and increase hydration in the skin. 

Humectants in evanhealy products

Our Sea Algae Serum is rich with humectant moisturizers, including moisture-retaining hyaluronic acid and three incredible ocean plants (bio-fermented bull kelp, bladderwrack, and microalgae) which infuse a complex diversity of transformative nutrients and constituents into the skin. 

Seaweed encourages skin to look its best. Hydrated and supple, smooth, and clear. Topical use improves the appearance of skin texture, as well as support skin that’s received too much UV exposure — softening the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles as well as the appearance of sun damage and hyperpigmentation.

Sea Algae Serum is a supplemental serum within our line. It is water-based and like all humectants, is NOT meant to replace the oil portion of your Oil/HydroSoul combination. It is intended to be a supplement to your skin care ritual, not foundational.

evanhealy sea algea serum

Emollient moisturizers

Emollients are somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. These products mimic the sebum within the skin’s acid mantle to help keep it soft and supple. Emollients are made of omega fatty acids-long-chain fatty acids and help to prevent dry skin. These are neither too heavy nor too light. Not only do they help to moisturize the skin but they improve skin function and help to aid in repairing environmental damaged or stressed skin. Emollients can help to prevent transdermal water loss, because they also have occlusive properties.

Emollients in evanhealy products

All of our oil serums are emollients that have occlusive properties. They enliven, rejuvenate, repair, plump, soften, nourish and balance all skin. These concentrated blends of restorative plant oils penetrate deeply into your skin, delivering significant amounts of essential fatty acids, antioxidants, carotenes, tocopherols and phytosterols – all important elements in cultivating and maintaining a healthy, vibrant complexion. Nutrient-rich, lightweight, and incredibly powerful oil serums are a core player in our formula for healthy skin. When paired with a hydrosoul and applied twice daily, skin becomes balanced, properly hydrated and moisturized.

evanhealy oil serum

Occlusive moisturizers

Occlusive moisturizers are at the thickest and heaviest end of the spectrum. They help to form a layer over the skin’s surface to physically block the skin’s water from evaporating–a process known as transdermal water loss. In short, they seal moisture into the skin. They are also effective at blocking outside elements.

Occlusives in evanhealy products

One of our favorite techniques for creating truly moisturized skin is to seal in the lush moisture and hydration created through oil and water application with an occlusive layer, like one of our face balms, shea butters or moisturizers for extra dry skin. These simple, rich occlusives are our number one choice for winter skin care. They nourish, protect, soften and soothe. They seal in moisture. And unlike synthetic and petrochemical occlusives, all of our pure and plant based products always allow the skin to breathe. These multi-functional butters can be used as a daily moisturizer (when paired with a hydrosoul), as a moisturizing mask, and even as a cleansing balm.

evanhealy shea butter

Evanhealy’s technique for reestablishing the skin’s acid mantle, using all three moisturizers: humectant, emollient and occlusive. 

  1. Generously mist your face with hydrosol. Hydrosols are the foundation of evanhealy’s approach and enhance the effectiveness of every moisturizer. Hydrosols help to anchor all the lipids within the skin, assisting the skin in moisture retention, hydration and balance. 

  2. Humectant: Apply 1-2 pumps of sea algae serum and distribute across your face

  3. Emollient: In the palm of your hand, combine your favorite evanhealy oil serum with a few sprays of hydrosol. Gently press into face.

  4. Occlusive: Finish with your occlusive, whether a balm, moisturizer or whipped shea butter. Massage gently into the face as a final layer over the top of your skin to seal in all the goodness underneath. 


    This article was well written. I appreciated the organized manor in which it was presented. For me, it clarified the reasons for each type of moisture and the step by step order that they should be applied. Thank you Diane


    Information was very helpful. Good to know I am using the wonderful Evan Healy products correctly.

    Ann M. Maguire

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! This is the best explanation I’ve seen on how all these products work together to nourish and protect the skin!!


    What a helpful article. Thank you! My question is about the humectant layer. I am allergic to seaweed/iodine. Do you have an alternative for the seaweed serum? Thank you!


    Goddess, I LOVE this company!!!!!!!
    evanhealy replied:
    We love you too!! Thank you for letting us be part of your skincare journey!


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