Humectants | the water magnet | important cosmetic ingredient

Humectants | the water magnet | important cosmetic ingredient

Humectants are one of the most important compounds in skincare and haircare.

Humectants not only have the ability to attract moisture, they also prevent water loss, thus enabling our skin and hair to retain their natural moisture levels.

Humectants can hold 1000 times their own weight in water and play a big role in volumising hair. By attracting water to hair, the hair shaft expands, giving hair a bigger, fuller look.

Wide range of humectants

There is a broad category of products that can be classified as humectants such as proteins, acids and polysaccharides. Smaller molecules include:

  • Glycerin
  • Sorbitol
  • Butylene Glycol

Hydroxyl groups

Humectants containing two or three hydroxyl groups (-OH), the diol and triols, are the most common compounds (Glycerin, Butylene glycol ) as they attract water molecules through hydrogen bonding.  These are often used due to being cheap, effective and easy to obtain.

While they are good to use in formulation it should be noted that at higher concentrations (e.g. 5 % and up) they can leave the skin with a tacky, sticky feel so less is definitely more.


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