What are Emollients?

Purchase Perricone's Firming Facial Emollient.

A smooth, glowing complexion is the result of healthy, well cared for skin. Skin that is rough, dry, or has an uneven tone lacks the refined texture that results in that coveted glow. Chemical exfoliation with substances like salicylic acid (as opposed to physical exfoliation with gritty scrubs) is a common method of of smoothing and evening the skin.

While the process is very useful for cleaning pores and improving texture, it can also sometimes result in redness and irritation. Without proper care, excessive dryness and peeling may leave skin looking worse than before exfoliation.

A safe and gentle alternative to removing the uppermost layer of the epidermis and a process that is to retain moisture in the skin with emollients. Emollients protect skin and help lock in natural moisture. They make skin look healthier by both ensuring it is plump, smooth, and hydrated and by counteracting the dryness and peeling that can be possible side effects of exfoliation.

Perricone‘s Evening Facial Emollient is a unique product that both exfoliant and emollient ingredients to help reduce wrinkles and even skin tone while ensuring skin stays supple and hydrated.

This article will discuss:

What Are Emollients?

Although both are useful tools for softer and smoother skin, emollients and exfoliants obviously function in different ways. While exfoliants increase the turnover of the uppermost level of skin cells, emollients assist the skin’s ability to retain moisture and promote quicker recovery of skin damage.

Emollients utilize fats and lipids to establish a protective barrier on the skin’s surface. This oily layer of lipids traps water in the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of the epidermis that is prone to flaking and dryness. Saturated fats and lipids, which are chains of 16 to 18 single bonded carbon atoms, are better emollients than unsaturated fats. Whether these saturated fats are natural or synthetic, they have excellent spreading properties and good oxidative states, meaning they won’t spoil or become toxic when exposed to oxygen.

Other emollients use fatty alcohols in addition to fatty acids. Fatty acids are long chains of alcohol groups that have charged and uncharged ends. The charged ends migrate towards the water molecules in the skin and the uncharged ends are the basis for the protective oily layer.

History of Emollients

Emollients have been utilized for thousands of years; many of the earliest emollients were derived from of animal fat bases. Lanolin, processed from sheep’s wool, contains multiple complex sterols, fatty alcohols, and fatty acids is a very early example of an emollient.

Now cosmetic companies are moving away from animal-based emollients and toward either synthetic or vegetable-based substances. In addition to being being completely vegan and animal-friendly, synthetic emollients tend to be more stable, contain fewer double bonds, and don’t have odor or color changes when their bonds finally break.

However, not all natural oils work well as emollients. Common natural emollients are coconut oil and mineral oils that contain beneficial saturated carbon chains. Although it has emollient properties, olive oil has some downsides when used straight as a skin care product. Olive oil contains a fatty acid called oleic acid. This fatty acid contains a double bond that, when consumed, works internally for skin structure and stability. However, this same double bond makes olive oil somewhat unstable and vulnerable odor and color changes.

Use of Emollients

Although all emollients create a protective barrier on the stratum corneum, different types of emollients affect skin in various ways. For example, emollients that have higher concentrations of essential fatty acids, such as
, improve skin’s natural ability to replenish lipids and moisture inside skin cells. Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid that helps skin, and unlike oleic acid, it does not contain a double bond.

Check out this video for more information about omega-3 supplements:

Emollients come in many different forms, such as gels, lotions, and emulsion creams. Petroleum jelly or mineral oil-based emollients are the most common emollients in the market today.

Dr. Perricone’s Evening Facial Emollient combines synthetic single stranded carbon emollients with natural amines to replenish moisture in the epidermis and work to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. The Evening Facial Emollient also contains retinol to increase skin cell turn over and reveal a fresh, new layer of the epidermis. The combination of emollient and exfoliant ingredients help reverse previous skin damage and contribute to a smooth, glowing complexion without causing unnecessary peeling and irritation.


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5 Comments • Please comment below


  1. Article about EMOLLIENTS very much informative to guide my patients

  2. You always hear about exfoliants on commercials for skin care products and acne treatments. This seems like a very interesting option for people that don’t get results from a product with an exfoliant in them.

  3. This article really helped me to describe what emollients were to my mom and she even wanted me to order her her own bottle to try.

  4. I just ordered the ACFL and realize I should be using this with it in the evening. I’ll have to get that one next month.

    David Jerod
    Orange County, CA

  5. I really want to try this one next! I am so bad about cleaning my skin at night, therefore I do not use night products. A Dr. Perricone employee urges me to try it! Im sure it will be as fantastic as the other products are!