In this Article:01: What are emollients?02: How do emollients work?03: What are the different types of emollients?
What are emollients?
The term emollient is used to describe a topical treatment that is applied to the skin to hydrate it, prevent drying, reduce redness, and ease any itching and inflammation.
How do emollients work?
Emollients are often used to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema where the skin has become damaged, dry, and itchy. In addition to certain conditions, there are other factors that can cause the skin to become dehydrated. These can include infections, diseases, and prolonged sun exposure. When the skin becomes dehydrated, it can feel tender, itchy, and uncomfortable. Emollients are applied to the affected areas to restore moisture and help protect the skin.
What are the different types of emollients?
Emollients are available in different forms and the type you need will depend on the skin condition you want to treat. Here’s an overview of each type of emollient and what it’s typically used for.
Emollient lotions are water-based, meaning they’re thin and easy to spread across large areas of skin. Because of this, they can be good for areas of the body like the arms and legs. Lotions can help to ease itchy skin and provide temporary hydration but as they’re water-based, they don’t make the best moisturisers. When applying lotion to your body, gently smooth it across your skin in the same direction as your hairs. This will help prevent the hair follicles from getting blocked.
You might want to try… Cetraben lotion 475ml
Emollient creams are easily absorbed by the skin making them another good option for daytime use. Creams are suitable for large areas and can be used on eczema and psoriasis prone skin, or as a general moisturiser to keep skin nourished and hydrated. They should be applied in the same way as lotions, gently rubbed onto the skin following the direction of your hairs. Some creams include ingredients that can help to treat minor infections and reduce inflammation. These are classed as pharmacy medicines and if purchasing online, you’ll need to answer a few quick questions so the pharmacist can confirm it’s the best treatment for you.
You might want to try… Aveeno dermexa daily emollient cream 200ml
Emollient sprays are useful for treating areas that might be hard to reach. They can also be beneficial if you have limited mobility and find it difficult to apply treatments. Each spray will have different properties and you can choose one that best suits your needs. Emollin, for example, creates a thin, protective layer over the skin. This acts as a barrier to external irritants and allows the skin to heal and repair.
You might want to try… E45 daily lotion spray 200ml
Ideal for night-time use, ointments are thick and oily so take longer to absorb into the skin. Because most ointments are free from preservatives and fragrances, they’re suitable for sensitive skin. Double check the ingredients when choosing your preferred product. Thanks to their rich properties, they provide deep moisturisation and help to treat very dry, tight skin. Like other leave-on emollients, ointments should be gently smoothed into skin in the same direction as your hairs to help prevent blocked follicles. With certain skin conditions such as eczema, infections can occur if the skin is irritated, inflamed or broken. Some ointments include ingredients that can help to treat minor infections and reduce inflammation. These are classed as pharmacy medicines and if purchasing online, you’ll need to answer a few quick questions so the pharmacist can confirm it’s the best treatment for you.
You might want to try… Epaderm ointment 125g
Body washes and soap alternatives
Some traditional soaps and shower gels can aggravate already dry and eczema-prone skin. Emollient washes are available to reduce dryness, helping to lock in moisture and natural oils that can be stripped away when showering or bathing. These products gently and effectively cleanse the skin. Pat your skin dry after washing and apply your preferred leave-on emollient for all day moisture and protection.
You might want to try… Doublebase emollient wash gel 200g
There’s plenty of choice when it comes to selecting emollient products to manage dry, itchy skin and you can view the full range we carry at our pharmacy shop. If you’re concerned about your symptoms or have developed a skin infection, we recommend speaking to your GP.