Moisturiser: what is it and uses

Moisturisers are a skincare product designed to keep the skin healthy and provide soothing care and hydration if skin becomes dry. With so many moisturisers available to buy, it can be confusing to know which ones to use, and more importantly: which ones are suitable for hydrating your baby’s sensitive skin.

We’ve put together this guide on moisturisers, looking at what moisturisers are, their structure and ingredients, the difference between creams and lotions and how to use them.


Moisturisers: what are they?

Moisturisers can also be known as emollients. They are products that soothe and soften the skin, often used as part of daily care or to help dry skin conditions. They can contain humectants, ingredients that help the preparation preserve or retain moisture, forming a barrier to lock in and stop water from the skin escaping. They can be applied all over the face and body.

Facial moisturisers are used by many people as part of a daily skincare routine to help keep their skin looking and feeling good.

Moisturisers are also an effective way to treat and soothe dry skin conditions like eczema by calming irritation and locking in hydration, calming unpleasant dry skin symptoms.

Moisturiser: structure and ingredients

Most moisturisers feature an oil and water combination . This means they are oil-in-water emulsions. The ratio of oil to water is what makes different products in different formats, for example lotion, cream or ointment. The water is what hydrates the skin, and the oil is what creates a barrier layer to keep that water locked in.

Before using a moisturiser on your baby, you should make sure to check the ingredients on the packaging to ensure the formula does not contain harsh fragrances or chemicals, as your baby’s skin is very sensitive. Your doctor or pharmacist will be able to advice you on what moisturisers are best for your baby’s needs.


Moisturiser: differences between creams and lotions

Moisturiser and emollient technology is always changing, and they come in many different types and formats. The formats you’re likely to come across most are creams, lotions and ointments. You may also find moisturising sprays or soap substitutes.

The main difference between a cream and a lotion is in water/oil percentage, which then effects the thickness and texture of the moisturiser. Lotions are thinner with a higher water percentage, while creams are thicker with a higher oil percentage. Lotions are not greasy and tend to be lightweight, while creams are greasier and can feel heavier on the skin.

Because they are thinner with a higher water content, lotions are usually used for normal to lightly oily skin. The higher oil content in creams makes them ideal for dry skin.

Ointments have a higher oil content than creams. They are greasy, thick, and more moisturising than lotions or creams so are best for very dry or thickened skin. Because of their high oil content, they don’t absorb as easily as creams and lotions and sit on the surface of your skin, so are better at preventing moisture loss.

What sort of moisturiser is needed will depend on skin type and any skin conditions you may be wishing to treat. It’s important to think about oil and water content as well as additional ingredients when shopping for a moisturiser.

Moisturiser: how to use it and healthy tips

Deciding if your baby needs a moisturiser and which one to use can be difficult. It’s advised that you do not use lotions, creams and other moisturisers on very young babies (under four weeks) as the products may be too harsh on their sensitive skin.

If your baby’s skin seems dry, you can start to use an emollient after this stage. Any cream you use on your baby should be gentle and without fragrances, alcohol or artificial colours.

It’s recommended that you talk to your doctor, health visitor or pharmacist before applying any product to your baby’s skin. They can advise you on how to apply it and what product might be best.

If you have been advised to use a moisturiser, you can apply it to your baby’s dry skin every day, as often as is needed. You should use a thick, fragrance free moisturiser every day. You can apply moisturiser all over their body, ideally right after a bath.

Different kinds of moisturiser may be better suited for use at different times of day. As they’re more lightweight, lotions and creams are often better during the day , while ointments may be recommended for use at night or before putting your baby to sleep.

You should be careful of accidentally contaminating the moisturiser you use for your baby by touching it with dirty hands.

Some other tips for keeping your baby’s skin healthy are:

  • Bath them in lukewarm water without soap or other bathing products. You should wash them with plain water, especially during the first four weeks.
  • When drying your baby, make sure you pat down their skin rather than rubbing it, as this can cause irritation.
  • Keep your baby out of the sun as much as you can and use a parasol or cover on their buggy. You should also use a child-safe sunscreen of at least SPF 30 on their skin for protection from UV ray damage. Babies under six months old should be kept out of direct sunlight.
  • Change your baby’s nappy regularly and make sure you change them quickly if their nappy is dirty.
  • Apply a barrier cream like Bepanthen Nappy Care Ointment during every nappy change. Bepanthen can help to protect the vulnerable skin of young babies from irritants and other causes of nappy rash.

You want to make sure your baby is healthy – and that includes looking after their skin! If you want to know more, you can read our blog to learn more about skin irritations in babies or different kinds of baby rashes] .