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Natural Humectants: What Are They And Why Should You Use Them?

Natural Humectants; Hyaluronic acid

Being a simple country girl, I never even heard of humectants before I was introduced to natural beauty products. I’d been using lotions and creams for my skin but never really had a clue as to what was really in them. Little did I know what these little wonders can do.

Natural humectants are a skincare superhero, and I don’t just mean in regards to fighting dryness, which they certainly do. They can also help maintain a healthy moisture barrier, smooth the skin, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, exfoliate and prevent irritation and itchiness. 

And the good news is there are some pretty simple ways to incorporate these little beauties into your routine without spending a fortune on fancy products.

Table of Contents

What are Natural Humectants?

Humectants are substances that help moisten the skin thanks to their hygroscopic properties. This means, they draw water molecules from their surroundings into the skin and slow them from evaporating. Thus, keeping your skin hydrated.

How do They Work?

HUMECTANTS are hydrophilic (water-loving) ingredients that help to hydrate the skin and work by drawing moisture from the air or even deeper layer of the skin (dermis) into the outer layer of the skin (epidermis). This process improves moisture levels in the outer layer of the epidermis (stratum corneum).

If you live in a humid latitude, it’s most likely a humectant will draw water from the air. However, suppose you live in an area with very low humidity in the air. In that case, the humectant will attract moisture from the deeper layers of your skin and can be dry instead. Not the look you’re going for! 

That’s why it’s important to choose skincare products that are carefully formulated and suitable for your skin.

Top 5 Natural Humectants Used in Skincare

Natural Humectants

Humectants are popular ingredients in skincare products such as lotions, face masks, and creams as they help to preserve skin’s natural moisture levels. They bind moisture to the skin’s surface and ensure it stays plump, supple and soft to touch throughout the day. Natural humectants come from various sources. The most common types include hyaluronic acid (HA), glycerin, honey, aloe vera, and lactic acid.

1. Hyaluronic Acid (HA)

Let’s start with one of the most popular natural humectants in skin care formulations, hyaluronic acid. Although it is found in our skin, as we age, the natural level of hyaluronic acid depletes, resulting in the loss of moisture (1)and elasticity. 

Here is where hyaluronic acid comes into play. It helps provide continuous hydration by binding water molecules to itself and retaining moisture better than other natural ingredients. It helps to decrease the depth of wrinkles and enhance the skin’s elasticity and firmness (2), making it a sought-after anti-ageing ingredient.

Did you know hyaluronic acid can attract up to 1,000 times its own weight in water?

Please note, that hyaluronic acid can come from animal sources or using fermentation (3). Check with your supplier if unsure. 

2. Glycerin

If you buy lotions, creams or other moisturising products, then there is a good chance they contain glycerin, as it is one of the most commonly used ingredients in cosmetic products. It is mainly used as a humectant to moisture and smooth the skin. Besides that, glycerin also works as an emollient, softening the skin and a gentle exfoliator. It can feel a bit sticky, though, so little goes a long way.

3. Honey

Sweet and sticky, honey is a natural substance that has been used since ancient times to heal, moisturise and soothe the skin. It contains antibacterial properties that can help with healing acneic skin. Besides that, raw honey is also a soothing substance that reduces inflammation and speeds up healing (4). 

You can add it to face masks to moisturise and brighten the skin, as a spot treatment to fade acne scars, and as a base for facial scrubs to exfoliate. 

Just make sure you’re not allergic to it! Do a patch test of the honey or any other ingredients to avoid any allergic reaction.

4. Aloe Vera

You may already know aloe vera gel acts as a natural anti-inflammatory. It is also very healing for your skin, apart from being an effective moisturiser (5). It can help keep sunburns at bay and even protect your skin from minor burns and abrasions, relieving pain and burning feelings. Furthermore, it can soothe irritated skin, improve texture and reduce dryness, making it an invaluable ingredient for all skin types.

5. Lactic Acid

Lactic acid (LA) is a naturally occurring ingredient added to skin care products for its gentle moisturising effect. Plus, it is also effective at treating photodamage (6) and lightening pigmentation. 

Why Should You Use Them

Your skin is made of mostly water (64%, to be exact), so it’s crucial that you help support its natural water balance by keeping it moisturised and hydrated. Incorporating humectants into your skincare regimen can help to:

  • Maintain a healthy moisture barrier. Hydration is the main benefit of humectants. They help to revive and maintain the skin’s natural barrier function. With a well-functioning moisture barrier, your skin can better retain the critical moisture it needs and better ward off irritants and allergens.
  • Keep skin smooth and soft. A consistently moisturised skin is smoother and softer, so ensuring your skin is regularly kept at its optimum hydration level will help achieve this.
  • Help you to age gracefully. Humectants are well known for their abilities to smooth and soften the skin. When applied topically, they can help plump up fine lines and wrinkles, making them appear less noticeable.
  • Prevent irritation and itchiness. Increased hydration can also help restore the skin’s natural barrier function and lock in moisture, thus helping to counteract any irritation or itchiness.
  • Exfoliate. If you need to exfoliate your skin, humectants are an excellent way to do so safely and naturally. You can mix honey with a little bit of water to make it easier to remove and apply to the skin to act like an exfoliating treatment. Leave it on for about 10 minutes and rinse it off with water.

How to Use Them

Hyaluronic acid

Humectants are common in many moisturising skincare products. You can add them to your:

– Face masks. Honey would be an excellent choice to soothe, soften and moisturise the skin. But also to reduce inflammation, face acne scars or exfoliate the skin.  

– Cream and lotions attract and retain moisture in the skin. Hyaluronic acid is one of the most popular choices. 

– Soothing gels for irritated, sensitive and reactive skin. Aloe vera or lactic acid could be a good option for you. Aloe vera can address inflammation and irritation, while lactic acid is effective at removing dead skin cells to reveal brighter, more even skin.

Humectants to Try at Home

Humectants are wildly available in beauty supply shops and online retailers. Here are some popular choices:

  • SKIN DEVA 100% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum For Face. Lightweight and non-greasy, it locks in moisture and keeps skin hydrated all day. 
  • Vegetable glycerin liquid. This colourless, sweet liquid extracted from vegetable oils suits all skin types. You can add it to creams, lotions, bath salts and other homemade beauty formulations for additional moisturisation. 
  • Naissance Aloe Vera Juice 250ml. Aloe Vera Juice is a soothing and moisturising ingredient that is refreshing and reviving, suitable for all skin types. It can be used as a gentle skin tonic; you can add it to your DIY face masks, moisturisers, or calming gel. 
  • Kiva Raw Manuka Honey comes from the remote and pristine hills, forests, and coastal areas of New Zealand. If your skin is irritated, inflamed and needs help, this would be the perfect solution.

Are There Any Possible Side Effects?

People can develop sensitivities to all sorts of ingredients, even natural ones like honey. Do a patch test to be sure you are not sensitive to any new products you are trying out. 

To do this:

  1. Apply a small amount to your skin, like the inside of your arm, and watch the area for up to 48 hours for any sign of a reaction.
  2. Do not try to fight it alone if you get any strange rashes, redness, or other symptoms while using any skincare products.
  3. Seek medical assistance as soon as possible.


Hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, honey, glycerin and lactic acid are among the most popular humectants in natural skincare. Since learning about their benefits, I have been incorporating them into my beauty regime. And as a result, my skin seems much plumper, my skin’s texture has improved, and they help me even out the skin tone. So what are you waiting for? Grab one of these beauties today!


What is the best natural humectant?

Hyaluronic acid is one of the best humectants on the market. It helps provide continuous hydration and retains moisture much better than other natural ingredients due to its unprecedented absorbent capacity. It can help reduce the depth of wrinkles and enhance the skin’s elasticity and firmness. 

What are glycerin substitutes?

If you don’t like glycerin’s sticky texture, you will love sodium lactate (another excellent natural humectant). This natural lactic acid derivative will draw moisture to your skin, adding a supple feel to it you will love. You can read more about formulating with sodium lactate here


  1. Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin ageing
  2. Efficacy of a New Topical Nano-hyaluronic Acid in Humans
  3. Hyaluronic acid – the biotech way
  4. Honey-Based Templates in Wound Healing and Tissue Engineering
  5. Moisturising effect of cosmetic formulations containing Aloe vera extract in different concentrations assessed by skin bioengineering techniques
  6. Topical 8% Glycolic Acid and 8% L-Lactic Acid Creams for the Treatment of Photodamaged SkinA Double-blind Vehicle-Controlled Clinical Trial

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