Glycerin, petroleum jelly, aloe vera gel among accessible skincare products for glazed doughnut skin

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  • Winter is notorious for drying out the skin, but, looking like a glazed doughnut a year-round task.  
  • Glycerin, aloe vera gel and petroleum jelly are OG and accessible products that are key for moisturised skin. 
  • The reason for this is because of the trusted trio: humectants, emollients and occlusives. Understanding these will guide life-long season-less glow.

In the quest to continue looking like a delicious glazed doughnut – yes, even during winter – these essential products are not to be overlooked: glycerin, aloe vera gel and petroleum jelly. These are OG, accessible products that can be easily found in our homes but are key for hydrated and moisturised skin.

Sure, we all love are our luxurious serums and face oils gliding them on with face rollers and crystals – it truly is a treat. However, many of us may recall as children glistening under the because our mothers lathered us in Vaseline or seeing the women in our families incorporating pure glycerin in their beauty routines. There’s a reason these products have stood the test of time – not only are they accessible but they are also incorporated in a large number of products that promise moisture. 

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As soon as I began running my own household, I came across the practically miraculous properties of aloe vera gel and it is now a staple in my beauty cupboard. I often use it as a spot treatment when I get breakouts because it doesn’t dehydrate my skin in the process. I’ve also found it to be incredibly effective for soothing the occasional burn I get from my questionable kitchen skills – we love a versatile queen!

Aloe vera gel, glycerin and petroleum jelly are great because they are ubiquitous, therefore, easy to shop and are often affordably priced.  

So, what makes these products special when it comes to moisture? Well, if you know anything about natural hair you will have the understanding that to ensure lasting moisture you need hydration and something to seal that in with so it doesn’t evaporate quickly. This is very much true for skin as well.

The skincare enthusiasts will then tell you about a trusted trio that is humectants, emollients and occlusives. Before you flee because of the jargon, yes, these are technical terms – and are probably not that Instagrammable beyond the online beauty community – but they useful in understanding how to sustain that glazed doughnut finish in a healthy way.

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So, I reached out to specialist dermatologist Dr Suretha Kannenberg about what these terms mean for the moisture and overall health of the skin.

Glycerin and aloe vera gel are part of a group called humectants – from my experience, these are often the cause of that soothing feeling like there’s water resting on your skin. Dr Suretha says, “Humectants are hygroscopic molecules – attracting and sealing in the water molecules. Moisturising the skin in a passive way.”

Hyaluronic acid is the star of humectants at the moment – yes, it’s that ingredient few of us can pronounce but certainly know it’s what the marketing experts want us to use.

When pursuing dewy skin or a summer glow, humectants are key but would hardly be used alone because they form part of the trusted trio that facilitate long-lasting moisture.

Anyone who has been paying close attention to skincare trends knows how loudly the importance of a healthy skin barrier has been shouted. And, as it so happens, emollients have a key function in this regard. To simplify it, these are found in your daily moisturisers, which can come in gels or creams.

Dr Suretha says, “Emollients usually replenish the lipid layer of the skin. This lipid layer we find between the cells – almost like cement between bricks. This lipid is a critical part of the barrier – keeping the water inside the skin.”

She adds, “I always say that the barrier keeps the good stuff inside and the bad stuff outside. When this lipid layer is stable the skin is stimulated to produce its own natural moisturising factors – so the skin is allowed to fix itself. So, the hydration is replenished in a much more active manner. Emollients will help to maintain and replenish the skin’s hydration.”

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Going back to those childhood memories of being basted in Vaseline, does anyone else have the memory of walking through a dusty, windy day that left your shiny little legs sprinkled in soil? Then, you wipe the soil, together with the petroleum jelly it stuck on, to reveal ashy skin. This basically encapsulates how occlusives function.

“Occlusives simply goes and sits on the outside of your skin – like wrapping yourself in cling wrap,” says Dr Suretha.

When taking a step back to observe the trio (humectants, emollients and occlusives) and how they form part of the bigger moisturisation picture, it’s helpful to note the following from Dr Suretha:

“The best moisturisers contain mostly emollients with a little bit of humectants. Occlusives are good in certain instances however: hand eczemas requiring protection against constant exposure to water – this serves almost as a glove protecting against the elements.”

Glycerin, aloe vera gel and petroleum jelly in their basic form are hero elements in a skincare routine, however, with great power come great responsibility. When used in ill-advisable ways, they can be counterproductive – such as preventing your skin from accessing and retaining the moisture it needs.

Whether you’re a three-step or a ten-step skincare gal, the general guide for a moisturising routine is water first, oil last.

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