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What is a natural humectant?

What is a natural humectant?

The word "humectant" comes from the Latin word "humectare", meaning to moisten. And that is exactly what a humectant does. Humectants pull moisture from whatever they encounter. This can be the air around them or in the case of skincare, humectants can pull moisture from the lower levels of the skin and bring it to the surface.  

Humectants bond water molecules to them, in what is called a hydroscopic effect. This basically means (and all you need to remember) that a humectant pulls moisture to itself.

Simply put, humectants attract water.

So when you use humectants on your skin, the humectant supports moisturizing (as long as you don't use too much of it). There are both natural and synthetic humectants available. Goat Milk Stuff uses only natural humectants to draw moisture to your skin and enhance your skin's natural ability to hydrate itself.

There are several natural humectants you can find in soaps, cosmetics, and moisturizers. They include glycerin, honey, aloe vera, and lactic acid.

Glycerin is a natural humectant. Glycerin, or glycerol, is a powerful humectant that is easily absorbed through the skin. It is a natural product derived from the chemical reaction (saponification) that makes soap.

When you mix all the ingredients together to make soap, the key inputs are fatty acids and lye. These fatty acids (fats or oils) that you start with have glycerol in them. During the soap making process, the fatty acids mix with the lye, and the outputs are soap and glycerin. The glycerin is formed when the fatty acids release the glycerol.

In most commercial soaps, the glycerin is then removed and sold off as a valuable by-product. These companies then replace the moisturizing properties of glycerin with cheaper synthetics like urea or lithium chloride, both of which can be irritating to your skin.

In contrast, Goat Milk Stuff soaps contain all the naturally occurring glycerin that is produced during the saponification reaction. This creates a moisturizing bar of soap because the natural humectant, glycerin, is retained in perfect balance with the soap.

We also don't add glycerin to our soaps. While the naturally occurring glycerin helps moisturize your skin, too much glycerin can actually draw too much moisture out of your lower skin levels and cause skin dryness instead of relieving it. 

The glycerin in our goat milk soaps is in perfect balance and helps your skin retain just the right amount of moisture.

Lactic acid is a natural humectant. Lactic acid in skincare is often promoted for its ability to help remove dead skin cells, which uncovers new cells on the surface of your skin. This leaves your skin smoother and looking younger. It does this by breaking down the bonds holding dead skin cells together. But lactic acid is also a humectant and aids in moisturizing your skin.

Goat milk naturally contains lactic acid. We don't have to guess at the amounts of lactic acid to add to soap (too little isn't beneficial and too much can be irritating) because it is naturally and perfectly balanced in the goat milk.  

As opposed to soaps made with water, the lactic acid in goat milk soap produces the perfect combination for cleaning and moisturizing your skin. The exfoliating properties of lactic acid first aids in breaking down that top layer of dead skin cells. Then the humectant properties of lactic acid draws moisture to fresh new cells, helping to create soft and supple skin. 

Honey is a natural humectant. Honey is a combination of fructose and glucose and is another ingredient that both exfoliates and moisturizes. Both these forms of sugar are humectants. In fact, all sugars draw and hold moisture to them. We add honey to the Oatmeal Milk & Honey goat milk soap which is a humectant rich soap containing glycerin, lactic acid, and honey.

Aloe Vera is a natural humectant. Aloe plants are succulents, meaning they gorge water and hold it in their leaves. The juice of the aloe plant is often used as a natural humectant. Aloe juice or gel penetrates deep into the layers of skin and binds water to itself. This creates a naturally moist environment that is great for healing, which is why aloe is often used for sunburns. We add aloe to our goat milk shaving soap because it can provide extra moisture to skin that is chafed by shaving.

Humectants vs Emollients and Occlusives

Humectants are not the only category of ingredients to aid in moisturizing your skin. There are two others as well.

Emollients.  Emollient means "to soften or sooth". In contrast to a humectant which pulls moisture to itself, an emollient is designed to trap water on the skin and usually uses oils to do so. When the top layer of your skin dries out, it cracks. Emollients fill the spaces between those cracked cells with lipids (fatty substances such as shea butter or sunflower oil).

Occlusives.  An occlusive is something that has retentive properties and prevents water loss. Occlusive ingredients include lanolin, mineral oil, silicones, and beeswax. If emollients are applied very heavily, they can act as an occlusive.

Your skin may often be bombarded by drying conditions such as hot weather, winter air, or an arid climate. If your skin is dry, a humectant will draw water to your skin and emollients and occlusives will help your skin retain the water it drew.

Our goat milk soaps all use glycerin and lactic acid as humectants to help maintain the moisture in your skin. They are designed to clean your skin without drying it out.

If you're suffering from dry or cracking skin, adding goat milk solid lotion to your skin will add extra moisture. The solid lotions contain ingredients that have emmolient, occlusive, and humectant properties. These are the ingredients in the red label Unscented goat milk solid lotion.

  • Soybean oil - Emollient
  • Beeswax - Occlusive
  • Sunflower oil - Emollient
  • Cocoa butter - Emollient
  • Shea butter - Occlusive
  • Dehydrated Goat Milk - Humectant
  • Vitamin E - Occlusive

We've designed this formula to contain a combination of these three moisturizing actions so that it creates an ideal moisturizer. You can trust your skin to the goodness of goat milk if you want healthy skin that is softer and smoother.

"Leaves skin feeling clean, smooth and moisturized. Thank you GMS!!" - Aldina
"I am so excited to find Goat Milk Stuff & try the lotion stick! It's not like any lotion I have tried before & it leaves my skin soft without being greasy. It's so nice to use on my hands & not have lotion all over my jewelry. Also love it on my feet. Keeps me soft & moisturized all over!!!" - Shirley
Have you noticed a difference in your skin after using goat milk soaps and solid lotions? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

Note: We have several different formulas in our soaps and lotions so that people with allergies or sensitivities have options. If you find your skin is still dry, try a different formula to see if that makes a difference. 

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