Diary / Beauty / Jan 2, 2024

What Is an Emollient in Makeup & Skincare Products?

Written by: Piper Gray

Photography by: Ben Ritter & Jon Paterson

Jones Road Beauty model

Navigating the world of beauty terminology (specifically ingredients) can get confusing, fast. That's why it's so crucial to hone in on some key players that could make all the difference in your skincare and makeup routines. Effective, versatile ingredients are foundational elements that bring tangible benefits to the table. 

Let’s talk about emollients: what they are, why they're important, and how they differ from other elements in your products. The goal? To arm you with the knowledge you need to make educated choices for your skin's unique needs. Let’s read on.

What Is an Emollient?

An emollient serves a simple yet critical role: making your skin feel softer and smoother. These substances function by filling in tiny gaps on the surface of your epidermis. 

Emollients are derived from a wide range of sources, such as plant oils, natural lipids, fatty acids, and synthetic materials, and find their way into various skincare and makeup products. They work in various forms, notably emollient creams, lotions, and ointments. 

These items utilize emollients for moisturizing and providing a protective barrier against water loss and environmental factors. Their multitasking capabilities make emollients an essential ingredient in a multitude of skincare and makeup products.

Why Prioritize Emollients?

When it comes to achieving hydrated, supple-looking skin, emollients should not be overlooked. Their role extends far beyond simply softening your skin. They are key players in maintaining your skin’s well-being, especially when adverse conditions or external factors lead to dryness or discomfort. 

One of the chief benefits of emollients is their capacity to offer relief from a range of dermatological issues. If you're contending with conditions like dermatitis, eczema, or psoriasis, emollients can provide a much-needed soothing touch by calming symptoms such as dryness, cracking, or scaling.

But the usefulness of emollients doesn't stop with specific skin conditions. Life circumstances can also wreak havoc on your skin. 

Certain health treatments often lead to dry, sensitive skin, requiring special care. Even frequent hand washing or working with harsh chemicals can strip your skin of its natural moisture, and emollients step in to restore that balance. 

Environmental factors can also play a huge role in the quality and hydration of your skin. Cold, dry air is often a culprit in seasonal skin discomfort. This is exacerbated when every building you walk into is cranking up the heat to combat the cold outside, which dries out your skin. Emollient-rich products can be used to fight these symptoms.

What's the Difference Between an Emollient and a Moisturizer?

When walking the skincare aisles, you might stumble upon the terms "emollient" and "moisturizer" used almost interchangeably. While closely related, they do serve different functions in skincare. 

An emollient is essentially a component found within moisturizers, designed specifically to soften and smooth the feeling of your skin. Different emollients achieve this by filling in gaps in the skin barrier, leading to a smoother texture.

On the other hand, a moisturizer is a broader term encompassing a blend of ingredients, including but not limited to emollients. These formulations work to hydrate the skin by attracting and locking in moisture. 

Understanding this distinction allows you to better tailor your skincare routine, selecting products that deliver hydration, softness, or, ideally, both. But what are the other components of an effective moisturizer you need to be aware of to get the most out of your makeup and skincare products? 

What Are the Other Important Aspects of Hydration?

When we talk about hydration, it's a multi-faceted process that goes beyond just applying a layer of cream. Hydration involves a range of ingredients that draw in, lock in, and sustain moisture in your skin. 

This includes different types of emollients, but other key moisturizers back up your emollient products and promote barrier function and hydration. These ingredients can be broadly categorized into humectants and occlusives, each playing a distinct role in maintaining optimal skin health.


Humectants, such as glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and urea, play a pivotal role in your skin's hydration. These molecules effectively act like magnets. 

They attract water to your skin and bind it to themselves. They can actually bind many times their own weight in water, so their benefit to your skin pays you back in multitudes. 

Using products enriched with humectants can also help minimize transepidermal water loss (TEWL) throughout the day by helping your skin to draw out moisture from even the driest environment, whereas your skin may otherwise lose water. When these moisture magnets are combined with emollients, they elevate your skin's moisture retention capabilities.


Last but not least are occlusives, agents like petrolatum and mineral oil that are experts at sealing in moisture. They create a physical barrier over your skin to prevent moisture loss, essentially locking in all the good work done by humectants and emollients. This layer also protects against external factors like wind and pollution that can dry out your skin. 

Particularly useful in nighttime care, occlusives solidify your skin's moisture barrier, keeping it hydrated and healthy. By employing this trio—emollients, humectants, and occlusives—in a coordinated manner, your skin reaps the benefits of a holistic, multi-layered approach to hydration and care.

How Can I Incorporate Emollients Into My Routine?

When curating a skin care regimen that addresses your skin's unique needs, emollients stand as indispensable assets. Their hydrating properties, ease of application, and compatibility with other skincare ingredients make them a must-have. 

Because of this, we've consciously infused our product line with these skin-loving substances to maximize the feel of hydration, smoothness, and overall skin health. So, let’s talk through some of our favorite products that deliver all of these hydrating ingredients and more.

Jones Road Beauty foundation

What The Foundation

First up in your emollient journey is What The Foundation. It’s a tinted moisture balm and traditional foundation that works in harmony to reveal radiant-looking skin. 

Infused with sodium hyaluronate (another formulation of hyaluronic acid), this product dives deep into the skin layers, providing thorough hydration that goes well beyond surface level. The smooth texture allows for fuss-free blending, creating an even complexion

Your skin feels both fresh and natural. And with 12 expansive shades, every skin tone finds its match. 

Miracle Balm

If you want something that rests perfectly between makeup and skincare, our Miracle Balm is the quintessential product for those who favor the natural look with a little enhancement. 

The formula shines with light-reflecting elements that bring out your skin’s natural beauty. Available in multiple shades, from the clear and opal-tinted Au Naturel to the rich bronze hues of Sunkissed, this balm offers flexibility for all skin tones. 

A proven emollient enriched with fatty acids and an array of skin-nourishing vitamins and minerals, jojoba seed oil stars in this product. Miracle Balm serves not just as a superficial beautifier but as a staple in maintaining a well-hydrated and nourished skin barrier.

The Face Pencil

The grand finale to this trio is The Face Pencil. Whether you're a seasoned makeup artist or just starting your cosmetic journey, this product is for everyone—designed to mask imperfections like redness and dark spots. 

Shea butter, a potent emollient, fortifies the formula, providing your skin with vital vitamins A and E, along with essential fatty acids. In addition to immediate coverage, you'll benefit from long-term hydration and nourishment. 

No chalky undertones to worry about—the clear base assures a match with all complexions. (We recommend keeping two colors on hand, one to cover darker areas and one for lighter. Find your ideal shades with this quick quiz.)

The Bottom Line

The use of emollients can be the cornerstone of effective skincare and makeup. Not only do they offer the immediate feeling of softness and smoothness, but they also support long-term skin health. 

Whether you're a skincare veteran or just starting, incorporating emollient-rich products from Jones Road into your regimen promises a well-rounded approach to skincare. Explore our range and experience the difference that well-formulated, emollient-rich products can make in your beauty journey.

Shop the article:


Miracle Balm


What The Foundation


The Face Pencil

Diary / Beauty / Jan 2, 2024

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