Author: Prof. Dr. med. Peter Altmeyer

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Last updated on: 29.10.2020

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Emollentium; Emollientia; Emollients

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Emolliens (from lat. emollire, softening, singular: the emollient) is the name given in the pharmaceutical industry to ingredients in cosmetic products that relax the skin, making it soft and smooth. Emollients have a smoothing effect by "filling up" the unevenness between the exfoliating horny cells. These unevennesses cause a roughness in the skin not only palpatory but also optically. The skin appears softer and smoother. Emollients further increase the cohesion between the horny cells and "smooth" raised edges of the horny cells. This smoothing effect increases the refraction of light on the skin. The skin also appears optically smoother.

In addition there is a covering effect. Depending on the substance, this results in additional protection against penetrating germs. Furthermore the transepidermal water loss is reduced. The application of emollients is of particular importance in dry skin of the elderly and in patients with atopic eczema.

Emollients can be ingredients of lotions, creams or ointments in different combinations and concentrations and have a considerable influence on their pharmacological properties.

Examples of frequently used emollients are lanolin, paraffins, saturated and/or unsaturated fatty alcohols, fatty acids and their derivatives, which may be branched and/or unbranched. Other frequently used emollients are: propylene glycol mono fatty acid esters and propylene glycol difatty acid esters, such as propylene glycol caprylate (e.g. Miglyol® 840), propylene glycol dilaurate, propylene glycol hydroxystearate, propylene glycol isostearate, propylene glycol laurate, propylene glycol ricinoleate, propylene glycol stearate, etc.

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In the Anglo-American language area the term "emolliens" is clearly defined more broadly and often includes generally "caring dermatics".

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  1. Hon KL et al (2013) Barrier repair therapy in atopic dermatitis: an overview. At J Clin Dermatol 14:389-399.
  2. Lynde CW et al (2016) The Skin Microbiome in Atopic Dermatitis and Its Relationship Emollients. J Cutan Med Surg 20:21-28.
  3. Ng JP et al (2015) Use of emollients in atopic dermatitis. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 29:854-857.

Outgoing links (3)

Fatty acids; Lanolin (inci); Paraffins;


Last updated on: 29.10.2020