[UPDATED APR 25 2024] Facial Oil vs Cream: Which one is better for moisturizing?

This journal is translated from an article written by Dr. Park Kyung Chan, a board-certified dermatologist, professor of Dermatology Department at Seoul National University College of Medicine and CEO of Wellskin Korea. 

There are many good moisturizers on the market these days, so fewer people use oil as a moisturizer like in the past. Still, there are people who use oil to moisturize. Today, let's discuss whether oil or cream is better for maximum moisturizing effect.

Moisturizer is a product that helps reduce dryness, and also maintains smoothness by adding moisture to the skin. In order to maintain skin moisture, it is essential for the skin barrier to be functioning.


There are several groups of ingredients that help to effectively moisturize, one of which is 'humectants', which holds water. Humectants have the ability to absorb surrounding water and pull them into your skin. Typical humectants include glycerin, hyaluronic acid and AHAs.

Examples of products containing humectants:

De:maf All Day Glow Creamy Milk Cleanser contains hyaluronic acid and glycerin.

USOLAB Bio Moisturizing Hyaluron Set contains hyaluronic acid and glycerin.


The second group of ingredient for moisturizing effect are occlusives. Occlusives create a membrane that surrounds the skin to prevent moisture from evaporating away. The most common occlusives are oils, such as mineral oil, beeswax, olive oil, argan oil and jojoba oil. Some occlusives also act as humectants at the same time.

Examples of products containing occlusives:

De:maf Here-Oh My First Serum a.k.a Bubble Toner contains jojoba oil and hyaluronic acid.

De:maf Here-Oh My Glow Recipe a.k.a All-Purpose Oil contains jojoba oil.


The last important type of ingredient for moisturizing effect are emollients. Emollients soften the skin by helping to smooth and repair any damage on the surface of the skin. If you take a look at moisturizers, many of them state that they contain ceramides, which are substitutes for skin barrier function. Besides ceramides, some other emollients include plant oils, shea butter, cocoa butter and fatty acids.

Examples of products containing emollients:

Ceramine Aqua Chamaecyparis Obtusa Leaf Mask Pack contains ceramides.

Ceramine Time Solution Cream contains ceramides.

So, is oil better for moisturizing effect? Or is cream better?

That becomes easier to answer after we've learnt about humectants, occlusives and emollients.

Because oil only acts as an occlusive, we can't rely on it to hold moisture in the skin, and it does not contain skin barrier substitutes. Therefore, for effective moisturization, it is better to apply a cream that contains humectants, occlusives and emollients.

Using something like olive oil alone may make your skin feel hydrated at that moment, but it is important to remember that using oil alone in the long run is not desirable because it does not improve skin barrier function nor retain moisture.

Eunogo would like to thank Dr. Park Kyung Chan for his permission to feature his article on our Beauty Journal.



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