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We want to help you understand your skin, so that you know what’s going on with it, what to put on it, and how to care for it. Sciency stuff that answers so many of your skin questions, written in a clear and simple way. Penned by our founder, Ee Ting Ng.

Through thick & thin I: Are thicker products better?

27 May, 2018

Through thick & thin I: Are thicker products better?

Premium skincare products are often portrayed as thick and lavish. These physical characteristics therefore become psychologically associated with quality, which is probably one of the reasons why many people tend to prefer thick and heavy creams.

However, this is not necessarily the case. Let me explain why.

Actives and Viscosity

The first thing to realise is that most actives do not add 'body' to products. Let’s take a look at some actives that we are familiar with.

  • AHAs, amino acids, niacinamide: water-soluble
  • vitamin A, coQ10: oil-soluble
  • argan oil, squalane: oil-based liquids
  • glycerine, panthenol, peptides: water-based liquids

The above actives are either oil/water-soluble or exist in liquid forms, yielding homogeneous solutions after dissolving. 

This is like how adding lots of sugar in water does not actually thicken the water (but instead, the sugar stops dissolving after a certain point).

Myth 1 - Thin products are diluted

Since a liquid can be packed with lots of ingredients and still appear water-thin, it is not exactly right to think that thick products are concentrated and thin products are diluted.

Myth 2 - Thick products moisturise better

Okay, this is not completely a myth. Thick creams are generally good at helping with dry skins as they are occlusive, meaning they reduce water evaporation from skin.

However, this is not to say that light ones are unable to do the job adequately. Effective moisturisation is about both increasing the water content (through humectants) and reducing water loss (through oils). As we have seen earlier, humectants and oils do not contribute to the thickness of a product. As long as a moisturiser contains sufficient oils and humectants, it will be adequately hydrating whether it is thick or thin.

Now we know thickness does not translate to performance, and that active ingredients do not contribute to product thickness. So what exactly makes a product thick? Stay tuned to the following parts of this series to find out!