Some confusion exists among physicians, pharmacologists, and cosmetic chemists as to just what constitutes an emollient. For the purpose of this discussion, an emollient is defined as any externally applied material that tends to prevent or counteract the symptoms and signs of dryness of the skin. Very mild dryness may be apparent only as superficial scaling of the skin, but severe dryness may be accompanied by considerable scaling, fissuring, inflammation, pain, or itching. If emollients and dryness are so defined, it becomes apparent at once that the emollient creams and lotions produced by the cosmetic manufacturer and the simple emollient ointments and lotions prescribed by the physician have much in common. Their functions are the same. The cosmetic manufacturer and the physician probably can learn from each other.
The majority of emollients, cosmetic or pharmaceutical, are mixtures of an oil and water. In addition, an emulsifying agent is used to
Blank IH. ACTION OF EMOLLIENT CREAMS AND THEIR ADDITIVES. JAMA. 1957;164(4):412–415. doi:10.1001/jama.1957.62980040012013
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