An emollient softens dry, rough, flaky skin, making it look and feel better. When the top layer of your skin doesn’t contain enough water, it dries out. This causes skin to crack and flake off, leaving open spaces between the cells in your skin. Emollients fill those spaces with fatty substances, called lipids, which make your skin smoother and softer. Emollients that contain a lot of oil are also occlusive agents. This means they coat your skin with a thin oily film that seals the water in your skin. Occlusive agents keep your skin hydrated longer.