What Are Occlusives?

what are occlusives

Occlusives are a type of moisturizing agent that work by forming a protective coating on the surface of your skin. They are usually oily or waxy. Think of occlusives as “Saran Wrap” for your skin. In the same way plastic wrap forms a barrier between your food and the outside environment, occlusives prevents harmful particles from entering your skin and keep moisture sealed inside.

This guide answers your most frequently asked questions about occlusive ingredients in skin care. 

Click here to learn more about occlusives in moisturizers and masks.

Click here to learn how occlusives can be used for skin slugging.

How Do Occlusive Ingredients Work?

As described above, occlusives help to keep your skin hydrated by reducing transepidermal water loss (TEWL). This occurs when too much moisture is able to escape from your skin into the air, causing dryness, flaking, and itching.

Occlusives work by creating a barrier between your skin and the air, which offers two primary benefits:

1) to keep water sealed inside your skin

2) to keep irritants, allergens, and other harmful particles from being able to enter your skin.

Some occlusive agents work better than others depending upon:

Since larger molecules tend to remain on the skin’s surface longer than smaller molecules, which can more readily penetrate the stratum corneum, they are generally the strongest occlusives. However, ingredients with larger occlusive molecules tend to be thicker and therefore may not be as appealing to use on your skin. For this reason, occlusives are often formulated with other ingredients to help make them more spreadable and convenient to use.

What Are Some Examples of Occlusive Cosmetic Ingredients

Most oils and waxy substances act as occlusives, including:

  • Mineral oil
  • Petrolatum
  • Lanolin
  • Beeswax
  • Olive oil
  • Argan oil
  • Jojoba oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Tamanu oil

Mineral oil and petrolatum are two of the most effective occlusive ingredients, but they are byproducts of gasoline production, so there are questions concerning their impact on the environment.

If you would prefer to use a more eco-friendly occlusive agent, try a plant-based ingredient like argan oil, jojoba oil, or safflower oil.

While olive oil is an occlusive agent, it is not the best moisturizing ingredient to use on your skin. It is rich in oleic acid, which can create tiny holes in your skin and therefore damage your skin’s natural barrier. Argan oil is a much better option, as it is high in linoleic oil, which can help to repair the skin barrier.

Argan oil is a favorite occlusive moisturizing ingredient that also provides anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits to skin.

Argan Oil As a Protective Ingredient For Skin

Argan oil is an occlusive ingredient that is special because in addition to having occlusive properties, argan oil also has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects due to its high concentration of linoleic acid and Vitamin E.  The best Argan oil comes from Morocco. 

Argan Oil can help protect skin from winter cold and wind burn.

What Are the Best Occlusive Moisturizing Ingredients for Dry Skin?

Occlusives are often paired with humectant ingredients to achieve the best outcome.

When used on their own, humectants can sometimes cause the skin to become dehydrated. Pairing an occlusive with the humectant can counteract this effect. However, both humectants and occlusives have a temporary moisturizing and protective effect on your skin. Occlusives need to be present on your skin in order for them to seal in water and keep irritants out. So you will need to reapply products that contain them to maintain the results.

Barrier repair moisturizers address an underlying cause of dry skin to provide longer-lasting results. These products mimic the natural structure and ratio of lipids found on your skin that function as a natural protective barrier. The best barrier repair cream will contain fatty acids, ceramides, and cholesterol – the three main fats (lipids) naturally found on healthy skin. Zerafite™ and EpiCeram are two excellent barrier repair creams. Zerafite products are physician-dispensed products and EpiCeram requires a prescription.

In Summary

Occlusives are important moisturizing agents that work by sealing moisture inside and keeping harmful particles out. They are best for dry skin types.

To find out if you are a dry Baumann Skin Type®, take the skin type quiz at 

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December 28, 2018 Eczema/Dry Skin