What are occlusive skincare ingredients?

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Okay, so you’re trying to figure out how to protect your skin barrier . . . but you’re wondering, “what are occlusive skincare ingredients?”

Whether you’re interested in anti aging, managing dry skin, or protecting your skin barrier, occlusive skincare ingredients are essential for you!

In this piece, I’ll explain what occlusive agents are, how they work, and how can you use them to protect your skin’s natural barrier.

Overview of Occlusive Skincare Ingredients

Occlusive agents are waxy substances that form a protective barrier on the surface of the skin. Because they’re composed of fatty acids, they’re oily and consist of larger occlusive molecules.

Oily substances and larger molecules tend to be great to to trap moisture. In fact, petroleum jelly is one of my favorite cosmetic ingredients.

Regardless of the specific type, all occlusives work by forming a physical barrier or protective seal over your stratum corneum. Dry skin in particular will benefit from this thicker consistency.

Occlusive agents work by sealing in moisture and preventing water loss, which helps to keep the skin hydrated and healthy. Additionally, occlusives protect the outermost layer of your skin from external irritants!

An effective occlusive that creates this protective coating is great for wound healing. If you have dry patches, you’ll also benefit from the heavy consistency.

You can sort of think of it like plastic wrap or saran wrap for your food except, you know, for a moisturizing agent on your skin’s surface.

Types of Occlusive Skin Care Ingredients

There are a whole bunch of occlusive agents you can find in your local drugstore or beauty store! Some of the most effective skin occlusive ingredients include:

  • Waxes
  • Petrolatum
  • Dimethicone and other silicones
  • Mineral oil

Waxes

Some common occlusive waves include beeswax from bee honeycomb, cholesterol vegetable waxes, and carnauba wax.

While these aren’t true skin moisturizing agents, you’ll still commonly find them in lip balms!

Petrolatum

CeraVe Healing Ointment, a type of occlusive skincare ingredient, with BowTiedFawn branding

Petroleum jelly is my personal favorite skin occlusive. It is easily accessible and affordable, and people with dry skin tend to love it.

And no, as far as we know, it doesn’t give you cancer. Crude petroleum is not the same thing as refined, white petrolatum!

However, if you’re not comfortable with this one, just skip over it. There are plenty of others for you to choose from.

Dimethicone and Other Silicones

Silicones are commonly used in skincare products because they’re good at forming thin protective barriers in the skin. Plus, most oils play well with it in formulation!

Dimethicone itself is a popular derivative that you’ll find in skincare products like moisturizers.

It is gentle and shouldn’t clog those tiny holes in your skin (pores).

Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is similar to petroleum jelly! It is also derived from crude petroleum, but you’ll more commonly find it in moisturizers.

Typically, you’ll see this effective occlusive on an ingredient list along with moisturizing agents like:

  • Cetyl alcohol
  • Lanolin acid
  • Safflower oil
  • Linoleic acid
  • Stearic acid
  • Propylene glycol sterols
  • Oleic acid
  • Vitamin E oil

Multitasking Occlusives

Most oils (if they’re heavier) will lean occlusive for your skin in some way or another. However, they have more of an emollient effect than a true occlusive.

Some fatty acids like this include:

  • Olive oil
  • Jojoba oil
  • Argan oil
  • Shea butter

They’re great to protect skin, especially the top layer (your stratum corneum). The most effective occlusive ingredients will hydrate skin when paired with humectants!

Are occlusive agents good for skin hydration?

While they don’t directly hydrate your skin, occlusive properties trap water into your skin cells by forming a protective seal. We call this reducing transepidermal water loss tewl.

Instead, a good occlusive ingredient will work well to prevent TEWL when paired with humectants. They work even better if you layer a moisturizer over a hydrating serum, and then your occlusive.

Differences between Humectants and Occlusives

Humectant ingredients hydrated skin through their ability to attract water. Some of my favorite humectants include:

  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Glycerin
  • Panthenol
  • Aloe Vera

So while occlusive agents prevent water loss, humectants help pull water into the skin in the first place.

Additionally, humectants work best when applied to damp skin. Plus, they won’t give you that greasy feeling!

If you’re interested good moisturizers to layer underneath occlusives, read my Stratia Liquid Gold Review and my First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Review. You may also prefer a tinted moisturizer if you normally wear foundation!

In Conclusion

My skincare routine would not be nearly as great for dry skin without occlusives.

Honestly, they can be great for all skin types (especially dehydrated skin) as long as they don’t break you out!

Adding an occlusive to your routine will help protect your stratum corneum by keeping your skin hydrated. As I mentioned earlier, occlusives reduce transepidermal water loss tewl.

However, if you have acne prone skin, they may make your break outs worse so be careful.


When you finally decide to it's time to improve your health and appearance, you need to sign up for my Substack below. Find specific skin routines and protocols in My Roadmap or start with my Basic Skincare Guide.

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