Are Occlusive Ingredients the Holy Grail for Dry Skin

Occlusive Ingredients Found in Dry Skin Moisturisers

Updated 01/09/20

If you suffer from dry skin do you feel as though you’re missing something?

That you woke up one day and suddenly every moisturiser contains occlusive ingredients?

And what the heck is an occlusive anyway? And exactly why should you be slathering it on your face?

If you suffer from dry, flaky, skin, then occlusives could just be your new best friend.

If you feel like you have missed out on the emollient train, fear not – our interpretation of the best skincare occlusions will have you covered..excuse the pun!

How do Occlusives Work on the Skin?

Occlusion of the skin means 100% coverage of the surface of the skin, technically it can restrict the skin from ‘breathing’ or perspiring as it normally would.

The result – humidity softens the skin and increases the penetration of the topicals.

So in layman’s terms, think about how a bandaid works when you’ve slathered it in hydrocortisone and covered it, all wrinkled, uber soft and hydrated, sealing the wound, and protecting it from infection.

In the pharmaceutical world that’s exactly what a true occlusive does on the skin, just like cling wrap, there we said it – can we get a drum roll, please?

In the world of cosmetics, occlusives are a little less drastic, creating a thin film over the skin helping to create a barrier against the outside world. They lock in moisture and help to prevent TEWL from occurring in the skin’s tissues, in layman’s terms – slow evaporation of water from the skin’s surface.

Occlusives are really lovely in body products, there are fewer oil glands on the body than on the face. Yes, you guessed it, this is the culprit for those winter dry legs, which is why slathering body butter on is like pure salvation – everyone say ahhh.

So What do Occlusives treat?

Occlusion therapy is used to treat conditions like psoriasis and eczema. In the field of dermatology, it is a proven way to greatly increase the effectiveness of topical skin treatments.

When treating specific skin conditions, skin occlusion can be considered for some of the following concerns:

  • dry skin
  • eczema
  • psoriasis
  • dermatitis
  • bed sores
  • photo-damage
  • premature ageing
  • impaired barrier function

What are Some of the Occlusives used in Skincare?

The occlusive we use in the Naked Chemist formulas

Think all things emolliency – like oils, butters, and proteins that trap moisture close to the skin, and do the double duty of making our skin feel softer.

There are other ingredients that can be used to occlude the skin, they are referred to in the industry as barrier repairing ingredients like ceramides and cholesterol because they set up a protective barrier between the skin and the outside world.

Waxes are great occlusive ingredients, this is the way lip balms work – they trap in the moisture on your lips. If you’re looking for a really occlusive product, look no further than ceramide barrier repair balm, filled with skin-loving occlusive oils, butters, ceramides, lipids, and waxes.

  • allantoin helps to improve the water content of the epidermis
  • wax including beeswax is a wonderful occlusive ingredient, especially for dry, chapped hands and lips
  • lecithin are phospholipids that are important occlusive that naturally absorbs, helping to repair an impaired barrier
  • gorgeous butters like cocoa, mango, and shea stick around on the skin, helping to protect it from the outside world
  • squalane the sebaceous glands responsible for producing sebum – a cocktail of wax esters, triglycerides, and squalene, create a protective coating on the outer layer of skin. Sebum helps to moisturise and keep the protective barrier intact
  • ceramides are skin-identical ingredients that are missing, we combine them in Fortify barrier repair cream, to replenish ingredients that deplete over time, through trauma or with age

For the purpose of this article, we are outlining most of the occlusive used in personal care products.

Our clean and conscious beauty standpoint means many of those ingredients mentioned below, we don’t include in our formulas.

  • hydrocarbons: Petroleum Jelly, paraffin, mineral oil, squalene, and caprylic/capric triglyceride
  • fatty acids: Stearic acid and lanolin acid
  • fatty alcohols: Lanolin, cetyl alcohol, and stearyl alcohol
  • phospholipids: Soy or sunflower lecithin
  • polyhydric alcohols: Propylene glycol
  • sterols: Cholesterol and ceramides
  • vegetable waxes: Candelilla and carnauba wax
  • wax esters: Beeswax, lanolin and stearyl stearate

No Article Would be Complete Without Mentioning Vaseline

Controversial ingredients like mineral oils, lanolin, and paraffin are common occlusives. They really do cover the skin and won’t let it breathe and are a big no in our clean, beauty products.

Yet research these ingredients on the internet, and the Google gods will return claims from models, on how they profess to them being the only ingredients they use on their skin. Case in point Tyra banks.

The mind truly does boggle, especially if we refer back to the ‘band-aid’ analogy and how the long term use of such occlusives can make the skin go all wrinkly – can we get an amen!

In saying that Vaseline does deserve its own special mention here, even if you want to burn me at the stake and label me a heretic.

When skin is highly inflamed and the protective barrier is damaged beyond repair, Vaseline can TEMPORARILY come to the rescue.

Why? Because it is a water repellent and nonwater soluble, sealing in that much-needed moisture, because it forms a hydrophobic film between the skins cells.

Now let’s just reiterate we’re not suggesting that you rush out and buy vats of Vaseline, and use nothing else on your skin for the rest of your life uh hum Tyra.

But as a one-off temporary fix, if your barrier has been badly compromised and your skin is burning and stinging, vaseline is a good temporary measure for immediate relief – it’s literally like putting a sheet of plastic over your skin, preventing evaporation from the surface of your skin.

Now please don’t confuse VASELINE with PETROLEUM JELLY which has different grades of purity, so how toxic your petroleum jelly products are you will never know. Vaseline, on the other hand, is very refined, triple purified, and is regarded as a noncarcinogenic by product.

Like the sound of what this product does, but looking for a natural alternative? Then a healing container of skin slathering Tamunu and Avoodcado treatment balm will do the trick, and the really great thing it can be used as little or as often as you want, to treat your dry skin concerns.

The naked truth

The only real downside to using occlusives is that they can be greasy, causing inflamed breakouts and in some cases acne breakouts. For this reason, we avoid using occlusives in our formulas for a combination and oily skin type, especially those that are prone to spots, pimples, or breakouts.

Now we appreciate if you throw in the changes in location, seasons, and ageing, suddenly this basic skincare steps become pretty complex, so striking the right balance for your skin is the key to elevating your skincare strategy.

Those with combination or oily skin require a gel-based humectant formula, and for those with dry skin, layering humectants, emollients, and occlusive, is going to be the key to your healthy skin routine.

if your keen. to learn more about what important ingredients should be in a well-formulated skin cream, then this article is worth a read.


Emollients and occlusive used in skincare:
What the heck is squalane:
Emollient and occlusive what is the difference:
List of occlusive ingredients:

4 thoughts on “Are Occlusive Ingredients the Holy Grail for Dry Skin

    • Verified Author Samantha Miller replied:

      Hi natasha, your skin is the largest organ on the body, it’s an expression used in the beauty industry to mean, let it function without covering it in occlusive ingredients like petroleum, that block bores and prevent oxygen getting into pores which kill harmful bacteria such as p.acnes

  1. Tony says:

    I have 4 areas that I think are dehydrated and damaged. Forearms, underarms, back of neck and above knees. No lotions work and I have tried oils also. Lmk what I can do. Feels like skin us tight and dry under but oily on top at times. Then other times it is just dry feeling. After washing it is very tight and dry. Thanks.

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