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 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 occlusives work on your skin
Occlusion of the skin means 100% coverage of the skin’s surface; technically, it can restrict your skin from ‘breathing’ or perspiring as it normally would.
The result – humidity softens your 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 your 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 your skin helping to create a barrier against the outside world. They lock in moisture and help prevent TEWL from occurring in your skin’s tissues, in layman’s terms – slow evaporation of water from your skin’s surface.
Occlusives are really lovely in body products; there are fewer oil glands on the body than on your face. Yes, you guessed it, this is the culprit for those winter dry legs, which is why slathering body butter is like pure salvation – everyone say ahhh.
What do occlusives treat?
Occlusion therapy is used to treat conditions like psoriasis and eczema. In dermatology, it is a proven way to increase the effectiveness of topical skin treatments greatly.
When treating specific skin conditions, skin occlusion can be considered for some of the following concerns:
- dry skin
- bed sores
- premature ageing
- impaired barrier function
What are some occlusives used in skincare?
Think all things emolliency – like oils, butters, and proteins that trap moisture close to the skin, and do the double duty of making your skin feel softer.
Other ingredients can be used to occlude your skin; they are referred to in the industry as barrier repairing ingredients like ceramides and cholesterol, because they set up a protective barrier between your 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 your 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 yourskin’s outer layer. 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 this article’s purpose, 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 discussing vaseline
Controversial ingredients like mineral oils, lanolin, and paraffin are common occlusives. They will really cover your skin and won’t let it breathe and are a big no in our clean, beauty products.
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 your 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 stake and label me a heretic.
When your 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 your skins cells.
Now let’s 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.
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. On the other hand, Vaseline 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 you’re keen to learn more about what important ingredients should be in a well-formulated skin cream, this article is worth a read.
Emollients and occlusive used in skincare: https://sciencebecomesher.com/emollients-occlusives-humectants/
What the heck is squalane: https://www.self.com/story/what-is-squalane-oil-skin-care
Emollient and occlusive what is the difference: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/humectants-emollients-and-occlusives-whats-difference
List of occlusive ingredients: https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/occlusive_ingredients_in_moisturizers