Occlusive Ingredients in Moisturizers and Masks

a dermatologist stirring an ointment in a jar

Occlusive ingredients are found in moisturizers, creams, ointments and masks.  Occlusive skin care products have occlusive ingredients that occlude (or block) the skin’s surface.  Keep reading for a list of occlusive ingredients in skin care products and to learn how occlusives work.

Are occlusive ingredients right for your Baumann Skin Type?    Shop by your Baumann Skin Type to find out.

How do occlusive ingredients in skin care creams and masks work?

Occlusive ingredients have important functions in skin care products:

  • Prevent water from evaporating off of the skin
  • Function as an emollient to coat the skin, fill in ridges, and make the skin feel smooth
  • Push other ingredients that are put under the occlusive into the skin to increase absorption
  • Prevent absorption or contact of ingredients and allergens that are placed over the occlusive
  • Protect skin from allergens, irritants and extreme cold

Occlusive explanation of absorption

Occlusives are made of oils, fatty acids, or films and patches such as colloidal membranes. Occlusives in moisturizing creams, ointments, hydrating masks and patches prevent water evaporation off of the skin known as transepidermal water loss (TEWL). They prevent TEWL by putting a protective coating on the skin's surface.

The pressure of the water that wants to evaporate off the skin but cannot because of the occlusive barrier causes a downward pressure on the skin.  This downward pressure pushes in any ingredients on the skin’s surface under the occlusive. The pressure of occlusion:

  • Increases skin penetration and absorption of the skin care product or medication that is placed under the occlusive.
  • Decreases skin penetration and absorption of anything such as skin care ingredients, allergens and irritants placed over the occlusive.

Occlusives do not have to be moisturizers or cosmetic products.  They are often used to deliver drugs.  Occlusives can be oils, ointments, plastic wrap or skin patches. For example, nicotine and estrogen patches are on occlusive patches that push the medication into your skin. Saran wrap occludes the skin and increases the penetration of any medication below it. Oils on the skin are occlusive as well.  

Occlusion can also happen when one body part pushes on another.  For example, if you have large breasts, the skin under the breasts may occlude the skin at the top of the rib cage.  This also happens under the arms and in the groin area.  This is why these areas can get rashes and skin allergies to certain products- because the allergens get pushed into the skin by occlusion (the pressure of the skin upon other skin).

occlusive moisturizers and ingredients

How Do Occlusives Ingredients in Moisturizers and Masks Work?

Occlusive ingredients, patches, masks or plastic wraps have several functions:

  1.  Hydrate the skin by preventing evaporation of water off the skin
  2. Prevent evaporation of any medication or skin care product on the skin
  3. Push ingredients or medications into the skin
  4. Protect the skin from friction
  5. Protect the skin from excessively cold temperatures
  6. Speed wound healing by keeping the wound wet and growth factors on the skin’s surface

Some occlusive agents work better than others. The size and material of the occlusive play a large role in determining its effectiveness of the occlusive. A thick plastic for example would occlude more than a  light cream moisturizer.  An ointment will occlude more than a lotion or a serum. In skincare, larger molecules tend to occlude better than smaller molecules.

However, skincare products with larger occlusive molecules such as ointments tend to be thick and difficult to spread on your skin. For this reason, occlusives are often formulated in skincare products with other ingredients to help make them more spreadable and convenient to use.

Vaseline and Aquaphor are well known occlusives.  There is a new skin care trend in to use Vaseline, Aquaphor and other ointments or oils on top of skincare products to “slug” the skin.  Slugging the skin means increasing the penetration of skincare ingredients. Click here to learn more about how to use occlusive ingredients to slug the skinJello skin is skin that is full of water due to the use of occlusive skin care ingredients.

What Are Some Examples Of Occlusive Ingredients In Skincare?

This list is in alphabetical order. You can click on these occlusive ingredients to learn more about how they work. Many have other benefits such as antioxidant or anti-inflammatory benefits.

  • Argan oil
  • Beeswax
  • Borage Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Emu Oil
  • Jojoba oil
  • Lanolin
  • Mineral oil
  • Olive oil
  • Petrolatum
  • Safflower oil
  • Tamanu oil

Mineral oil and petrolatum are two of the most effective occlusive ingredients and have been used as effective moisturizers for many decades. Petrolatum and mineral oil are petrochemical byproducts made from crude oil production, so they have a negative impact on the environment.

eco-friendly occlusive oils

We suggest using more eco-friendly occlusive agents such as:

  • argan oil
  • borage seed oil
  • jojoba oil
  • safflower oil

Olive oil is often used as an occlusive on the skin, but it is rich in the fatty acid 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 the fatty acid linoleic acid, which can help to repair the skin barrier and reduce inflammation.

Click here to learn more about fatty acids in skin care.

Here are some of the best oils to use for skin occlusion:

Which Occlusive Ingredients Are Best For Your Baumann Skin Type®?

The best occlusive ingredients for you depend upon what barriers to skin health you have. To find  exactly which occlusive moisturizers, oils, and masks are best for you, shop by your Baumann Skin Type.

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