What are occlusives in skincare?


The ever-producing industry of skincare comes along with trends that promise to repair one or all kinds of skincare issues. Each newly-released product seems to contain new ingredients from the deepest essence of nature to transform your skin from its dull appearance to a radiant one. From serums to essences to moisturizers, comes along a new skincare product called Occlusives. 

Occlusive skincare works exactly how they sound – they serve as a barrier that protects the skin and helps lock in your base products against harmful environmental stressors. For many enthusiasts new to skincare, occlusives may sound unfamiliar as it doesn't have the PR as serums and moisturizers. However, this article presents detailed information on what occlusive is, as well as debunks common misconceptions about the effects they possess on the skin. 

Are occlusives good for skin? 

Wondering what are occlusives in skincare, occlusives are hydrating or moisturizing agents that establish a protective layer on the skin's surface to prevent the loss of moisture. It exhibits these protective features by copying the natural lipid barrier of the human skin. Alongside these moisture preservations, it also aids in creating an invisible barrier against environmental irritants like dust, wind, pollen, and air. Interestingly, certain occlusives, like petrolatum and shea butter offer multiple features like softening the skin, as well as smoothing the skin texture. 

The main property of occlusives lies in keeping the skin hydrated by minimizing Trans-Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL). It occurs when excess skin moisture escapes the skin causing dryness, flakiness, and itching. The effectiveness of occlusive agents depends on the fatty acid composition of the moisturizer. Larger molecules generally exhibit stronger occlusive properties while smaller molecules tend to possess weaker occlusive properties.

However, it is important to know that ingredients with larger occlusive molecules tend to be thicker, which may not be as suitable for everyday use. Moreso, it may clog the skin pores and increase the chances of acne and other skin ailments on acne-prone or sensitive skin. To circumvent this, occlusives should be combined with other ingredients with less viscosity to enhance use and improve the convenience of application.


Benefits of occlusive in skin care 

Many occlusive products incorporate ingredients like glycolic acid, vitamin C, Pro-Retinol, and broad-spectrum SPF for extra benefits. These products are designed to hydrate and also provide extra benefits such as brightening the skin tone, evening out skin color, reducing hyperpigmentation, and smoothening out fine lines and wrinkles. 

The addition of SPF into many occlusive brands is to help protect the skin against aging UVA/UVB rays that react with certain chemical components such as retinol, glycolic acid, and Vitamin C. Nowadays, many occlusive in skin care are being enriched with beneficial products like collagen peptides and niacinamide that helps in firming the skin and preventing creases. Hence, regular and consistent application of these products can cause occlusion of the skin, hydration, reduce creases, and provide an overall youthful look and complexion.

In addition, many hydrophobic occlusive moisturizers like petroleum jelly (paraffin) and dimethicone prevent skin moisture evaporation. To achieve your desired results, we recommend you apply them to slightly wet skin, rather than dry skin. Occlusives work beyond improving your skin's aesthetic appearance, it can help manage serious skin conditions. 

For instance, people with mild to moderate psoriasis can employ occlusives to reduce itching, and skin scaling, and help restore their skin's PH balance. It is sometimes recommended by doctors and other dermatologists in treating these conditions in certain patients. Regular application of occlusives to the skin can also help reduce the reliance or dependence on topical skin steroids such as corticosteroids for skin conditions like eczema in kids and adults. Likewise, occlusives have been shown to treat skin irritations such as diaper rash in kids and burns induced by X-ray and radiation. 

For instance, popular occlusives, Lanolin Oil, can treat dry skin and reduce moisture evaporation by 20-30%. Its hydrating properties go as far as improving the appearance and skin texture of rough and dry skin. Another commonly used occlusive, dimethicone, is preferred for its availability, affordability, ease of application, and ability to produce a strong skin barrier. Although synthetic, it imparts a greasy sensation upon application and helps achieve occlusion skin.


Occlusive vs Humectant 

This section explains the differences between occlusive vs humectant. Humectants are ingredients designed to lock in moisture from the environment onto the skin surface, ensuring skin hydration. Common humectants found in today's market are Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid, and Beta Glucan. Humectants are beneficial to those with dry skin and are thus, essential to prevent flaking. This is why Dermaclara's Hyaluronic Acid Moisturizer has gained popularity among skincare enthusiasts for its ability to effectively hydrate the skin after cleansing with Dermaclara's Claraprep Cream-to-foam Cleanser.

However, using humectants alone can sometimes lead to the skin becoming dehydrated. To counteract this effect, we recommend you combine an occlusive. Occlusives need to remain on the skin's surface to seal in water and prevent irritants from entering. Hence, both humectants and occlusives provide temporary moisture and protection to the skin.

Occlusive vs Emollient 

Emollient vs occlusive has been a major topic of concern, this section sheds light on the differences. Emollients are designed to smoothen and soften the skin, unlike humectants and occlusives. They do this by operating via a mechanism that allows them to fill in between the skin cell gaps, which inadvertently enhances the skin barrier function and improves its flexibility. Compared to occlusives for skin, emollients tend to have a softer, silkier texture and feel less bulky on the skin. Hence, the difference between occlusive vs emollient. Emollients are suitable for all skin types, especially acne-prone skin. 

Common naturally occurring emollients can be found in substances like palm oil and coconut oil. Also, emollient skin-filling properties can be found in oat ingredients, such as kernel flour commonly found in oatmeal lotions. These ingredients contain lipids and other beneficial components that contribute to improving skin texture and suppleness. We recommend you select moisturizers that contain emollient ingredients like Ceramides, Cholesterol, Squalane, Oatmeal, and Shea Butter.

How long does the occlusive effect last on the skin?

An occlusive ingredient's molecules must be able to align to form a tight barrier for it to have an occlusive effect. The most effective chains for this alignment are short, straight ones of the same length. An occlusive product is inherently less effective when it is composed with varied types of chains or with different chain lengths. Hence, occlusives like mineral oils are perfect products that provide maximum protection. They are often incorporated in major skincare products we use such as lotions, face creams, serums, and oils. 

Because skin moisture affects product solubility and distribution on the epidermis, it can be challenging to predict how occlusives would behave. Depending on the penetrating chemical, occlusives may have varying impacts on penetrating and enduring effects. Occlusive substances appear to work best when applied to damp skin, and they only work while they are still on the skin, as soon as they are taken off, TEWL levels revert to normal. They are appropriate for persons with excessively dry, irritated skin as well as those who have eczema or other skin diseases.


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