Occlusives in Skincare: Purpose & Ingredients

There are three critical categories of moisturising ingredients that essentially make or break moisturisers - humectants, emollients, and occlusives. When combined in different proportions with different active ingredients, these crucial skincare components create our beloved moisturisers - and they’re crucial for all skin types.

Dior Prestige La CremeDior Prestige La Crème | $495
This ultra-rich, comforting cream from Dior uses the power of Shea Butter to lock hydration into skin.

What Are Occlusives & What Do They Do?

You’re probably already familiar with a few famous occlusives - namely, Papaw Ointment and Vaseline. These skincare products work by forming a protective seal over your skin (and any products applied to it).

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about this being a bad thing and that ‘skin needs to breathe’ - the truth is, if we needed to breathe through our skin, putting an occlusive over the top would suffocate us!

There are other skincare ingredients that technically qualify as occlusives, but also have emollient benefits - plant oils fall into this category as they lend a lot of amazing emollient benefits, as well as act as occlusives on the skin. This means all plant oils and butters - argan oil, shea butter, rosehip oil, and squalane all have occlusive abilities on your skin!

Occlusives do one simple thing - they prevent trans-epidermal water loss. That’s the scientific way of saying they prevent water from evaporating away from your uppermost layer of skin. This sounds simple, but impacts how your skin looks and feels - skin that’s dehydrated or dry will have dry, flaking parts and can feel tight and uncomfortable. Preventing this essential hydration from evaporating away is linked to some crucial benefits for your skin!

Guerlain Orchidee Imperiale Rich CreamGuerlain Orchidée Impériale Rich Cream | $610
An antioxidant-packed moisturiser that has the perfect balance of humectants, emollients and occlusives to fight against the signs of ageing. 

Benefits of Occlusive Skincare Ingredients

If you’re not yet convinced of how essential occlusives are for your skincare routine, we’re sure these reasons will convince you!

1) Healthy Moisture Barrier

Occlusives are essential for ensuring your moisture barrier (aka your skin’s acid mantle) is functioning properly. They help support a weak acid mantle that’s letting out too much hydration, overall drying your skin out and unfortunately, leaving it looking worse than it really should!

A healthy moisture barrier helps your skin fight back against the signs of ageing and environmental stressors, as well as ensuring your skin stays healthy and breakout-free.

Guerlain Abeille Royale Youth Watery OilGuerlain Abeille Royale Youth Watery Oil | $206
Oils make great occlusives, too! Finish your skincare routine with this lightweight, yet potent oil from Guerlain. 

2) Protection from Dry Environment

Since they work as a literal shield between your skin and the environment, occlusives are essential for protecting skin that dries out easily from a moisture-less environment. That goes both ways in summer and winter, by the way! 

Air conditioning and heating can both make skin dry out faster, leaving it feeling super dry and uncomfortable. Occlusives prevent hydration in your skin from evaporating away, ensuring it never feels dry or tight - even during autumn and winter!

L'Occitane Youth Divine OilL’Occitane Immortelle Divine Youth Oil | $142
This occlusive facial oil helps lock in the benefits of Immortelle Flower and lasting moisture to your skin.

3) Supports Skin Healing

This goes for healing your skin after anything from sunburn to even something like breakouts! Your skin needs moisture and hydration to heal, and using an occlusive over the top of your regular skin care helps keep that essential hydration there. Moisturised skin = healthy skin, and that’s what makes occlusives so integral to your beauty routine.

Still trying to create your skincare routine in the first place? Try our skincare quiz!

Beauty Affairs Skin Quiz

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Alexis Adrienne

Alexis Adrienne

Alexis Adrienne is a passionate beauty writer with over 10 years of experience. She’s incredibly keen on all things skincare, makeup and cosmetics, with a fingertip on the pulse of the latest global beauty trends at all times.

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