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Find Out What an Occlusive Moisturizer is and How It Can Transform Your Skin

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By: Adam Williams

When getting into the world of skincare, you come across many terms that can leave you with more questions than answers.

From humectants to occlusives, understanding what these products do and why you need them can be daunting.

Today we’ll be answering this question and understanding what an occlusive moisturizer is, the compatible skin types, key ingredients within this moisturizer category, and tips for applying them.

First up, what an occlusive moisturizer is and isn’t:

What is an occlusive moisturizer?

An occlusive moisturizer is an oil-based emollient that locks in moisture and forms a barrier to the environment. This type of face cream or lotion is especially helpful for people with dry skin as it can prevent water loss from occurring due to the ingredients used to create the protective barrier (source).

Occlusive moisturizers aren’t necessarily the same as your typical body or face lotion. Rather than drawing in moisturizer like a face cream normally would, an occlusive moisturizer forms a barrier that prevents moisture from escaping. As a result, they are typically thicker and greasier than other moisturizers. These face creams often contain specific ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and glycerin that help to lock in moisture.

Who should use an occlusive moisturizer?

Men with exceptionally dry skin and those who live in extremely dry climates should consider using an occlusive moisturizer. Individuals with eczema or rosacea should also use this moisturizer as it can help to soothe the skin and reduce redness and inflammation.

However, men with combination or oily skin should avoid using occlusive moisturizers as they can cause clogged pores and increase breakouts.

Finally, men with normal or sensitive skin types may need to test how they react to this moisturizer type. Some men find them too heavy, while others may find they are just right.

Examples of occlusive ingredients

vaseline tin for lip balm

So if you go over and search on Amazon, Dermstore, Ulta Beauty, or any other online beauty store, you’ll likely be hard-pressed to find a moisturizer that explicitly states that it is an occlusive moisturizer. Instead, you’ll need to look for certain key ingredients typically found in this moisturizer.

These ingredients include:

  • Petroleum jelly: This is derived from petroleum oil and is an effective occlusive moisturizer that forms a barrier over the skin, locking in moisture. However, petroleum jelly can feel greasy and is comedogenic, meaning it can block pores, so it is recommended for use on the body rather than the face. Common products include Vaseline and Aquaphor.
  • Silicones: These include Dimethicone, Cyclomethicone, and Cyclopentasiloxane, which all act as water repellants and form a protective layer on the skin’s surface. They also help to fill in wrinkles and fine lines.
  • Butters: Butters such as shea butter, cocoa butter, and mango butter are also occlusive and help to nourish the skin. They are non-comedogenic, so they can be used on the face, but they can be too heavy and greasy for some skin types.
  • Waxes: Waxes such as beeswax, carnauba wax, and paraffin wax are excellent occlusives that are also non-comedogenic.
  • Oils: Heavy oils such as jojoba oil, mineral oil, lanolin, and squalane are all occlusive moisturizers and help to lock in moisture. These oils can be too heavy and greasy for some skin types and cause breakouts in those with acne-prone skin.

Labeling

Given that many moisturizers don’t necessarily market themselves as being an occlusive moisturizer, you should also look for labeling such as “healing ointment,” “repair creams,” “ointment balms,” “waterproof,” and “cream masks.” Once you find these, look on the label for the occlusive ingredients listed above.

Lip balms are also a popular occlusive moisturizer. They are typically made with beeswax, which is an excellent occlusive, and can be used on the face and body.

Regardless of the term used, it is safe to assume that most occlusive moisturizers will be thick, heavy, and greasy.

Benefits

The leading reason most men gravitate towards occlusive moisturizers is the dramatic effects they can provide to the skin. We recently discussed the skincare trend, slugging, using a standard face cream in combination with an occlusive moisturizer can help to make the skin look and feel smoother, softer, and more supple.

Drawbacks

Of course, there are some drawbacks for every benefit that this moisturizer type may have. The most notable is that it feels heavy on the skin, preventing air from properly reaching your skin. As a result, occlusive moisturizers can often cause an over-saturation of moisture, leading to breakouts, blackheads, and enlarged pores.

How to apply an occlusive moisturizer

man rubbing product into face

As with any skincare product, it is always a good idea to patch test before full application. This will help ensure that you are not allergic to any ingredients and that your skin is not overly sensitive to the product.

When applying an occlusive moisturizer, skincare experts and dermatologists recommend applying a thin coat to the skin’s surface, gently massaging it. Given that it doesn’t ever feel fully absorbed, it’s best to apply it before bed rather than at the start of the day.

Signs you may need to use an occlusive moisturizer

The most obvious sign that you may need to use an occlusive moisturizer is dry or cracking skin. Additionally, if your skin becomes red, itchy, or irritated due to changes in weather or frequent washing, an occlusive moisturizer could be beneficial to help restore hydration and soothe the skin.

Conclusion

If you have dry skin, an occlusive moisturizer should be a staple in your skincare routine. Not only will it help to lock in moisture, but it can also help to reduce irritation, redness, and flaking. However, it is important to use it responsibly for the best results.

Adam Williams

As the lead editor of Tools of Men, Adam loves men's grooming products. Particularly of interest is managing facial hair and perfecting the art of the modern man's skincare routine. His work has been featured or quoted in several publications, including New York Magazine, Vice, Sharpologist, MIC, Elite Daily, and more.

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