This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase using them. This is at no extra cost to you but helps support this blog.
With summer coming to an end, cold, wet autumn days are soon upon us, which can be taxing on our skin. Drastic changes in temperature and humidity can disrupt the skin’s surface and the skin barrier’s function. It can leave you with red, itchy, flaky skin that needs extra care to keep functioning well and looking healthy.
Natural occlusives such as beeswax, cocoa butter, or squalane are underrated skincare agents that can relieve dry or irritated skin by preventing moisture loss, smoothing and softening dry skin and protecting it from cold, wet weather.
And the good news is, they won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Table of Contents
- What are Occlusive Ingredients in Skincare?
- 7 Must-Have Natural Occlusives for Dry Skin
- Who are They for?
- Why Should You Use Them
- How to Use Them
- Occlusive Products to Try at Home
- Are there any possible side effects?
What are Occlusive Ingredients in Skincare?
Occlusive ingredients are moisturising agents that form a barrier between your skin and the air, creating an invisible layer that prevents water from evaporating. Apart from keeping the moisture in, occlusive ingredients also help protect the skin from extreme weather changes, friction and external irritants, such as dust, microorganisms, pollution, and allergens.
7 Must-Have Natural Occlusives for Dry Skin
From lip balms, facial balms, creams, and lotions to body scrubs, it’s hard to find beauty products without occlusive ingredients nowadays. And although you may have never heard about many of them, they are understated beauty heroes. Many occlusives are multitaskers that can help smooth roughness, relieve itching, improve texture, aid wound healing and keep your skin hydrated.
Here is a list of naturally occlusive ingredients.
Beeswax is one of the favourite occlusives used in natural skincare products. This sturdy, yellowish substance obtained through honeybee secretion is known for its skin-conditioning qualities. It works by creating a protective barrier, preventing moisture loss but also protecting skin from external threats. In addition, its unique ability to soothe itchiness and irritations, nourish and soften dry, cracked, broken areas, and high melting point makes it ideal for lip balms.
2. Candelilla Wax
Candelilla wax is hard brittle wax with great binding ability. It is extracted from the leaves of the candelilla plant and used in skincare products to preserve and support the skin’s moisture barrier. Still, it is also reputed to reduce the appearance of stretch marks and hydrate dehydrated and scaly skin.
3. Carnauba Wax
Carnauba wax is a common ingredient in skincare products obtained from the leaves of Carnauba palm, which is native to northeastern Brazil. As one of the hardest natural waxes, Carnauba wax adds shine, texture, hardness and slip to cosmetic products. Carnuba’s occlusive but also emulsifying and emollient properties make it a popular additive to beauty products such as face creams, makeup, and deodorants.
4. Shea Butter
Shea butter is native to Africa and has been used for centuries to protect the skin from harsh weather conditions, soothe, soften, and hydrate. It is also rich in vitamins and antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation, promote skin healing and even inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria.
5. Cocoa Butter
Cocoa butter is another natural occlusive that helps to protect the skin and remedy dryness. Thanks to its antioxidant, hydrating, and soothing effect, it can do wonders for dry or irritated skin. Cocoa’s polyphenols (antioxidants) protect the skin by neutralising oxidative stress, reducing inflammation, and protecting the skin from sun damage.
6. Jojoba Oil
Technically a wax, jojoba oil is another beautiful occlusive agent with moisturising, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anti-microbial activities. Similar to our own sebum, jojoba oil works by creating a thin film on the skin’s surface, trapping moisture in the skin. It also helps balance sebum production and can relieve dryness, flaking, itching related to inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
Squalane (“a”) is a hydrogenated form of squalene (“e”), a substance naturally produced by our sebaceous glands and is one of the few ingredients that can penetrate our deeper layers of skin and moisturise from the inside out. It is used in cosmetics to prevent dryness and smooth and soften the skin’s surface. But also to enhance the penetration of other ingredients, making it popular in various beauty products, including facial cleansers, moisturisers, anti-ageing products, eye creams, and sunscreens.
Who are They for?
Not all occlusive ingredients are suitable for all skin types. If your skin is dry, occlusives can do wonders for you. However, if you have oily or acne-prone or oily skin, occlusives such as shea and cocoa butter can block your pores and even cause acne breakouts. Consider using products with high occlusives in problem areas like dry patches or areas prone to irritation.
Why Should You Use Them
Your skin constantly struggles to stay moist. In fact, the average adult loses on average 300ml–400ml of water a day to diffusion through the skin (1). Apart from water loss, your skin also needs protection against free radicals generated by the sun and physical and environmental factors.
Natural occlusive ingredients work by preventing water loss and protecting the skin from external irritants, many of them being environmental.
Here are 3 reasons why you should use natural occlusives.
1. Help prevent moisture loss.
As we age, our cells produce less sebum, leaving our skin dry. Dry skin has a weaker barrier which allows moisture to quickly evaporate, causing the skin to feel tight and rough-looking (2). Since the skin’s barrier keeps the moisture in, it is essential to keep the skin hydrated. Occlusive ingredients help form a thin layer on the skin surface to block water from evaporating (3) and keep it hydrated, helping to reduce irritation and discomfort.
2. Smooth and softens dry, cracked skin.
Dry, cracked skin often feels itchy and uncomfortable. Occlusive ingredients such as beeswax improve the skin’s texture, smooth rough areas and soothe itchy feelings. They work by sealing moisture into the skin, softening the outer layer of skin and keeping it hydrated, thus preventing dryness, roughness and flaking.
3. Protects skin from external irritants.
Wind, sun, pollution, dust and detergents can trigger dryness of the skin and irritate it. Natural occlusive ingredients help restore the skin’s natural barrier function, protecting it from environmental factors that can cause dryness.
How to Use Them
Occlusives are added to various skin care formulations to improve the overall performance of the final product. You can add them into:
– Lip balms
– Facial balms
– Facial Creams
– Hand creams
– Lotion bars
– Feet balm
As you can see, occlusive ingredients are utilised in various cosmetic products and have many applications. You can use them on their own, of course; however, they can feel greasy on the skin, so it’s most beneficial to use them in moderation and in combination with emollients and humectants. While humectants draw moisture into the skin, emollients work like fillers, smooth and soften the skin and occlusive seal all that moisture to keep skin hydrated, creating a perfect blend.
Occlusive Products to Try at Home
Occlusives are wildly available in beauty supply shops and online retailers. Here are some popular choices:
- Naissance Natural Yellow Beeswax 100g
- Fysio Organic Beeswax Balm Moisturiser
- Organic Shea Butter 250g
- Active Botanical Face Oil with Squalane
- Stretch Marks and Scars Cream with Beeswax, Olive Oil And Essential Oils | 100% Natural Ingredients
Are there any possible side effects?
Although rare, occlusive ingredients can cause unpleasant skin reactions, such as irritations, and rashes and, in some cases, even trigger an allergic reaction. If you are trying out a new product or ingredient, remember to carry out a patch test first!
To do this:
- Apply a small amount to your skin, like the inside of your arm, and watch the area for up to 48 hours for any sign of a reaction.
- Do not try to fight it alone if you get any strange rashes, redness, or other symptoms while using any skincare products.
- Seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
A wide variety of natural ingredients can add an occlusive layer to products, with some of them also having an emollient effect. Experiment with different natural occlusive ingredients to find the best fit for your skin’s needs. Happy formulating!
What is an occlusive moisturiser?
Occlusive moisturisers are cosmetic products used for moisturising, protecting, and softening the skin. They benefit dry or irritated skin in need of intensive hydration and work by creating a thin coating on the skin to prevent water loss. They can include various ingredients, from waxes, butter, and oils, to glycerine, hyaluronic acid and squalane.
What’s the difference between emollients and occlusives?
Emollients are organic compounds that work as fillers, smoothing and softening the skin’s outer layer. Whereas occlusives create a thin film on the skin, sealing all the moisture in.