News from CRIS: Exploring Ingredients - Occlusives & Emollients

April 27, 2021

What are occlusives?

Occlusive ingredients create a physical barrier on top of the skin to keep skin moist and hydrated. These ingredients tend to be heavy, greasy, and often sticky. 
Mineral oil, silicones, vegetable oils, animal fats, wax esters, hydrocarbons, and sterols are examples of occlusive ingredients (1,2).
Petroleum jelly (a hydrocarbon) is one of the best examples of an occlusive ingredient as it creates a barrier between our skin and the outside environment, keeping our skin moist

What are emollients?

Emollient ingredients soften and smooth skin by exerting many effects on our skin like filling the spaces between our skin cells, improving skin barrier function, and enhancing membrane fluidity (1). Emollient ingredients tend to be softer, silky, and less bulkily on the skin than occlusive ingredients. 
We can find emollient ingredients naturally in wool fat, palm oil, coconut oil, and more (1). 
Oat ingredients, like Avena sativa (oat) kernel flour found in many oatmeal lotions, are emollient ingredients. Oat ingredients often contain lipids and other ingredients that help improve skin texture and suppleness.

What is the difference between an occlusive and an emollient ingredient?

Occlusive ingredients sit on the skin as a barrier rather than emollient ingredients that can influence how the skin cells function (1). However, many ingredients are both occlusive and emollient ingredients. 
Lanolin oil is an excellent example of an ingredient that ticks both the occlusive and emollient boxes. As a result, you’ll find this ingredient in many lotions and cosmetic products


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