Barrier cream: what it is and our top picks

Woman with lotion on her face

Barrier Cream: What Is It?

Our bodies have a natural barrier between the external and internal environment, called the skin barrier. Simply put, your skin barrier is the epidermis’ outermost layer. The skin barrier protects the body and keeps water from escaping. The skin’s outer layer, the stratum corneum, contains the protein keratin and corneocytes (dead skin cells), which are held together by a lipid intercellular matrix.

Barrier creams, also known as barrier protection creams or barrier repair creams, are skin creams used for their protection. A barrier cream is a topical formulation used in various applications to create a physical barrier between the skin and contaminants that could irritate it as well as prevent it from drying out.

Skin protective creams, anti-solvent gels, pre-work creams, protective ointments, and shielding lotions are some of the other names for creams that protect skin from harmful substances. Three types of barrier creams are used: water repellent creams, water-soluble creams, and creams designed for special applications.

Barrier creams may contain zinc oxide, talc, or kaolin to form a protective layer over the skin. They’re made to protect your skin from irritants. Barrier products come in various forms, including pastes, ointments, and sprays. They can also make it easier to remove paint, glue, or sealant from hands without using harsh solvents during or after industrial or occupational work. However, even after gentle washing, they remain on the skin for several hours. Therefore, they should be used sparingly and reapplied as needed.

Barrier Creams appear to protect against irritants. These creams help the skin retain moisture and act as a supporting layer for the skin’s defense. Creams also make it easier to clean your hands, especially when removing oils, greases, and resins. In addition, specialty creams protect the skin in cold weather and prevent sweat from building up inside gloves.

Woman putting cream on her face

Benefits of Barrier Cream

Here’s what you can expect if you add a barrier cream to your routine, or what you might already be experiencing if you have one:

Hydrates the Skin

Barrier creams moisten skin by infusing emollients and water into the epidermis and trapping it with an occlusive film.

Protects the Microbiome and Moisture Barrier

The bacteria, fungi, and flora on your skin make up your skin’s microbiome. The microbiome aids wound healing, reduces allergen exposure and oxidative damage, and keeps the skin plump and moist. However, it’s a delicate balance that external factors can influence. So, it’s also critical to take care of your biome to restore your barrier’s health.

The skin microbiome is usually out of balance in people who have dry, damaged skin. Barrier creams containing biome-friendly ingredients like pre-, pro-, and postbiotics can help your microbiome thrive while keeping your skin hydrated and protected.

Barrier Creams Protect from External Stimulators

When the skin barrier is damaged by low humidity and cold temperatures, the skin’s ability to protect itself is weakened, resulting in red, dry, scaly skin. Thick salves add an extra layer of defense against the elements, shielding you from pollution, other particulates, and even the factors like cold weather and windburn.

Helpful for Eczema

Barrier creams can help with various skin conditions, reducing pain and discomfort while providing essential support for the skin’s regeneration and recovery. Barrier cream can be beneficial for those with eczema. However, before using a barrier cream for eczema or any other condition, it’s always good to read the manufacturer’s notes and recommendations as well as talk to your dermatologist.

Benefits of Barrier Creams for Seniors

As we get older, our skin’s natural protective barrier weakens. When exposed to strong irritants such as soaps, shower gels, and some washing powders, the barrier is more prone to becoming dry and less robust. You can easily keep a senior’s skin healthy and hydrated by following strict skincare health strategies.

Seniors and Dry Skin

Dry skin is common in seniors. This is frequently just a minor annoyance that lasts only a few weeks. Because dry, itchy skin affects most older people, it’s often dismissed as a natural part of growing older and something that older people can and have to tolerate.

On the other hand, dry skin can become a chronic problem for some older people if left untreated. This severe, long-term dryness can lead to eczema, rashes, scratching irritation, and sores, among other health issues. In addition, dermatitis and pressure sores patients benefit from barrier creams. Pressure sores are commonly found among the elderly who spend a lot of time in a bed or wheelchair.

Helping Seniors With Rashes Related to Incontinence

Barrier cream is an essential part of the skincare arsenal for people who suffer from urinary or fecal incontinence. When considering the effects of incontinence on the skin, it’s easy to see why a barrier cream is so essential. Healthy skin effectively defends the body against various threats, such as dehydration. With an average PH of 5.5, the skin has a protective acid mantle. However, exposure to urine or feces regularly can cause skin damage.

The urea in urine can alter the skin’s environment, allowing bacteria to thrive. In contrast, feces contain harmful enzymes that break down the skin’s barrier, allowing bacterial and fungal growth to flourish. When feces and urine are mixed on the skin, the most severe damage occurs. When feces and urine mix, the PH in the perineal area rises. The skin becomes reddened and more prone to breakdown due to this. Ammonia is produced when microorganisms release urea from the urine, raising the PH. The skin’s protective barrier is compromised as a result of this. It also makes a person more prone to friction damage, leading to pressure ulcers. Incontinence products can irritate the skin and make it more vulnerable to infection, creating an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive.

Barrier creams are used to relieve skin irritations like diaper rash. These products can prevent skin breakdown by forming an impenetrable or semipermeable barrier on the skin. It keeps harmful urine chemicals away from the skin and prevents urine ingress into the skin tissue. As a result, the penetration of biological irritants found in stool and urine is reduced. One can control infections like incontinence-related dermatitis with barrier creams. This protects the skin, maintains a healthy PH balance, and keeps it free of irritants while encouraging healthy skin moisture levels.

Senior woman applying lotion to her face

Getting the Best Barrier Cream

The selection of the right Barrier Cream can be difficult due to the large number of brands available and the fact that labeling can make it impossible to judge performance. The key to choosing a good barrier cream is to be clear about what the product needs to accomplish and then look for a product with ingredients that meet those requirements.

People usually have limited awareness of the role of chemical components in products, and they may rely too heavily on a single element. It’s essential to think about the overall effect. While any single ingredient can induce a skin reaction, the collective impact of multiple chemicals can be much more substantial, and there can also be interactions between elements.

Always go for a product with ingredients that harmonize with the body, allowing it to function normally while also providing elements your skin may lack. Protecting your skin is essential, but replenishing it with nutrients is even better, so look for a cream that contains skin-nourishing components.

The following are some qualities you should look for when buying a Barrier Cream:

Protects Against External Aggressors

Barrier creams provide an extra protective barrier against the elements, shielding you from pollution, harmful particles, and even the factors like cold weather and windburn. Look for creams with added active ingredients like vitamin E, nicotinamide, vitamin K, and natural plant oils with antioxidant characteristics to combat free radical damage caused by environmental factors.

Strengthens Moisture Barrier

It would be best always to try to buy Barrier creams containing ingredients that can strengthen your moisture barrier. Plant lipids can assist you in this purpose in a variety of ways. They can provide a soft layer of hydration to the skin and are usually dense enough to hold the water in place. Look for shea butter, mango butter, moringa seed oil, olive oil, squalene, and coconut oil, among the components.

Prevents Trans Epidermal Water Loss

Trans Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL) occurs when the skin barrier is damaged or disrupted, as is commonly the case with persons who have sensitive or dry skin. When the water in your skin evaporates into the air around you, your epidermis becomes parched. Therefore, you should look for Barrier creams that help prevent TEWL.

Contains Biome Ingredients

Biome components are designed to sit on the skin surface by definition. Prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics can help nourish the skin microflora, which will help with barrier function—the microbiome is a big part of the natural skin barrier in general.

Soothes Inflammation and Irritation

Irritation and inflammation are two factors that significantly contribute to the natural skin barrier’s weakening. That’s why it’s essential to utilize calming ingredients, as they can help calm sensitive skin and seal fissures created by inflammation.

Barrier creams give ultra-hydration while also repairing the skin barrier and allowing the skin to heal itself. Barrier creams should be your first line of defense if your skin needs restoration and nourishment. Discover the best barrier creams for even the most sensitive skin in the list below.

Soothe & Cool Moisture Barrier Ointment
$69.95 ($0.83 / Ounce)

by Medline 

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02/19/2024 08:12 pm GMT

Medline Soothe & Cool Moisture Barrier Ointment, With Vitamins A, D & E, and Aloe

The Medline’s Soothe & Cool Moisture Barrier Ointment is intended for use when the skin has to be protected against moisture for an extended period. Incontinence sufferers may have maceration of certain areas of skin due to moisture coming into touch with the skin. The Medline’s Soothe & Cool Moisture cream is incredibly useful in this regard.


The Medline Soothe & Cool Moisture Barrier Ointment applies a thin, occlusive coating of petrolatum to the skin to keep moisture, urine, and fecal matter from coming into touch with it. Incontinence, post-op, and wound drainage can benefit from the Medline Soothe & Cool Moisture Barrier Ointment.

The improved formula of The Medline Soothe & Cool Moisture Barrier Ointment contains vitamins A, D, and Vitamin E and aloe to moisturize the skin. Aloe is a potent anti-inflammatory ingredient that’s also natural. It boosts vitamins A, enzymes, and antioxidants, all of which help heal damaged or dehydrated skin. In addition, the improved formula hydrates the skin and relieves dryness.

The Medline Soothe & Cool Moisture Barrier Ointment comprises three layers of protective barriers that protect the skin from irritants. It consists of a pH-balanced formula that nourishes, protects, and revitalizes the skin. Furthermore, this ointment has no dyes or fragrance formulations, and it is also latex-free.

Cavilon Durable Barrier Cream
$8.84 ($2.72 / Ounce)

by 3M Healthcare Corp

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02/19/2024 08:07 pm GMT

3M Cavilon Durable Barrier Cream 3355

The 3M Cavilon Durable Barrier Cream protects at-risk skin from incontinence-related wetness. Its unique formula is designed to allow it to blend into the skin without interfering with tape or dressing adhesion, all the while providing exceptional performance.


The 3M Cavilon Durable Barrier Cream is a concentrated and fragrance-free therapeutic cream that hydrates the skin while providing long-lasting protection from body fluids. It protects skin that’s in danger from incontinence-related harm. This Barrier Cream lasts a long time, resisting wash-off and requiring reduced administrations than other barrier creams, saving time and effort.

This 3M Cavilon Durable Barrier Cream is a one-of-a-kind moisturizing barrier cream made with 3M polymers. Dimethicone is used in the low dermatitis potential formula to help protect the skin. It can be used with tapes and dressings and is compatible with chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG).

A lack of water in the upper layer of the skin causes dry skin. This 3M Cavilon Durable Barrier Cream can also be used as a moisturizer to treat or prevent dry, itchy skin as well as mild skin irritations such as diaper rash and radiation therapy skin burns.

Protective Barrier Cream
$44.99 ($3.75 / Ounce)

by Sensi-Care 

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02/19/2024 08:02 pm GMT

Sensi-Care Protective Barrier Cream

The Sensi-Care Protective Barrier Cream is applied to the skin to treat and prevent diaper rash and other minor skin irritations such as burns, cuts, and scrapes. This cream also protects the skin from irritants and moisture by building a barrier on the skin surface.


The Sensi-Care Protective Barrier Cream is an easy-to-apply petrolatum-based cream. It acts as a moisture barrier and contains emollients to hydrate the skin. It also has no smell and is non-sensitizing. The Sensi-Care Protective Barrier Cream also protects fragile and sensitive skin by forming a barrier that sticks to weepy, denuded skin. Zinc oxide is present, and it is CHG compatible.

This Sensi-Care Protective Barrier Cream protects and soothes chapped, or cracked skin and lips, aids in treating and preventing diaper rash, shields against mild skin problems associated with diaper rash, and helps lock out moisture. In addition, the zinc oxide-based barrier preserves fragile and sensitive skin, helping to regulate and avoid incontinence-related discomfort.

The Sensi-Care Protective Barrier Cream hydrates and protects the skin while repelling moisture, making it especially effective in areas of the body that are regularly exposed to moisture. Perineal skin, breast/skin folds, the skin around wound sites, tube or drain locations, and between the feet are just a few examples of common maceration areas in which the cream is helpful.

3M Durable Barrier Cream Unscented
$16.86 ($2.59 / Ounce)

by Cavilon 

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02/19/2024 07:57 pm GMT

Cavilon Durable Barrier Cream

Cavilon Durable Barrier Cream treats or prevents dry, rough, scaly, itchy skin and minor skin irritations like diaper rash and radiation therapy skin burns.


Some products (zinc oxide, white petrolatum, for example) are primarily used to protect the skin from irritation (such as due to wetness). The loss of water in the upper layer of the skin causes dry skin. Emollients/moisturizers work by forming an oily layer on the skin’s surface that traps moisture. Emollients like petrolatum, lanolin, mineral oil, and dimethicone are present in this cream.

This cream also contains ingredients that soften the horny substance (keratin) like urea, alpha hydroxy acids like lactic/citric/glycolic acid, and allantoin, which holds the top layer of skin cells together. This aids in the removal of dead skin cells and allows the skin to retain more water and feel smoother and softer.

Cavilon Durable Barrier Cream is a concentrated and long-lasting formula. As this medication doesn’t wash off, it doesn’t need to be reapplied frequently. It’s also a tape or dressings-friendly cream, which means it lets tapes and dressings adhere to it. In addition, Cavilion Durable Barrier Cream is absorbed quickly into the skin and doesn’t clog briefs or diapers.

Final Thoughts

Barrier creams, or those that establish a thick, supporting layer on the skin, are essential for anyone with dry or sensitive skin, especially senior citizens. They support the growth of your microbiome and the prevention of transepidermal water loss and skin protection. Many of the contaminants on our skin originate from within our bodies.

They occur naturally and are difficult to avoid. Incontinence, perspiration, leaking ostomies, and wound leakage are contaminants. These substances are significantly more harmful to senior citizens. Barrier creams for the skin are pretty effective in blocking these pollutants. Be sure to refer to this list when deciding which Barrier Cream to buy!

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