Skip Nav

What Is a Barrier Cream?

How Barrier Cream May Be the Answer to Your Winter Skin Woes

What Is a Barrier Cream?
Image Source: Flickr user Mitya Ku

As POPSUGAR editors, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. If you buy a product we have recommended, we may receive affiliate commission, which in turn supports our work.

Lotions, moisturizers, balms, gels: chances are you've tried everything in the pursuit of supple, smooth skin despite blistering Winter temperatures. After all, there's nothing that kills romantic fireplace vibes like a game of footsie with crocodile feet.

Thankfully, more and more brands are answering your pleas, introducing a wide range of innovative formulas designed to hydrate even the driest of skin for 2018 (check out some additional budget-friendly options here).

Among the latest to enter (or shall we say re-enter?) the scene is barrier cream, the dermatologist darling getting mass-market attention for its claim that in order to heal, you must seal.

"A barrier cream, on the other hand, may provide hydration but, at its root, is designed to help repair the skin barrier and allow the skin to heal itself."

"The goal of a moisturizer is to enhance skin hydration," says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. "At the same time, it may help provide a protective barrier over the skin. A barrier cream, on the other hand, may provide hydration but, at its root, is designed to help repair the skin barrier and allow the skin to heal itself."

The way it works is pretty simple — and pretty genius.

"Barrier creams typically contain natural fats that mimic and help replenish those deficient in the skin (such as free fatty acids, cholesterol, and ceramides) to repair the outer skin layer," says Zeichner. "The outer skin layer is comprised of skin cell tiles surrounded by natural oils that serve as grout. When the skin becomes dry or inflamed, there may not be enough grout to seal in the spaces between the skin cell tiles. As a result, the skin loses hydration and becomes inflamed, which may then become a vicious cycle."

According to Zeichner, barrier creams first hit the market several years ago, but in the prescription space.

"Dermatologists started prescribing them to complement the anti-inflammatory medications given to put out the fires in the skin that drove many skin conditions like eczema. As they became popular, similar technology was incorporated into over-the-counter products that can be purchased directly from your drugstore or local beauty store," he explains.

Barrier creams can be used by themselves or layered beneath your moisturizer. "They are particularly helpful in treating skin conditions in which the skin barrier is compromised, such as eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis," says Zeichner, who adds that evidence of skin barrier dysfunction often coincides with dryness.

Sold? Here are five barrier products that could prove the difference you need for (finally) achieving your Winter #skingoals.

Latest Beauty