In a way, all moisturizers work to protect your skin: They add moisture to the stratum corneum, and they form a thin barrier designed to retain that moisture. Still, there are some moisturizers that are more effective at creating that protective barrier. As the outermost layer of your skin, the stratum corneum protects your skin from irritants such as chemicals, free radicals and the sun's ultraviolet rays. This part of your skin works hard to protect you, and using a protective moisturizer can help keep your stratum corneum healthy [source: Elias].
Protective moisturizers often contain occlusive emollients, antioxidants and sunscreens. Occlusive emollients are ingredients that add a layer of oil to the top of the stratum corneum to prevent water loss and protect skin [source: New Zealand Dermatological Society]. Antioxidants fight free radicals, the unstable molecules that occur from sun exposure and pollution that can destroy skin's collagen [source: Bouchez]. Protective moisturizers typically contain sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15 to protect skin from the sun's UV rays [source: Clark]. These rays can cause sunburn, wrinkles and skin cancer.
Keep reading to learn about specialized moisturizers you can use to treat wrinkles, stretch marks and other skin problems.