The actual advantage of barrier creams over bland emollients for skin protection is still hotly debated. In a randomized, double-blinded study, a newly-introduced barrier cream and its moisturizing vehicle were compared regarding their skin compatibility, efficacy and resulting acceptance. Thus, 2 panels of 25 hospital nurses with mild signs of skin irritation were asked to use 1 of the test products provided (verum or vehicle) over a period of 4 weeks. Effects of both types of preparations were studied weekly by clinical examination and the instrumental assessment of bioengineering parameters. Results showed no significant differences between barrier cream and vehicle. In both groups, clinical skin status improved and stratum corneum hydration increased significantly during the study period. Both preparations were tolerated and accepted well, thus showing both skin protection and skin care. These results contribute to the debate as to whether a strict distinction between "skin care" and "skin protection" products is justified. The vehicle alone is capable of positively influencing skin status. Emphasis must be laid on regular, frequent, and correct application of a product for it to be effective.