Understanding Barrier Properties in Packaging Materials

Close-up of different types of medicine capsules packaged in plastic blisters

Packaging is about a lot more than just marketing or making a product easy to transport. In fact, packaging plays a pivotal role in safeguarding products and ensuring their quality and integrity. However, understanding how different types of packaging materials contribute to this process requires understanding the concept of barrier materials.

To help you better protect your product’s quality and extend its shelf life., we’ve created this useful overview of the various types of packaging materials that exist and their barrier properties. As always, when you need expert advice about packaging materials, no one knows better than Praxis. Reach out to us today to learn more!

What Are Barrier Properties in Packaging Materials?

When we talk about barrier properties, what we are referring to are the innate characteristics of packaging materials that control the passage of gasses, moisture, light, and microorganisms. How air-tight or light-reflective are they? Do they have antimicrobial properties? Are they moisture resistant?

Understanding these properties is essential across multiple industries, including pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, electronics, and more. Different types of packaging materials are better equipped to help certain products maintain their efficacy, freshness, and usability. As a result, choosing the right types of primary and secondary packaging is paramount for maintaining product integrity.

Types of Barrier Properties

Gas Barrier

The ability to control gas permeation, especially oxygen, is critical in packaging. Oxygen can accelerate spoilage, degrade sensitive compounds, and alter the chemical composition of various products. Hence, materials with high gas barrier properties are instrumental in preserving freshness and extending shelf life.

Moisture Barrier

Moisture ingress poses a significant threat to many products, causing degradation, mold growth, or altering physical properties. Effective moisture barriers are essential in pharmaceuticals, electronics, and certain food items to prevent spoilage and ensure longevity.

Light Barrier

Exposure to light, particularly UV and visible light, can induce degradation in photosensitive substances. Packaging materials with adequate light barriers protect against such degradation, preserving the stability and quality of packaged contents.

Microbial Barrier

In industries requiring sterility or the prevention of microbial contamination, materials with strong microbial barrier properties are indispensable. Pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and certain food items rely on such barriers to ensure product safety.

Types of Packaging Materials with Superior Barrier Properties

A conveyor belt full of glass bottles, which offer superior barrier properties compared to other packaging materials

Metallized Films

Thin layers of metal deposited on plastic films enhance gas and moisture barrier properties. These films are widely used in flexible packaging due to their efficiency in preserving product quality.


Inherently impermeable to gasses and moisture, glass bottle packaging is commonly utilized in pharmaceuticals to maintain the integrity of sensitive medications.

High-Barrier Plastics

Various polymers, such as ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH), polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC), or polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH), are engineered to exhibit superior barrier properties. These plastics are best applied for food packaging and other industries requiring extended shelf life.

Coated Paperboard/Cardboard

Some types of packaging materials like paperboard and cardboard, when coated or laminated with barrier-enhancing substances, provide efficient protection against moisture and gasses, making them suitable for cartons and boxes.

Remembering the Importance of Testing and Validation:

As with any other aspect of product distribution, whatever types of packaging materials you choose should only come from sources with reliable testing and validation standards. Good testing methods are crucial in assessing the barrier properties of packaging materials to ensure they conform to quality and regulatory requirements.

Examples of good testing and validation techniques include gas permeation tests, water vapor transmission rate (WVTR) tests, light transmission measurements, and integrity testing aid in evaluating the efficiency and reliability of these barriers. For more information about our testing and validation standards, contact Praxis now!

Protect Your Products with Praxis

Packaging materials serve as the frontline defense against external elements that threaten product integrity. With more than 30 years of experience, you can trust Praxis to leverage and enhance these properties to ensure the longevity, safety, and quality of your packaged goods. Let us put our expertise to work for you!