A new 2° resolution global climatology of the mixed layer depth (MLD) based on individual profiles is constructed. Previous global climatologies have been based on temperature or density-gridded climatologies. The criterion selected is a threshold value of temperature or density from a near-surface value at 10 m depth (ΔT = 0.2°C or Δσθ = 0.03 kg m−3). A validation of the temperature criterion on moored time series data shows that the method is successful at following the base of the mixed layer. In particular, the first spring restratification is better captured than with a more commonly used larger criteria. In addition, we show that for a given 0.2°C criterion, the MLD estimated from averaged profiles results in a shallow bias of 25% compared to the MLD estimated from individual profiles. A new global seasonal estimation of barrier layer thickness is also provided. An interesting result is the prevalence in mid- and high-latitude winter hemispheres of vertically density-compensated layers, creating an isopycnal but not mixed layer. Consequently, we propose an optimal estimate of MLD based on both temperature and density data. An independent validation of the maximum annual MLD with oxygen data shows that this oxygen estimate may be biased in regions of Ekman pumping or strong biological activity. Significant differences are shown compared to previous climatologies. The timing of the seasonal cycle of the mixed layer is shifted earlier in the year, and the maximum MLD captures finer structures and is shallower. These results are discussed in light of the different approaches and the choice of criterion.