How Over-Moisturizing Can Dry Out Your Skin

Dr. Janet Zand

January 20, 2023

If your skin feels dry, it needs more moisturizer, right?

Well, maybe not...

If you already moisturize regularly and your skin still feels dry, it’s possible that you’re over-moisturizing. And believe it or not, over-moisturizing can actually make your skin drier.

How? Well, when you apply a lot of moisturizer, it can make your skin “lazy."

See, your skin has ways of revving up its own moisture production, which it does when there’s a drop in humidity, temperature, and water levels in the skin.

However, when you apply too much moisturizer, your skin will sense that it’s being adequately moisturized, and it will save its energy.

So it’s just your body being efficient.

The problem is that your skin becomes dependent on the lotion, and the lotion isn’t a great substitute for what your body does naturally. As a result, your skin dries out, even though you’re applying lots of moisturizer.

In fact, a study in the British Journal of Dermatology proved this. Volunteers moisturized one arm for 7 weeks, and left the other arm untreated. At the end of the study, the treated arm was drier than the arm that got no moisturizer at all.

Another study found similar results, and went one step further: The treated arms not only showed more water loss, but the skin was more easily irritated, too.

So ... how can you tell if you’re over-moisturizing?

The right way to deal with dry skin

One of the biggest mistakes is using a product that's too occlusive — meaning waxy and heavy. People think that applying products like Vaseline or Aquaphor all over the face will help “seal in” moisture. Instead, your skin may gradually stop producing as much oil, and it’ll dry out.

You also want to make sure your moisturizer is right for your skin type. Most people notice drier skin as they age, and so a thicker moisturizer is okay. Make sure it contains ceramides, humectants and antioxidants ... all of which are great for moisturizing dry skin. Also, apply your moisturizer only once or twice a day. (I like using one moisturizer formulated for daytime, and a different one for nighttime.)

Finally, make sure you’re doing some light exfoliation once or twice a week. Again, you don’t want to overdo it. But you do want to gently remove old skin cells. That way when you apply your moisturizer, all the beneficial ingredients can really sink into your skin.

So ... try these tips out, and let me know how it goes. Here’s to happier, healthier skin this winter!


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