Addicted to Moisturizer? Using Too Much Could Be Making Your Skin Worse

Wendy Rodewald
Addicted to moisturizer

How can something that feels so good be wrong?
Photo: Getty Images

If you’re like us, you’ve been slathering on heavy moisturizers ever since the seasons started to change from balmy to freezing. And why not? Winter tends to dry us out from head to toe.

But recently, we read a tip from Zein Obagi, MD, the top dermatologist behind the ZO Skin Health line, that made us question our whole routine. According to Dr. Obagi, it’s possible for your skin to actually become too hydrated.

“With prolonged use, rich creams and lotions or poor quality moisturizers can cause your skin to become weak and lazy,” Dr. Obagi says.

How is this possible? “Moisturizers are formulated from water, lipid, and protein in various percentages,” he explains. The skin’s surface contains these same building blocks as part of its structure. “Adding these elements to the skin’s surface sends a negative message to the body that the surface has enough of these elements, forcing the body to stop delivering water to the epidermis. Nutrient delivery also stops.”

The result? Skin becomes addicted to moisturizer rather than doing the work itself. Repeated application of moisturizer can lead to “dependency on external sources for moisture and the development of what is known as an acquired skin dryness, irritability and reduced vitality which can be calmed down by applying more moisturizers,” says Dr. Obagi. Further, “Moisturizers arrest skin’s natural exfoliation, [and] dead cells accumulate on skin surface.”

The bottom line? Only use moisturizer if you truly require it. “Moisturizers should be used occasionally when needed,” says Dr. Obagi, such as when skin is subject to “severe cold, severe heat, long term sun exposure.” It may be worthwhile to try and wean your skin off the heavy creams and see if it’s able to adjust. All of us know someone who puts nothing on their face, and their skin is fine — so it is possible, right?

Read more: 10 Beauty Myths Uncovered