In the world of skin care, moisturizing is the final act that ensures soft, hydrated, and healthy skin. Given the various kinds of moisturizers (lotion, cream, oil, etc.) for every skin type, your skin gets the TLC it deserves.
However, some dermatology experts believe that using too much of your favorite moisturizers repeatedly can actually make your skin dependent on them.
Think of it like this: Your skin starts being lazy in demanding the essential components (fatty acids, lipids, proteins, and most importantly, water) from the body, as you keep providing those through external sources i.e. your moisturizer.
If you are worried about your skin becoming dependent on moisturizers and losing its natural function, scroll down to understand all you need to know about moisturizers and your skin’s dependency on them.
Types Of Moisturizers & How Do They Work
Before we get into the nitty gritty of moisturizer overload, it is important to know the various types of moisturizers and how they work for our skin.
So basically, a good facial moisturizer provides hydration and prevents water loss, which is exceptionally great for people who suffer from dry skin.
For individuals with acne-prone and oily skin types, the ideal moisturizer should be light so it does not cause excess sebum production.
Keeping in mind those with sensitive skin, it should be free of fragrance, harsh chemicals, or any irritant.
Sure, various skincare products such as lotions, creams, and oils qualify as moisturizing products.
However, we need to know the real difference between moisturizers and their effects in accordance with our individual skin types.
Here is the general classification of the different types of moisturizers1:
Emollients are moisturizers containing fatty acids, oils, and similar ingredients, which help soothe and hydrate the skin.
They contribute more to the softness and smoothness of the skin as compared to boosting the hydration levels. Think of them as protective ‘cement’ that levels any roughness in the ‘bricks’ (skin cells) to give a smoother look/feel.
Emollients are super beneficial for people with excess dryness, or skin conditions such as redness, itching, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, etc.
Some examples of emollients are lanolin, ceramides, jojoba oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, and cholesterols to name a few.
According to dermatologists, humectants draw moisture from the air as well as the deeper layer of skin, to the superficial layer of skin, also known as the stratum corneum of the epidermis. This replenishes the skin.
However, it can result in epidermal or trans-epidermal water loss, which is why it is recommended to use occlusive with humectants to seal the moisture.
The most commonly used humectants are hyaluronic acid, glycerin, AHAs (glycolic acid, lactic acid), urea, hydrolyzed collagen, and sorbitol.
Lastly, we have the occlusive moisturizers. Their main role is to seal the skin moisture and prevent any form of moisture loss.
As evident from the name, they form an occlusive barrier over the skin, ensuring no moisture is lost into the environment via evaporation.
Occlusive moisturizing products are great for people with extremely dry and flaky skin.
Some common examples of occlusive moisturizers are lecithin, beeswax, lanolin, stearic acid, cetyl alcohol, and petrolatum.
What Happens To Your Skin If You Moisturize Everyday?
Apart from the hydrating and nourishing benefits of applying moisturizer every day, some things can go wrong, especially if you are not using the right moisturizer for your skin type, or using a lot of it.
First things first, let’s talk about the normal skin function.
Your skin needs water, amino acids (proteins), lipids, and oils to function properly.
Usually, when the epidermis is faced with environmental stressors such as harsh weather (too cold or too hot), too much sun, or low humidity, that can damage the skin barrier, the skin signals the body to produce more essential nutrients to repair and rejuvenate the skin.
When you moisturize your skin every day, your body gets the nourishment it wants from external sources a.k.a. the ‘moisturizers’.
This serves as a negative feedback for your body’s ability to produce the essential elements by itself. In other words, your skin’s normal function gets compromised.
As a result, if you stop using your favorite moisturizer, you might notice that your skin is overly dry, or in other words, missing the moisturizer.
This is because it has become dependent on it to provide the hydrating and nourishing ingredients, rather than have the body make them, just like it was intended to in the first place.
According to a board-certified dermatologist, this can become a vicious cycle where your skin feels it is dry, prompting you to use more moisturizer to stay hydrated.
Secondly, overdoing your daily moisturizer decreases the skin’s natural exfoliation, as the dead cells stick or do not shed the way they are normally supposed to.
Does Your Body Get Used To Moisturizer?
Your body can get used to moisturizer, especially if you are applying it excessively.
Using a moisturizer regularly tricks the body into thinking that the skin has enough building blocks (lipids, amino acids, water, oils), and so it decreases their production. As this tampers with the otherwise normal production of natural oils and skin nutrients, it makes you more vulnerable to skin dryness.
As a result, you find yourself frequently reaching out to slather more of your moisturizer to stay hydrated as your skin feels drier.
Can You Be Addicted To Moisturizer?
Overdoing moisturizer can make your skin dependent on it, and mess with the natural function of your skin.
However, a clinical study2 revealed that it is reversible and repairable.
It took 3 weeks for a group of young adults who abruptly stopped using their long-term moisturizer, to finally have their skin back to its original state.
Though they faced initial drying of skin, within 3 weeks, their skin was able to self-moisturize itself, to the point that they did not need their favorite moisturizers.
That being said, our body’s innate ability to repair and recover diminishes as we age. The same study was carried out for individuals with mature skin and their skin did not restore to its original condition in 3 weeks.
In a nutshell, your skin can be addicted to moisturizer, but it is repairable.
Is It Possible To Over-Moisturize Your Skin?
Yes, it is actually possible to over-moisturize your skin. When your skin has all the substances it needs, it stops signaling the body to stop delivering them naturally, hence tampering with the natural process.
Our skin does not need a LOT of moisturizer. Just a little amount is enough to keep your skin healthy and hydrated.
How Do I Know If I’m Over-Moisturizing?
- Clogged pores
Excess moisturizer may cause the pores on your skin to become clogged due to excess sebum, and give rise to blackheads.
- Greasy/oily residue
With all the extra heavy moisturizer, your skin will feel uneasy with a greasy feel.
- Acne breakouts
You might break out as a result of over-moisturizing.
- Dry skin
Since the skin will become dependent on moisturizer, your skin might feel drier, prompting you to apply moisturizer to stay moisturized.
- Dull complexion
Since over-moisturizing prevents the shedding of dead skin, it can contribute to dullness and rough texture.
How Much Moisturizer Is Too Much?
You just need a good daily moisturizer in a small amount. It should leave your skin feeling hydrated, not sticky or oily. Otherwise, you know it is too much for you.
How Often Is Too Much Moisturizing?
It is ideal to use a small amount of moisturizer suited to your skin type, once in the morning and once in the evening. Anything beyond it can contribute to too much moisturizing.
What Happens If I Suddenly Stop Using Moisturizer?
If you suddenly stop using moisturizer, your skin might feel overly dry and tight.
However, this will encourage your skin to produce its natural oils and boost the natural cell turnover and shedding of dead skin cells.
According to a clinical study, the skin overcame the temporary dryness within 3 weeks of stopping the use of moisturizer in young adults.
Why Does My Skin Look Better Without Moisturizer?
Since moisturizer slows down the natural shedding of dead skin, skipping a moisturizer kicks back the natural self-exfoliant action of the skin, leaving you with fresh and great skin.
What Happens To Your Skin If You Never Moisturize?
Never moisturizing your skin will lead to a damaged skin barrier, and signs of premature aging. If you have been over-moisturizing your skin, it is better to wean your skin instead of never moisturizing it.
Final Verdict: Does Your Skin Become Dependent On Lotion?
Yes, your skin can develop a dependency on lotion if you overuse it. You might end up with a greasy, rough-textured look and acne, which shows your skin needs help, since over-moisturizing strips your body’s natural ability to deliver the essential nutrients to the skin.
If you notice your skin feeling dry, extra oily, or sprouting pimples, it might be a sign for you to stop overdoing your moisturizer.
A dime-sized amount of a suitable oil-free moisturizer is all your skin needs for barrier protection and overall rejuvenation. Try following a simple yet effective skincare routine.
All you need is a cleanser, a hydrating serum with antioxidants, a little moisturizer once or twice a day, and a good exfoliant (AHA/BHA) or retinol once or twice a week. And remember, less is more.
The purpose of this article is informative and entertaining. It’s not a substitute for medical consultation or medical care. The author of this article does not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Safety should be your priority.