Can you moisturize too much?

Moisturizing cream
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No man or woman on the face of the Earth is the same. Whether it's height, weight, eye or hair color, or skin tone, humans are distinctly different. Each person's needs are individual, too. When it comes to skin care, moisturizers help replenish your skin's natural lipids and fatty substances [source: WebMD]. But does applying too much moisturizer have any adverse effects for your skin?

There's no empirical data definitively supporting such a claim. But applying moisturizer can adversely affect your skin's normal functions if applied under the wrong conditions. It's important to understand your skin is a living, breathing organ. In fact, it is the largest organ in the human body [source: U.S. News]. Just like the other organs in your body, your skin's functions can be disturbed, causing irregularities to its normal biological behavior.


When you lay in bed, your skin works harder than it does during the day to rejuvenate itself [source: Prevention]. Some physicians feel that the nighttime is a good opportunity to apply moisturizer, especially to seal in moisture after a bath. In fact while you're wearing your sleepwear, you might take advantage of thicker varieties that could cause your finer dress clothing to stick to your skin.

But some proponents of natural skin care solutions argue that applying a moisturizer at night can disrupt your skin's natural cycle and make your skin even more dry [source: Dr. Hauschka Skin Care].

On the next page, we'll take a look at what happens when you don't apply the correct type of moisturizer at the correct time. As you'll see, it's more a question of the way you apply moisturizer than the amount you use.


The Right Way to Moisturize

Lots of people believe that you should use moisturizers when you've got xerosis, or dry skin. But that's the wrong time to apply moisturizer. It's best to apply moisturizer just after you pat yourself dry from a bath or shower, when your skin is rehydrated and in the ideal state to seal in moisture [source: WebMD]. Several factors cause dry skin, including dry air, long exposures to hot water, soaps, itchy clothes and even side effects from medications [source: WebMD]. Extreme xerosis can lead to dermatitis, or skin irritations.

Moisturizers can cause some people to break out. The way they react with your skin ultimately depends on your body. Moisturizers with natural oils work well for people with normal skin. Some of the more common ingredients are almond, sunflower, soybean and olive oils, or jojoba extracts [source: WebMD].


For others with extreme dry skin, a thicker moisturizer may be necessary [source: WebMD]. People with sensitive skin should avoid moisturizers that contain perfumes and other chemicals. It's also best to avoid harsh soaps and body washes that contain fragrances as these can cause skin irritations [source: WebMD].

Don't confuse moisturizers with hydrators. Hydrators replenish water in your skin and don't contain the same oils. Moisturizing can also be used to treat skin ailments. In fact, moisturizers have been known to be a remedy for contact dermatitis, a condition in which the skin becomes inflamed or even damaged due to an adverse reaction to a substance that has come in contact with the skin [source: Aetna Intelihealth]. Dermatitis can be caused from something as common as the material of a watchband. In some cases, doctors may recommend a moisturizer to combat the effects of mild dermatitis.

As you can see, moisturizing is good for your skin and can serve multiple purposes. It comes down to doing it the correct way. Experiment with your moisturizer until you find one that suits your skin best. Thicker doesn't always mean better. If you have normal skin, you know you can get by with a lotion. Thicker moisturizers are more commonly needed for drier skin. Again, don't wait for your skin to be dry and flaky before you apply a moisturizer. You've already lost your skin's moisture at that point. Wash and rehydrate your skin, then apply your moisturizer. Now that you know more about moisturizing, you should be able to find a suitable routine to keep your skin healthy.

For more information on skin care and other related health articles, take a look at the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Aetna Intelihealth. "Contact Dermatitis." (Sept. 11, 2009),IHW|~st,24479|~r,WSIHW000|~b,*|
  • American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. "Dry Skin (xerosis)." (Sept. 12, 2009)
  • Bruno, Karen. WebMD. "Women's skin care for a soft body." (Sept. 10, 2009)
  • Dr. Hauschka Skin Care. "7 Facts That Will Change Your Skin." 2009. (Sept 23, 2009)
  • Goldstein, Jennifer. Health Magazine. "The Right Moisturizer for Smooth Skin in Your 30s, 40s, 50s." (Sept. 11, 2009)
  • Griffin, R. Morgan. WebMD. "What is causing your dry skin problem?" (Sept. 10, 2009)
  • Healey, Bernadine. US News & World Report. "As the body's largest organ, skin is a powerful yet unappreciated veneer." No. 6, 2005. (Sept. 12, 2009)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Moisturizers: Options for softer skin." (Sept. 14, 2009)
  • Prevention. "Beauty Sleep." Sept. 8, 2006. (Sept. 23, 2009)
  • Tamkins, Theresa. Health Magazine. "Skin Scare: Could Your Moisturizer Carry a Cancer Risk?" August 12, 2009. (Sept. 11, 2009)