Can you moisturize too much?

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 below.

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)