Why Is My Skin Dry Even When I Moisturize?

Why Is My Skin Dry Even When I Moisturize?

Dry skin happens to everyone — even people who moisturize regularly.

It's frustrating when you feel like you’re doing everything right and your skin still isn’t responding the way you want. If you’re wondering, “Why is my skin so dry even when I moisturize?” this is for you! Let's identify some of the most common reasons why you might still be experiencing dry skin and talk through how you can get back to an optimal state of hydration. 

1. You’re not using the right moisturizer

Even if the main goal of your skin care routine isn’t to get “glass skin,” moisturizing should still be a key part of your routine. 

Unfortunately, it isn’t enough to just choose any moisturizer off the shelf. In order to provide your skin with the most effective amount of hydration and support, it’s essential to choose a moisturizer that works with — not against — your skin type and needs. 

For example, overly dry or damaged skin may benefit from a heavy hitter like our Recovery Lotion. This moisturizer is packed full of the things your skin needs to maintain hydration, including ceramides, hyaluronic acid, lipids and squalane. Each of these components helps to support the skin’s collagen and elastin matrix as well as its moisture barrier. 

Speaking of hyaluronic acid, this ingredient is one to look for regardless of your skin type, age or situation. Hyaluronic acid is especially effective for skin hydration because its ability to retain water molecules in the skin is better than nearly any other skin care ingredient out there. 

2. You’re using drying skin care products

You can use the most effective, hydrating moisturizer in the world and it still might not be enough. The reason may be in the other skin care products that are part of your routine. 

While each ingredient in your skin care routine has an important part to play, those ingredients also have to work together. Building your entire routine around your skin type — like a routine designed to help hydrate dry skin — is an excellent place to start. 

Certain active ingredients, while effective, can also dry out (or even irritate) the skin. This is especially true for chemical exfoliants, like alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) and retinoids. Removing the dead skin cell buildup means that your skin requires additional hydration to work effectively and look youthful, radiant and fresh.

However, that doesn’t mean that you should skip these exfoliants. Excessively dry skin can also be the result of the build-up of too many dead skin cells on the skin’s surface. 

Removing those cells can help the skin breathe easier, even out the skin tone and reduce the appearance of dryness and flakiness. Just remember to follow up with a supportive moisturizer and not exfoliate too frequently — just a few times a week may be enough for you.

3. You might not be drinking enough water

Hydration happens from both the inside and the outside of the body — you can’t focus on one and not the other. Studies have shown how much the amount of water we drink directly affects our skin hydration. Not drinking enough water can not only impact how smoothly the body runs but will also have a significant impact on how the skin looks and feels. 

How much water is enough? We’ve moved on from the days when medical professionals recommended eight glasses for everyone across the board — the amount of water everyone should aim for is far more individualized now. Consult with your doctor for more specific recommendations customized to your body’s unique needs. 

4. You’re not wearing sunscreen

Although there are few things better than spending some time outdoors in the sun (especially after a long winter), chronic sun exposure without the protection of sunscreen can have devastating and long-lasting effects.

When your skin is exposed to the sun, the impact can be seen immediately. In the short term, this may mean redness and sunburn (which has the potential to be severe). However, as uncomfortable as a sunburn can be, it’s the long-term side effects that are the most problematic. 

Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can have an impact on physical appearance. The largest impact is on the skin’s collagen content — UV radiation can speed up the breakdown of collagen. The lower the amount of collagen in the skin, the thinner and less resilient it will be. Less collagen can also lead to more visible fine lines, wrinkles and dullness, as well as dryness and flaking.

5. You’re washing your skin too much

Cleansing your skin is important, but you can also have too much of a good thing. While we generally recommend washing your face twice daily — once in the morning and once before bed — you’ll want to avoid washing it much more than that. 

Washing (as long as it’s done with a supportive cleanser) helps to remove debris and toxins from the skin so that they can’t clog the pores. However, over-cleansing the skin can remove essential oils from the moisture barrier and leave it weak and unprotected. 

If you do need to rinse your skin after a heavy workout, use lukewarm water only (without a cleanser) or use a gentle skin wipe to remove sweat from the skin without affecting the skin barrier. Micellar water is another safe and gentle way to wash the skin between routine cleansing while leaving the moisture barrier intact. 

The bottom line...

If you’re still asking yourself, “Why is my skin so dry even when I moisturize?” start taking steps to give it the hydration it needs by working with it, not against it. Hydration is crucial to keep your skin looking and feeling its best; it’s the closest thing to the fountain of youth that we’ve found!

If you’re looking for specific recommendations or aren’t sure where to start, we’re here for you — book a skin consult with one of our providers today! 

Peer review

This article was medically reviewed by Chelsie Rogers, PA-C, a board-certified physician assistant with 6 years of experience in cosmetic dermatology.


Understanding the Epidermal Barrier in Healthy and Compromised Skin: Clinically Relevant Information for the Dermatology Practitioner |PMC

Hyaluronic Acid |NIH

[Skin hydration and hyaluronic acid] |PubMed

Dietary water affects human skin hydration and biomechanics |PMC


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