If it feels like you're constantly slathering on lotion and creams but still can't get comfortable, it may be that you're asking your moisturizer to do too much.
While moisturizing is an important part of your skincare routine, topical lotions alone aren't enough to provide true, deep hydration to your skin.
If you've tried many lotions and creams and still feel tight, dry, itchy skin or still see a dull, lifeless complexion when you look in the mirror, you may want to consider a few other important factors.
What Causes Dry Skin?
Dry, rough, irritated skin can be highly frustrating and uncomfortable. If you have dry skin that you just can’t seem to solve with moisturizer, don’t worry – you are far from alone.
Many people struggle with dry skin for a variety of reasons. Although not everyone has dry skin for the same reason, there are a few common contributing factors. Some of these factors can even be frustrating for people with typically hydrated skin.
Dry skin can be the result of causes like:
- Bathing in hot water or too often
- Harsh skincare products, including hand soaps
- A cold, dry, or windy climate
- Heat from appliances, a fireplace, or other sources
- Sun damage
- Some medical treatments
- Poor nutrition or vitamin deficiencies
What Is Moisturizer?
Moisturizers are topical products applied to the outer layer of the skin, known as the epidermis, to prevent water loss. These products are formulated to form a barrier on top of the epidermis, which functions by holding in water, protecting the skin’s moisture from the environment, and allowing the inner layers of the skin to replenish the outer layer.
Ingredients commonly found in moisturizers include hydrocarbons, silicones, and seed oils, all of which help support a strong outer layer on the skin. However, moisturizers can also contain ingredients with a variety of additional purposes.
For example, they may also contain humectants, which attract water to the skin. Occlusive moisturizers with humectants not only create a barrier to maintain the skin's water content but also actively increase it.
How Does Moisturizer Work?
There are three different types of moisturizing ingredients, all of which work in different ways:
- Humectants, which attract and hold onto water from outside the skin and can also pull water up from the deeper layers of skin for consistent hydration. Common humectants include hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and aloe vera.
- Emollients, which can smooth out rough, dry skin. Common emollients include plant oils (like almond oil, argan oil, and coconut oil) and plant butters (like shea butter or cocoa butter).
- Occlusives, which create a thin barrier that sits on top of your skin to prevent trans-epidermal water loss. Common occlusives include beeswax, rice bran oil, and plant waxes like carnauba or candelilla wax.
When picking out a moisturizer, it’s important to make sure that its formula lists at least one of each of these types of ingredients. Just using one of these ingredients alone won’t give your skin enough hydration.
You can also work from the inside out to make sure your skin has all the moisture it needs. By supporting your skin’s natural hyaluronic acid production and supporting healthy sebum production, you can enhance your skin’s natural ability to keep itself moisturized.
What Are the Risks of Dry Skin?
Dry skin is not just a cosmetic issue – it can have several implications and potential consequences. Hydration is vital to helping your skin perform its vital functions.
Your skin is like your body’s armor, resisting injuries and keeping outside pathogens from entering your body. By keeping your skin hydrated, you support its strength and elasticity, preventing cuts or scrapes.
Your skin is also an important part of your immune system, supporting an entire ecosystem of helpful bacteria. Not only does dry skin become less livable for these little guys, but dry skin can also crack and allow bacteria into your body, which can lead to an infection.
Therefore, avoiding dry skin helps support your overall health as well.
Why Is My Moisturizer Not Working?
Although moisturizer is important, it is just one part of an effective skincare routine. To maintain healthy and hydrated skin, you should take a holistic approach to support it. There may be several reasons why using your moisturizer regularly is not working as well as you think it should.
You’re Using the Wrong Moisturizer
Unfortunately, not every moisturizer is made the same. The ingredients in your moisturizer are vital to how well it works. Especially if you have sensitive skin, the wrong ingredients can quickly take a toll. You should avoid ingredients like alcohol, synthetic dyes or fragrances, and parabens.
When shopping for a lotion or moisturizer, be sure to check the label. Filler ingredients and harmful chemicals tend to hide in the ingredient lists, so make sure that you feel comfortable with every ingredient on the bottle before purchasing.
You’re Using It at the Wrong Time
Although moisturizer can be helpful, when you use it is crucial to how effective it is. Applying moisturizer to already dry skin is a futile effort. Instead, you should make a concerted effort to apply it when your skin is hydrated.
The best time to use moisturizer is right after the shower. When showering or bathing, your skin absorbs water. Moisturizing immediately after showering helps to seal in that water and keep your skin hydrated. You should also make sure to moisturize after shaving and exfoliating.
Your Skin Does Not Have Enough Water
Water supports several of the body’s vital functions, including hydrated skin. Since moisturizer helps prevent water loss from your skin, it cannot be effective if there is already no water to lose.
Taking steps to hydrate your skin gives your body the ability to replenish your skin’s water content, making your moisturizer more useful. For example, you should avoid moisturizing after spending time outside in dry conditions.
To support your skin’s hydration, make sure you drink plenty of water and replenish your electrolytes often. For extra support, consider using a humidifier in your home to prevent dry air and give your skin the ability to absorb the water it needs.
What Are Some Ways To Prevent Dry Skin?
Although dry skin can be difficult to avoid, especially during the winter or in dry weather, you can still take valuable steps to prevent it. By taking a mindful approach to your skincare routine, you can support healthy and hydrated skin.
Choose the Right Products
Finding the right formula is key to the effectiveness of your skincare products. From your soaps to your lotions, you want to choose skincare products that are hydrating and free from harsh ingredients.
Ingredients to avoid in your skincare include alcohols, parabens, sulfates, and harsh detergents. These ingredients can quickly dry out your skin and set you up for failure.
Instead of using harsh chemicals in your routine, you should strive to use naturally nourishing ingredients for your skincare that contain vitamins and antioxidants. Antioxidant-rich products also help support healthy skin cells and keep your skin strong.
Mind Your Water Temperature
Showering in overly hot water is one of the fastest ways to dry out your skin.
Not only can hot water dry out the skin, but it can also damage the epidermis and cause further problems down the road. Hot water on dry skin can lead to redness, scaling, and itching.
Irritated skin will also be less responsive to your skincare products, so preventing irritation is essential. To do so, you should shower in warm water no higher than your body temperature, which is around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also shower with water at room temperature.
When you step out of the shower, pat your skin dry instead of rubbing it harshly with a towel. Then, apply a nourishing moisturizer to seal in the moisture from the shower.
Minimize Sun Exposure
The sun fires ultraviolet light down to earth in two types of rays — UVA and UVB. Through prolonged exposure, both types, especially UVB, can damage your skin. These powerful rays take a toll on the epidermis, drying out the moisture and damaging the healthy cells in it.
If you work out in the sun or cannot reduce your exposure, make sure you wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Spending extended time in the sun without protection will make it too tough for your moisturizer to keep up, which can leave you with dry skin.
Take More Omega-3s
Supporting your skin is about more than just using products on it. What you put in your body can be just as important.
Omega-3s are commonly included in skincare products through ingredients like argan oil and olive oil, but they can also make a difference from the inside out when you consume these nutrients.
Omega-3s are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid, and they are found in cell membranes throughout the body. They serve several key functions, which include acting as a key building block for cells, influencing how cells interact with each other, and providing a source of energy.
DHA and EPA omega-3s can have a key impact on your skin health by supporting a healthy skin barrier. In doing so, these important nutrients help your skin hold in water and promote smooth skin. Moisturizers are helpful, but taking omega-3s can go one step further in helping to support your body’s natural processes for maintaining healthy skin.
You can obtain more omega-3s in your diet through multiple options, and eating fatty fish is the most popular. Fish like mackerel, sardines, and salmon are high in both DHA and EPA.
Other popular alternatives include taking fish or krill oil supplements. However, an underrated but more effective option than all of these is algae.
In nature, algae is a key part of fish diets, providing them with omega-3s. When you consume algae, you are getting the omega-3s straight from the source.
Not to mention, algae supplements are completely plant-based and conducive to any lifestyle. To get your daily recommended amounts of omega-3, try iwi life’s algae-based omega-3 supplements.
Omega-3s can provide a world of other benefits, too, like supporting your heart health, joint health, and cognitive function, making them an overall excellent addition to your diet.
Boost Your Nutrition, Support Your Skin
Although moisturizer is a valuable and critical tool for supporting healthy skin, it cannot do so on its own. Moisturizing is just one part of a complete and adequate skincare routine. To maintain hydrated skin, you should develop a strategic routine with both the right skincare products and proper nutrition.
At iwi life, we believe in supporting easy access to important nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. With our algae-based omega-3 supplement, getting the nutrients you need for healthy skin and holistic health is easy. Just one softgel a day can give you all of your daily recommended omega-3s.
Try iwi life’s omega-3 supplement for yourself so you can see the potential health benefits and enjoy the difference.
Moisturizers - StatPearls | NCBI Bookshelf
Hot showers can damage skin during winter | Baylor College of Medicine
Diet and Skin Barrier: The Role of Dietary Interventions on Skin Barrier Function | PMC