The Trouble With Moisturizers, Part 1

Moisturizer  QuestionQuestion:  Why do you hate moisturizers?  Every time a readers asks for moisturizer recommendations, you tell them not use use them.   How else would you prevent or manage dry skin?

Answer:  I  know I am a ” Debbie Downer”   when it comes  to moisturizers, but my  recommendations are based  on strong science.  Adequate water levels are essential for healthy soft skin.  How skin stays hydrated is complex, but the first line of control is the oil we naturally produce.  This oil forms a film that acts like plastic wrap on a sandwich to prevent water evaporation from the skin. If you produce enough oil to be bothered by breakouts, you don’t need additional moisturizer to maintain healthy water levels  In fact, using moisturizers on oily  or acne troubled skin is  just asking for problems.  The oil and waxes in traditional  moisturizers will clog pores and trigger breakouts.

But wait, there’s more. The unnecessary  moisturizers collect dead skin cells on the surface, making the complexion look dull and muddy.  No only does this take away natural radiance, the  top layer slows down healthy cell growth.

Acne and Moisturizers Don’t Mix

Many of  the moisturizer questions come from people dealing with  acne treatments. The standard acne  protocols call for benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and /or Retin A   which all clear off old  dead skin cells that  are clogging pores. Some degree of dryness, peeling and flaking  is part of acne management– and using a moisturizer will undo  the benefits. If the skin becomes  too  dry and irritated, modify the daily routine.  For example,  if you are using a salicylic acid cleanser , switch to a milder wash like Cetaphil Gentle  Cleanser.  In addition you can cut back from every day use of treatment products,  to using it  just 3-4X/week.

I have the same  lack of enthusiasm for oil-free moisturizers.  While they are not greasy, they may  contain chemicals that provoke breakouts.  These acne triggers include shea butter, silicones, paraffin, avobenzone and sodium lauryl sulfate.

However if  you are using  Retin A for its anti-aging properties, the resulting  dryness does call for a moisturizer.  Retin A not only   slows down oil glands and  speeds up skin cell turnover, it lowers ceramide levels.  This natural lubricant holds skin cells together and tends to decline as we get older– and Retin A  increases this loss.   For best results, I recommend a  moisturizer  that contain both ceramides  and hyaluronic acid rather  than a formulation based solely  on oils.

When Moisturizers Are Truly Needed

While I am concerned about the misuse of moisturizers in oily and acne prone skin, they definately have a place for true dry skin.   If  your skin  is tight and flaky  after washing you   may  well need   moisturizer.  Care of this beautiful but often  fragile skin starts with the right cleanser– which  will be covered in   Moisturizers, Part 2.

5 thoughts on “The Trouble With Moisturizers, Part 1

  1. 3/20/2015
    Hello Deb Chase
    Your article “The Trouble With Moisturizers, Part 1” was very informative and helped me out with my routine. Your statement fits my situation, and I will make the corresponding adjustments, also taking into account what you mentioned about Retin A, as I do also use that medication.

    “If you produce enough oil to be bothered by breakouts, you don’t need additional moisturizer to maintain healthy water levels In fact, using moisturizers on oily or acne troubled skin is just asking for problems. The oil and waxes in traditional moisturizers will clog pores and trigger breakouts.”
    Thank You!

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you! You are describing me, exactly. I have been told since I was a teen that I needed to use moisturizer. I had acne and oily skin. I could not use moisturizer, so I didn’t. Now I’m 55 and have aged badly. I do sometimes think, maybe I should have used moisturizer??? After reading your post, I think I was right to avoid it. SO, now I’m trying Retina to try and improve my aging face. And with the flaking and peeling, I do need a moisturizer. No one wants to be seen with the flaking. So I am trying so many different moisturizers. Some are making me breakout, so I listen to your recommendations and will keep trying them until I find one that works. I do have one question for you… You mentioned HA…I bought a HA Serum, can I use just that product as a moisturizer and get the same benefit of a moisturizer? Rather than looking for a product with HA in it? Thank you for your advice for us using Retina for aging skin.

    • Hi Nancy,
      So glad you found the info useful. HA Serum is a definite possibility. Try to buy it from a store that gives you a refund if its causes breakouts. You might also try CeraVe lotion which has both ceramides and HA. I found I could use small amounts to deal with Retin A dryness. Very best, Deb

  3. Hi Debbie! Just found u as i was looking up whether i can use Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Cream with my prescription Stieva-A tretinoin 0.01% cream. I have always heard about hyaluronic acid being amazing, but could never find it! Then i found it in this new Neutrogena Hydro Boost Cream Gel. I bought it but wanted to make sure i could use them together, before opening it, as i wasnt sure what the hyaluronic acid actually does. Now i know it is a moisturizer and that i can use them together. Thank you for clearing that up! Anyway, i am wondering what percent retinol do you recommend for the best results? I have .25%, and .01%, both ( do not use them together, just interchange them), of which i have been using faithfully for 7 and 1/2 years. Thank you so much for your beauty blog! I will definately be reading it, and sending you my beauty questions!

    • My new favorite moisturizer is True Lipids lotion from Cheryl Lee MD. I discovered it at Cosmoprof beauty show where it was selected as one of the five new brands at the show. It has ceramides and natural cholesterol and never ever causes breakouts. At this point it’s only available online but it’s worth the time to order it. It’s a new approach to hydrating the skin and it’s pretty amazing. It’s pricy but a little gives long lasting soft skin.

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