Are you wondering, “Why is my skin so dry even when I moisturize?” Learn what causes dry skin after applying moisturizer and what you can do to hydrate it.

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Why Is My Skin So Dry Even When I Moisturize?

09/21/20238 min read

You know your skin needs moisture to thrive, so you regularly apply moisturizer. But no matter how often you rub it on, you frequently ask yourself, "Why is my skin so dry even when I moisturize?"

The answer isn't as cut and dry as it may seem. In fact, several potential culprits can lead to chronically dry skin. Let's look into some of the most common reasons your skin continuously craves moisture and then figure out how to get it the nourishment it needs.

Table Of Contents

Why Is My Skin So Dry Even When I Moisturize?

Dry, chapped hand

Moisturizers help hydrate your skin. But, unfortunately, not all moisturizers are designed for extremely dry skin. If you notice any of these symptoms even after applying a lotion or cream, it's a good indicator that your current product isn't cutting it:

While switching moisturizers might be vital to hydrating your skin (we'll chat about what ingredients to look for later on), there's a good chance that something else is contributing to your dry skin.

The following factors can all play a part in dehydrated skin, even when you're moisturizing like a champ.

Expired Products

Moisturizer doesn’t last forever. If you’ve had the bottle for quite some time, it could be expired. When you’re using products past their prime, they won’t work as expected.

Look for an expiration date somewhere on the product. If you don’t see one, here are some other signs that it’s time to toss this bottle and pick up a new one:

  • Changes in color
  • Separation (liquid at the top and solids at the bottom)
  • Consistency changes
  • A funny smell

If you notice anything that seems off, it’s best to throw the product away and start using a fresh bottle.

Frequent Washing And Scrubbing

Washing your hands is essential to avoid germs, especially during cold and flu season. But if you're cleansing your skin too often or using harsh soap, it could strip away your skin's natural oils and leave it thirsty for more.

Since not washing your hands isn’t the best option, here are some ways you can try to minimize the damage:

  • Use a gentle cleanser (Since you don't have any control over what's inside the pumps in public restrooms, consider bringing along a small bottle of your own)
  • Use warm water instead of hot
  • Pat your hands dry instead of rubbing them with a rough paper towel
  • Immediately apply a thick, non-greasy moisturizer

Exposure To Irritants

It's not just harsh soap that can irritate your skin and cause it to dry out. The world is full of irritants that could be causing problems.

Here are a few things that can lead to dry skin:

  • Swimming often in chlorine-treated water
  • Exposure to smoke
  • Wearing synthetic, non-breathable material, such as polyester
  • Fragrances in your laundry soap
  • Household cleaners with harsh chemicals

If any of these items sound familiar, you could be unknowingly causing your skin to become dry.

To combat this, try to figure out precisely what irritates your skin. Keeping a skin journal can help with this part.

Once you’ve identified the problem, take measures to avoid it. For example, you may need to switch to a different brand of detergent, replace a few articles of clothing, or learn to harness the cleansing power of nature-derived products.

Poor Shower Habits

Hot, steamy shower

Long, hot showers can feel oh-so-good after a long day. But that doesn’t mean it’s doing your skin any favors. Hot water strips the natural oils from the surface of your skin, leaving it exposed and vulnerable to moisture loss.

To keep your skin hydrated in the shower, try:

  • Lowering the water temperature
  • Limiting your shower time (keep it to 15 minutes or less)
  • Using a gentle cleanser designed for dry skin
  • Patting yourself dry with a soft towel
  • Applying moisturizer while your skin is still damp

Dehydration

Hydrated skin starts from the inside out. If you're not drinking enough water, your skin could suffer. Being dehydrated can make it difficult for your body to produce the natural oils your skin needs to stay moist.

Make sure you're getting plenty of fluids, particularly if you exercise often or live in hot climates. You should aim for 8-10 glasses of water daily to help keep your skin (and the rest of you) in tip-top shape.

Underlying Health Conditions

Sometimes, dry skin is more than just dry skin. Certain health conditions can cause this problem. Here are a few examples:

If you've been dealing with dry skin for a long time and nothing you do seems to help, it's time to talk with a doctor. They can do a thorough examination and pinpoint any underlying health concerns that could be contributing to your discomfort.

Medications

Do you know what's listed as a side-effect on your current medications? You might be surprised to learn that some prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs can cause dry skin.

Common examples include:

  • Diuretics (water pills)
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Blood pressure medication
  • Statins (to lower cholesterol)
  • Antihistamines (for allergies)
  • Acne medicines with potent drying agents

If you're taking any of these and your skin is unusually dry, it's important to mention it to your doctor. They may be able to adjust your dose or suggest an alternative.

The Weather

The sun, wind, and cold air can all wreak havoc on your skin. So can dry conditions. The weather can dry out your skin, so you must take measures to protect yourself whenever you venture out.

Slather on sunscreen every day, even in the winter. It might be chilly then, but that doesn’t mean the sun’s UV rays have disappeared. They can do damage year-round, so get in the habit of always using an SPF of 30 or above daily.

Other protective measures vary based on the season and conditions. Here are some simple tips for fighting back against the elements:

  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat when you’re in direct sunlight
  • Wrap a scarf around your neck and lower face when it’s windy out
  • Put on gloves whenever there’s a chill in the air
  • Use a humidifier when the air is dry
  • Wear layers so you can remove an outer layer if conditions change

While you can’t change the weather, doing the steps above can help minimize its effects on your skin.

Age

Young woman hugging an older woman

Have you noticed that you’re asking yourself, “Why is my skin so dry even when I moisturize” a lot more often now than you did five or 10 years ago?

Don’t worry, it’s not in your mind. Your skin does change as you age. Over time, it loses some elasticity and the ability to retain moisture. Hormonal changes that come with age also cause the skin to produce less oil.

In addition, the aging process affects your body’s ability to heal itself. When you were younger, your skin could bounce back relatively quickly from a bout of dryness.

As you grow older, however, the recovery rate slows down. This means it takes longer for your skin to get moisturized.

While you can’t turn back the clock, you can recognize that your skin needs a little more attention now than it did a few years ago. If you haven’t reevaluated your skincare routine recently, it’s a great time to do so.

A Buildup Of Dead Skin Cells

Your skin cells are constantly dying and being replaced with new ones. As this process occurs, dead skin cells can build up on the surface of your skin. This extra layer can make your skin look and feel dry.

You’ll want to exfoliate once a week with a gentle product to remove it. This will help your skin look and feel healthier.

Just be careful not to overdo it. Too much exfoliation can dry your skin out even more, which you don’t want to happen.

Genetics

Sometimes, your dry skin is just something you inherited. Like the color of your eyes or the curl of your hair, you could have been blessed (or cursed) with dry skin. If your parents or siblings also suffer from dry skin, genetics could be to blame.

If you believe that's the case, don't give up hope just yet! You can still do plenty of things to help keep your skin moisturized and glowing.

How To Moisturize Dry Skin

Woman applying moisturizer

Now that you understand what could be causing you to ask, “Why is my skin so dry even when I moisturize?” let's look at some specific steps you can take to keep your skin hydrated.

Read Labels Carefully

Before putting anything on your skin, review the list of ingredients on the label. Many skincare products contain things that can dry out your skin, such as fragrances, salicylic acid, alcohol, or parabens.

If products in your skincare routine are problematic, consider switching to a product specifically for dry skin. Many include cocoa or shea butter, almond oil, and glycolic acid.

Making this switch can make a dramatic difference in your skin's overall condition.

Check The Viscosity

Viscosity may sound like a throwback to your high school science class, but it just refers to how thick a product is. And when it comes to moisturizers, the thicker, the better.

Thinner lotions contain a lot of water. They tend to evaporate faster, so you won't get long-lasting hydration. Thicker moisturizing creams are more likely to stay on and penetrate the surface of your skin. This means they provide longer-lasting hydration.

Apply Frequently

You should apply moisturizer at least twice a day — and more often if you're in a dry environment or out in frigid temperatures. The frequent application ensures your skin gets all the hydration it needs to look its best.

If you travel a lot, finding small, travel-friendly products to keep in your bag is essential. That way, you can stay on top of hydration no matter where life takes you. If your dry skin is caused by eczema, our Eczema Daily Calming Cream: On-the-Go is an excellent choice.

You’ll also want to put on moisturizer any time you get wet. Keep moisturizer on hand so you can slather some on whenever you wash your hands, take a shower, or wash the dishes.

Supplement With A Serum

Don’t forget about serums if extra dry skin is a problem for you. These concentrated formulas are even more moisturizing than regular lotions or creams. They can help repair and protect your skin from further damage.

Look for one designed for dry skin. It should contain powerfully hydrating ingredients, like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and collagen, to deliver moisture right where it's most needed.

Try A Toner

Toners can be a beneficial addition to your skincare routine, especially if you’re battling dry skin. Traditionally, these products are used to deeply cleanse the skin, helping remove residual grime that your regular cleaning might have missed.

But modern toners do more than just clean. They balance your skin’s pH levels, helping to maintain a healthy barrier. Moreover, certain toners contain hydrating ingredients that can directly address dryness.

When shopping, look for a product with ingredients like:

  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Glycerin
  • Lecithin
  • Aloe vera

These ingredients are known for their ability to attract and retain water, which can help keep your skin moisturized.

Of course, like any new product, you’ll want to spot-test your toner. Put a small amount on the inside of your elbow and see how your body reacts before applying it to your face. Find a different product if you notice pain, redness, or other odd symptoms.

Reduce Your Stress

Woman doing yoga

Stress takes its toll on your body in many ways. This mental strain can have a direct impact on your skin’s health. Stress ramps up your production of cortisol, which can impact your skin’s natural barrier. As a result, you may notice dry skin or breakouts.

If this sounds like you, try to take time every day to relax and unwind. This could be as simple as taking a ten-minute walk around the block or reading a chapter of a great book each night before bed.

Stress reduction techniques such as yoga, deep breathing, and meditation can also help you stay calm.

Examine Your Diet

Certain foods can suck moisture from your skin. These include:

  • Caffeine
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • White bread and rice
  • Pasta
  • Alcohol

If you’re consuming a lot of any of these, cutting back could make a difference.

Give It Time

Unfortunately, you can't heal dry skin overnight. Restoring moisture takes time and patience, so don't give up on these changes. Instead, be consistent. You'll eventually see the results you want.

Implement a simple skincare routine to make caring for your skin a habit. Here’s what you might do each morning:

  • Wash your face with a gentle cleanser
  • Use an alcohol-free toner to remove any impurities
  • Follow up with a moisturizer
  • Apply sunscreen

Then at night, keep it even simpler:

  • Wash off your makeup and any grime from the day
  • Pat your face dry
  • Apply moisturizer

Caring for your skin doesn’t have to take long, but a few intentional moments can make a big difference.

Seek Professional Help

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to improve your skin’s condition on your own, you may need additional help. In that case, seek a skincare professional for advice and treatment options.

They can rule out any underlying health conditions and provide personalized recommendations to help you get your skin back on track.

Common Questions About Dry Skin

While we’ve covered a lot of information about why your skin might still feel dry even when you’re using moisturizer, you might still have some questions about it.

Let’s talk about those now.

Where Can Dry Skin Occur?

Dry, cracked heels

Your entire body might feel dry. Or, you may have patches of dry skin in specific areas. Often, people notice dry skin on their:

Regardless of where it occurs, you may always struggle with dry skin. Or this problem could seem to come and go. When you think you finally found a solution that works, you might discover a new patch of dry skin to deal with.

If that’s the case, try to keep track of when your dry skin flare-ups occur. This detective work can help you identify potential triggers and hopefully get to the bottom of why it’s happening.

Can Dry Skin Lead To Other Complications?

When you don’t care for your dry skin, it can lead to other problems.

When your skin isn’t moist enough, it tends to be itchy. Unfortunately, when you scratch, you’re more likely to cause damage and break the skin open. If that happens, bacteria can easily enter, making you prone to an infection.

Here are some of the symptoms you might notice:

  • Yellow or white pus
  • Swelling
  • Discoloration and thickening of the skin
  • A red line radiating from the area
  • Crusting of the skin
  • A foul smell
  • Skin that’s hot to the touch

If you spot any of these things, seek professional help right away. You may need an antibiotic or another medication to restore your health.

Is Dry Skin The Same As Dehydrated Skin?

The short answer is no. Dry skin and dehydrated skin aren’t the same thing. Dry skin is caused by a lack of sebum production in your oil glands. Dehydrated skin occurs when your skin doesn’t have enough water.

While many symptoms overlap, you’ll likely notice more fine lines and wrinkles if your skin is dehydrated. It also won’t bounce back as quickly if you carefully pinch it between your thumb and forefinger.

If you have dry skin, a moisturizer with protective oils can help, as can the other skincare tips above.

For dehydrated skin,a serum with hydrating ingredients can make a huge difference. So can drinking enough water each day. Your body needs several glasses daily for optimal health.

Can You Moisturize Too Much?

In your quest to conquer your dry skin, you might accidentally overdo it with the moisturizer. There is such a thing as too much.

Using multiple layers of a heavy cream or ointment can overload your skin and lead to breakouts or other irritation. Apply just a single layer of moisturizer as needed throughout the day. That way, it can work its way down into your skin and leave it feeling hydrated.

If your skin isn’t absorbing moisturizer, try switching formulas or using a lighter product.

Smooth, Hydrated Skin

Woman with smooth, hydrated skin

The tips above can help you switch your question from, “Why is my skin so dry even when I moisturize?” to “Can you believe how much softer my skin is these days?” With the right products and some extra effort in the hydration department, you'll soon get there.

In the meantime, keep reading the Bodewell blog for tips on achieving more better skin days. And if your dry skin is from eczema, try our Eczema Daily Calming Cream. It delivers deep hydration without a greasy feeling.

Here’s to smoother, softer skin!

Sources

American Academy of Dermatology Association
American Osteopathic College of Dermatology
National Library of Medicine

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