Dry Skin After Moisturizing

Cover Image for Woman with dry, irritated, flaky skin
* 11 min readDryness

Table of Contents:

If you are asking yourself: “Why is my skin still dry after I moisturize?”, you are not alone. There are different physiological and dermatological reasons that a moisturizer might not be as effective as you expected. In fact, some formulations can even make your skin look even drier!

In this article, we will go through the main reasons why your skin is still dry after moisturizing - and show you a few different methods and products to help you solve this problem.

What is Dehydrated Skin and Is It the Same as Dry Skin?

Although they share similar symptoms, dehydrated skin, and dry skin are not the same.

Dehydrated skin is a temporary condition in which the skin lacks water or moisture. Primarily caused by external factors (like harsh weather, hot showers, excessive sun exposure, or harsh skincare products), dehydration affects the water content of your skin. This can occur in any skin type, including oily or combination skin.1

On the other hand, dry skin is a skin type. This long-term condition can be influenced by external and internal factors and means your skin has less oil production and lacks natural moisture. This lack of lipids leads to roughness, flakiness, itchiness, and a feeling of tightness.

In summary, dehydrated skin is a temporary condition caused by water loss, while dry skin is a long-term skin type characterized by reduced oil production.

Why Does Your Skin Feel Tight or Dry Even After Moisturizing?

There are many reasons why your skin might feel dry or tight after applying a moisturizer. Here are a few possible explanations:

  • An improper skincare routine: The moisturizer you are using might not provide you with enough hydration for your skin. Different moisturizers have varying formulations. Additionally, your moisturizer’s ingredients can lose effectiveness over time. Both of these mean your skin might need a new product.
  • Not exfoliating or over-washing: Not exfoliating or over-washing can contribute to dry skin, even if you use moisturizer. This is because over-washing or using harsh cleansers can strip your natural moisture by removing its protective oils. Excessive cleansing can also disrupt the outermost layout of the skin and impair moisture retention.2
  • Medications or Health Conditions: Certain medications, such as acne treatments or those that affect hormone levels, can have side effects that cause skin dryness. Systemic factors (like thyroid disorders or nutritional deficiencies like malnutrition or dehydration) can also impact skin health. Some skin conditions, like eczema, psoriasis, or dermatitis, can disrupt your skin’s moisture barrier and lead to persistent dryness.
  • Environmental factors: Several environmental conditions can contribute to skin dryness and tightness. For example, low humidity, cold or windy weather, or spending time in an air-conditioned or heated environment. Very hot showers, baths, or exposure to chlorinated water can also make your moisturizer less effective.
  • Genetics and aging: Your genetic makeup can determine how effectively your skin retains moisture. If your skin naturally produces less sebum, it can result in a drier skin type, making it more prone to dryness even with moisturizer use. The outer layer of the skin, known as the epidermis, becomes thinner with age. This thinning can lead to decreased oil production and increased water loss.

A Note on Skin Passivation

Passivation is a chemical term that describes the formation of an inert, non-responsive layer on the skin surface. For example, high molecular weight polymers can accumulate and block the penetration of moisturizing ingredients (thus hindering their working and efficacy).

Not exfoliating can cause passivation because dead cells block the cellular passage. In this case, topical application of your moisturizer may not work and may not deliver the desired results, making you feel like your skin is even drier.

The Problem With Inappropriate Formulation Blends

If you use or apply inappropriate formulations, your skin can also feel drier because it needs more water molecules to the stratum corneum layer. Not enough water, in fact, disturbs the balance and may even turn skin drier to a lack of water molecules.3

Other factors that can cause the failure of a topical moisturizing formulation include:

  • Exposure to extremely low humidity conditions.
  • Severe irradiation of UV radiation.
  • Disturbance in skin lipid bilayer barrier (lack of lipids); for example, due to harsh chemicals, sulfate-induced removal of lipids.
  • Severe dehydration due to chlorine exposure and hard water usage.
  • Microbial growth and consequences, such as acne and fungal acne. In this case, you will need more than a moisturizer to target the underlying causes.

Symptoms of Dry Skin

Dry skin can exhibit various symptoms that may vary in severity depending on the individual. Common symptoms of dry skin include:

  • Itchy and irritated skin: Dry skin can be itchy and may experience occasional irritation or redness, especially in more severe cases.
  • Tightness: Dry skin often feels tight, especially after cleansing or exposure to harsh environmental conditions.
  • Red skin: If your skin lacks proper hydration and moisture, it becomes more susceptible to irritation and inflammation, leading to redness.
  • Flaky skin: Dry skin is prone to flaking or peeling, particularly in areas like the cheeks, forehead, or around the nose and mouth.
  • Dry patches: Some areas of your skin may feel rough or uneven to the touch, with a lack of smoothness and suppleness.

How to Moisturize the Right Way for Dry Skin

You can follow these tips to ensure your kin is correctly moisturized:

  • Moisturize right after bathing or cleansing: Apply moisturizer while your skin is still slightly damp, preferably within a few minutes after bathing or washing your face. This will help your skin seal in moisture and maximize hydration.4
  • Find the right moisturizer: Look for moisturizers specifically formulated for dry skin, preferably those labeled as "hydrating," "nourishing," or "intensive." Opt for products that contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, glycerin, or shea butter.
  • Moisturize in the morning and before bedtime: Slugging in the morning and right before you go to bed can also help keep your skin hydrated.
  • Use a hydrating toner: Look for toners that contain soothing and hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, or aloe vera.
  • Use a serum: Serums can penetrate deeper into your skin. Combine a serum with a moisturizer to give you double the hydration.
  • Use creams instead of lotion: Creams tend to be thicker in consistency and can be used during the drier winter months to give your skin more hydration.

Potential Complications of Dry Skin

When the skin's natural moisture barrier is compromised, it becomes more vulnerable to bacteria, fungi, or other microorganisms that can penetrate the skin. Dry skin, if left untreated or poorly managed, can lead to several potential complications, including increased sensitivity, infections, eczema, and impaired wound healing.

If you have dry skin, it's important to choose products that provide intense hydration and nourishment. Look for a gentle cleanser that won't strip away essential oils and consider moisturizers with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and glycerin to deeply hydrate and strengthen your skin's barrier. Here are some recommendations:

Illymoon’s Ceramide Ato Concentrate Cream is enriched with ceramides and panthenol, it deeply nourishes and moisturizes, restoring the skin's natural barrier. This cream relieves dryness, itching, and redness, leaving the skin supple, hydrated, and protected. Experience long-lasting comfort and improved skin texture with this soothing powerhouse.

First Aid Beauty’s Ultra Repair Wild Oat Hydrating Toner is packed with soothing wild oat extract, hyaluronic acid, and aloe vera, it replenishes moisture, reduces redness, and calms irritation. This toner helps restore hydration levels, leaving the skin refreshed, balanced, and ready for optimal moisture absorption.

Aveeno Calm + Restore Triple Oat Hydrating Face Serum is powered by oat and feverfew extracts, this serum intensely hydrates, soothes, and strengthens the skin's moisture barrier. It relieves dryness, reduces redness, and improves skin resilience, leaving it nourished, calm, and restored. Embrace a smoother, more radiant complexion with this comforting serum.

If you are experiencing persistent or severely dry skin (for instance, if your dry skin is accompanied by severe itchiness, redness, inflammation, or pain, or if you notice signs of infection), it is recommended to connect with a dermatologist.


Moisturizing is a vital step in managing dry skin and restoring its hydration. However, it's important to remember that moisturizing alone may not completely address all underlying causes of dry skin. Factors such as genetics, age, environment, and overall skin care practices play significant roles as well.

By following good moisturizing techniques and incorporating them into a comprehensive skincare routine, you will be able to maximize the benefits and alleviate dryness. Don’t forget to also protect your skin from harsh elements and seek professional advice when needed, so you can enjoy the benefits of a well-nourished, moisturized, and radiant complexion.

If you’d like to see more topics and other discussions on skincare: Join Us!


  1. Loden, M.; Maibach, H. I., Dry Skin and Moisturizers: Chemistry and Function. Taylor & Francis: 2005.
  2. Dykes, P., Surfactants and the skin. Inter. J. of Cosmet. Sci 1998, 20 (1), 53-61.
  3. Leyden, J. J.; Rawlings, A. V., Skin Moisturization. CRC Press: 2002.
  4. Loden, M., The clinical benefit of moisturizers. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology 2005, 19 (6), 672-688.

Related Stories

Cover Image for A woman applying cream to her shoulder

Adding Vitamin B5 To Your Skincare Routine: A Good Idea?

Vitamin B5 is frequently found in moisturizer products and serums because of its many beneficial properties.1 For one, Vitamin B5 can stabilize the skin’s barrier and help it retain more water, keeping it elastic and soft and reducing fine lines. This compo...

Cover Image for A close view of a woman’s eye

Dry Skin Around The Eyes: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

The area around your eyes is very thin and delicate, so it’s common for your skin to look dry. This is due to several factors, such as the nature of the skin morphology around this area, the fine surface, and the relatively fewer sebaceous glands around the...