This Is *Exactly* What Happens to Your Skin When You Stop Moisturizing

Photo: Getty Images/Lisette Poole
During the COVID-19-induced quarantine, some people may not be getting around to their usual grooming routines until the late afternoon (if at all). This is definitely no big deal if we're talking about, say, flossing or showering... but what happens when you don't moisturize your face? We asked a dermatologist for the truth about living with an on-the-fly skin-care regimen.

First off, it's important to understand the basic structure of your skin to really get a sense of what your moisturizer does. "Your skin has a top layer of dead skin cells on your stratum corneum, which is where dryness and flakiness can happen," says Paul Dean, MD, a San Diego-based dermatologist. "Your skin can get dry or flaky when your dead skin cells are being shed at a normal rate and there's not moisture in the skin cells beneath them." Moisturizing your skin, then, provides a barrier on that top layer that keeps moisture within the skin cells below.

By skipping a moisturizing face cream for the day, you won't harm your skin... but this can lead to a domino effect of slightly annoying skin woes. "You're not really harming your skin, but it can begin to look unsightly," says Dr. Dean. "Eventually you'll want to scratch it because it feels uncomfortable, and it can turn red. Basically you'll be making your skin irritating." The actual amount of skin irritation and flakiness you experience depends on your skin type and your environment. "A dry climate makes skin cells dry out more quickly, while dryness doesn't happen as much in a humid climate," he says.

When you think about your skin cell's turnover cycle, though, one day without a moisturizer isn't such a big deal. "It takes about 29 days for the skin cells to move from the bottom to the top," says Dr. Dean. "In one day, the dryness you can experience is very, very minimal. But your skin can start to look a little flaky in two days, and after three days without a moisturizer, touching your skin can bring about red spots and that uncomfortable feeling."

So, in general, if you skip moisturizing for a day, your skin will be A-okay, but Dr. Dean says that for the "best moisturization" of your skin, the golden rule is to apply the good stuff twice a day. (Even if you don't get around to applying that first round until lunchtime.) Keep scrolling to shop some of our fave ones.

Coola Full Spectrum 360 Mineral Sun Silk Moisturizer SPF 30, $42

Photo: Coola

Combat sun rays and feed your complexion soothing hydration with the new Coola milky moisturizer. It gives you mineral-based sun protection and soothes your skin with anti-inflammatory botanicals, and it's just so creamy and satisfying to slather on.

Goodhabit Water Jelly Dew Cream, $55

Photo: Goodhabit

This jelly-textured, uber-light moisturizer bursts with hydration for your skin. The formula is specifically made for protecting your skin from blue light, and delivers so much moisture as it's packed with 20-percent humectants (yes, including hyaluronic acid).

SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore, $128

Photo: SkinCeuticals

Quench your skin's dryness and essential fatty acids with this rich cream that absorbs like butter. The ceramides and antioxidants in the formula protect your skin's barrier as it gives your skin moisture.

Alpyn Beauty PlantGenius Melt Moisturizer, $60

Photo: Alpyn Beauty

This plant nutrient-packed cream truly melts into your skin, giving you moisture via aloe vera, squalane, and hyaluronic acid along with skin-brightening vitamin C as a bonus.

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