Signs Your Moisturizer Isn't Up To Snuff Anymore (& A More Hydrating Option To Try)

Moisturizing is an essential part of a daily skincare routine. No matter what skin type you have, your skin can always use a moisture boost, because it constantly loses water through a process known as transepidermal water loss. In addition, outside elements (like cold weather, air-conditioning, heating, exfoliating, and showers can easily sap the moisture in your skin and weaken your skin barrier. And not only that, but our skin also loses moisture overnight when we're sleeping. So there's no escaping moisture stealer as you go about life. But it's still something to keep an eye on. When your skin is thirsty for moisture, its protective layer can break down and pH levels of the skin can be altered, followed by dryness, redness, and irritation.

Moisturizers typically often contain water, occlusives, humectants, and emollients, alongside other nourishing nutrients. Water serves to hydrate the skin and help with the absorption of ingredients. Humectants are responsible for pulling moisture into the top layer of skin. Occlusives work to seal moisture inside the skin and prevent water loss. Emollients, the main ingredient in moisturizers, soften and smooth the skin's texture. Most of the time, regular moisturizers do a decent job of keeping your skin hydrated, smooth, and bouncy. But sometimes, it feels like they're not helping at all. Your skin may still feel rough and dull despite daily moisturizing. Here are the signs that your moisturizer isn't working for you, and how you can find a more hydrating option for your skin.

When your skin is too dry for your moisturizer

If your skin feels dry and rough after moisturizer application, it means your skin is too dry for your moisturizer. Many factors are at play here. Maybe you're living in a place with a sub-freezing and dry climate where lightweight moisturizers don't cut it. Maybe your work entails prolonged exposure to sunlight or you swim in chlorinated water a lot. Maybe you habitually over-exfoliate your face. These seemingly harmless factors can break down the outer layer of your skin and deprive it of its natural oils — contributing to dryness and dullness over time.

When your regular moisturizer leaves your skin feeling dry, consider swapping your lightweight moisturizer for a stronger formula or one designed to target your skin type. Changes in lifestyle and skincare habits, such as removing all drying skincare products from your shelves, investing in a humidifier, slathering up with moisturizer after bathing, or applying body lotion before going for a swim can also help your skin stay hydrated.

When your skin looks greasy after applying moisturizer

If your skin gets oily after moisturizer application, it could be because your skin is dehydrated. The reason is that when your skin lacks moisture, it compensates by producing more natural oil to lubricate the skin. This often ends up leaving the skin looking greasy while still lacking hydration. This is why dehydrated skin often gets mixed up with oily skin. To improve dehydrated skin, look for formulations including hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, shea butter, lactic acid, glycerin, and petroleum in the moisturizing product of your choice.

Another reason why a moisturizer can leave you with a greasy complexion is that it doesn't aid with absorption and it stays on top of your skin. If your moisturizer is oil-based and your skin type is oily, there's a high chance your moisturizer can cause your skin to look and feel slick after application. If that's what you've been going through, you might want to swap an oil-based moisturizer for one that's water-based. A moisturizer that relies on water has a higher concentration of water than oils or other occlusive emollients — making it more hydrating for those with oily skin and effective in preventing unwanted sheen.

You have acne breakouts after using moisturizer

If your skin always flares up or feels tight after moisturizer application, that's a sign your skin hates your moisturizer (and you should probably stop using the formulation). Skin irritations result from a weakened skin barrier, which can be a result of numerous factors. It could be that you over-moisturize and clog your pores. Or, there are ingredients in your moisturizer that give you an allergic reaction — such as acne breakouts, itchiness, or hives. To minimize the risks of compromising your skin barrier and causing irritations, you need to find a moisturizer that suits your skin type in the first place.

For instance, if you have oily or acne-prone skin, a non-comedogenic oil-based or water-based moisturizer can help replenish the skin barrier's function without clogging your pores. If you have dry, cracked skin, oil-rich ointments can deliver powerful hydration to your skin. If your skin is dehydrated as a result of lack of water, a water-based moisturizer is a good shout. Having said that, if you have certain skin conditions that make it hard for you to find a moisturizing formulation that doesn't irritate your skin or you're allergic to some skincare ingredients that you have no name for, consider speaking to a dermatologist for help. A skincare specialist can test you for allergies, pinpoint your problem, and guide you to moisturizing products that will not cause a reaction.

Recovery cream is next-level moisturizer

If your moisturizer is not strong enough to rebuild your skin's barrier and keep it hydrated, consider letting a recovery cream do the job. A recovery dream is known as the next-level version of moisturizer. Formulated with hydrating and healing-oriented ingredients (such as ceramides and humectants) that boost the repair mechanism of the skin, a recovery cream is effective in restoring the skin's protective layer and battling mild to severe dryness in skin, reducing redness and minimizing irritations that come with dry or sensitive skin.

If you have a chronic condition such as rosacea and eczema, which cause you to experience minor to major inflamed patches of cracked and sore skin from time to time, a recovery cream is a great way to leave your skin feeling smooth and minimize irritations. If you're healing from treatments that cause trauma or injury to your skin's layers — such as chemical peel or laser — a recovery cream is also helpful in helping your skin recover faster and improving the appearance of your skin in the long run.

A hydrating toner can replace a moisturizer in summertime

If your moisturizer is not hydrating enough for your skin, you might be able to find a solution in a toner. A toner, which is usually applied after a face wash and before a moisturizer, typically contains glycerin, antioxidants, acids, and other anti-inflammatory components. These hydrate the skin and calm irritations while ridding the surface of excess dead skin cells. It also does a terrific job of unclogging pores and minimizing acne breakouts. Although toner isn't a substitute for a moisturizer, those whose skin is on the oily side can use it in place of a moisturizer in the summertime when there's excess humidity and you sweat a lot, dermatologist Dr. Ruthie Harper tells Allure.

If your skin is on the dry side, however, it's not a good idea to skip moisturizer for toner only — as toner might be drying to the skin. The sweet spot is to apply a hydrating toner to your skin first and follow with a moisturizer.

Moisturizing masks can give an extra boost of moisture

Overnight moisturizing masks are not necessary, but you can put them on for an extra boost of hydration one to three times per week if your moisturizer is not up to snuff. There are many hydrating masks containing hydrating and soothing ingredients that address dry skin concerns, such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, niacinamide, and vitamin C. Preceding your moisturizer with a serum, which is typically chockfull of hydrating active ingredients that tackle dry skin woes, is also a great way to amp up skin hydration.

If you have chronic dry skin and your moisturizing lotion isn't helping, switch to a moisturizing cream. "Creams have a thicker consistency with less percentage of water — usually 50/50 water and oil," allergist and immunologist Dr. Ratika Gupta tells Well+Good. "They're more hydrating [than lotions], and they often come in tubs since the cream is too thick to be dispensed in a pump." When it comes to moisturizing and restoring the top layer of the skin from damage caused by environmental stressors or bacteria, creams are better suited for dry and sensitive skin types.