I love lotion. No, really-like, I love love it. Every single night, I slather moisturizer all over my body and face like I’m a dehydrated sea sponge washed ashore, and during the day, I compulsively apply hand cream so often that my computer mouse is permanently slippery. So when two other Allure editors announced that they rarely, if ever, use moisturizer, my brain short-circuited. “But…but your skin needs moisture!” I cried out, channeling my inner dermatologist and surgeon general. “…Right?” I mean, what if I’m just addicted to lotion? What would really happen if I stopped moisturizing for a few days-a few weeks-a year?! Think of the money I’d save on not buying my monthly Gold Bond supply! I quickly emailed my derm squad for backup.
“Your skin absolutely needs moisturizer,” says Mona Gohara, a dermatologist at Yale University, who also told me that no, your skin can’t get “addicted” to moisturizer (though my bank statement begs to differ). “Your skin is the biggest organ in your body,” she says. “It’s not bloody or guts-y, but it’s still an organ, and organs need water.” OK, sure, that makes sense. But what would really happen if I stopped slathering today, cold turkey? How long before I’d turn into the Crypt Keeper? Because I love my skin too much to test this experiment, I asked Gohara for the timeline of what would happen to your skin sans moisturizer.
__After a few days:__Nothing too drastic. “You’ll notice your skin feeling dry, tight, and ashy, because you’re rapidly losing water,” says Gohara. “Moisturizer doesn’t just add water back into your skin, it also traps in the water you already have to plump it up and protect it.”
__After a month:__You’ll see some damage. “Your skin barrier is officially compromised,” she says. In layman’s terms, that means your skin is so deprived of water that it’s no longer doing its job as a protective shield from outside irritants. “You’ll see inflammation on the skin, like redness and blotchiness when you apply makeup, or irritation from your clothes.”
__After a year:__You’re screwed. More or less. “Over the years, you’re going to have decreased skin elasticity, increased fine lines and wrinkling, sagging, dullness, and severe irritation,” says Gohara. And, nope, slathering on some lotion at that point won’t fix it. “Most of those changes are irreversible-you’ll need fillers or injections to salvage the damage.” Think of it like this: “You can salvage a grape when it’s wrinkly, but when it’s a raisin, you’re screwed,” she says.
I mean, as fun as irreversible skin damage sounds, I think I’ll stick with my moisturizing (non)addiction. And yes, I primarily wrote this post to send to my eye-rolling coworkers, but hey, if I can save at least one person’s dying skin, I’ll feel happy. Slather on!
And, because why not, here are some more must-know facts about hydration and water: