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.)