3 reasons your moisturiser isn't working any more

why your moisturiser isn't working
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(Image credit: Westend61/Getty Images)

Ever feel like your moisturiser isn't working, no matter how dutifully you apply it? 

Equipped with the knowledge that serum and face cream are the Batman and Robin of your skincare routine, you've invested in both products. But for some reason, your skin still feels dry even after liberal applications. In fact, it feels drier than before you embarked on this skincare journey. What's going on?

There could be several reasons for your skin not looking particularly juicy right now - better still, all are easily rectified. Keep scrolling...

1. Your skin isn’t damp

Moisturiser is best absorbed by skin with a small amount of water on it. That's especially true of hyaluronic acid, which has an incredible capacity to draw in and hold onto water - but only if it there is moisture there in the first place.  

So if you apply hyaluronic acid to dry skin in a dry climate (thanks central heating) it can actually leave skin thirstier than before.

"Hyaluronic acid will draw moisture from wherever it can find it to hydrate the surface of your face, including the deeper layers of your skin if there is no humidity in the air," explains aesthetic doctor, Dr Sophie Shotter.

So use a gentle toner or face mist (we love Elemis Superfood Kefir-Tea Mist) first to give your hyaluronic acid a reserve of moisture to draw from. This strategy will also ramp up the absorption of the rest of your moisturising arsenal.

Elemis Superfood Kefir-Tea Mist, £16.90, Lookfantastic

moisturiser isn't working, Elemis Superfood Kefir-Tea Mist, £16.90, Lookfantastic

(Image credit: Lookfantastic)

2. You're overdoing it

You may think that slathering on a thick layer of moisturiser is the answer to all your dry skin needs. Actually, the opposite is true.

It may sound counter-intuitive but "over-moisturising the surface of your skin sends a signal that it has enough water, lipids and protein," says aesthetic doctor Dr Barbara Sturm, who counts Gwyneth Paltrow as a client.

As a result, skin gets lazy and starts to produce less hydration and nutrients of its own.

The result? We get trapped in a vicious cycle of applying ever richer creams.

3. The formula is missing essentials

When it comes to hydration, not all ingredients are created equal. So if you nail this part of your regime you won't be tempted to ever over-moisturise again.

When skin ages, the lipids in the skin's protective barrier slowly break down; minuscule cracks appear and moisture leaks out of your skin. Added to this, the levels of hyaluronic acid that our skin cells produce to help them retain moisture also take a dip.

Humectants like hyaluronic acid in a serum can help to prevent this but only if the molecules are formulated in a mix of high and low weight forms.

"A lot hyaluronic acid molecules are too large to penetrate into the skin," says Dr Sturm. "We use a low molecular weight in our Hyaluronic Serum as this allows for easier penetration into the deeper layers of skin. Once it has reached the collagen and elastin fibres it can bind them with water, improving skin elasticity.  The higher weight molecules feed the surface with hydration."

Glycerin is another great humectant, as is shea butter, but it's important to then lock all that goodness in with a ceramide-rich cream. 

Elizabeth Arden Lift and Firm Day Cream, £59, Lookfantastic

moisturiser isn't working, Elizabeth Arden Lift and Firm Day Cream, £59, Lookfantastic

(Image credit: Lookfantastic)

"Your skin barrier is made up of ceramides so, when used in skincare, ceramides will form a protective layer over your skin to prevent moisture from escaping," says Shotter. 

All which equals plumper, happier, more balanced skin.

Fiona Embleton is a beauty writer who is now Acting Beauty Editor at Stylist. She is obsessed with Isabel Marant and cats.