Do We Really Need To Use Moisturiser?

During a recent phone call with one of my best friends, she told me that all she uses is Dove soap. I was quite shocked. Her skin looks good. Given that I only see her a few times once a year when I visit my home town, I’m sure I would notice if things are not going well for her skin-wise.

Ever since I got off the pill, my skin has reverted back to being all pimply and oily in the T-zone.

Thank goodness the cystic pimples have stopped. But even the normal papules (the ones that develop white or yellowish heads that make you want to squeeze them), leave pinky purple marks on my skin for months whether I leave them alone or not.

I was getting really annoyed about how much time I spent trying to cover all the marks on my face with concealer. And as with my teen years, no cream or facewash or toner works.

I purchased a moisturiser I hadn’t used before. The Himalaya Herbals Clear Complexion Cream. I had read mostly good reviews about it.

So I noticed that my T-zone was less oily than usual when I used it, but still oily enough to need to blot my face after lunch time.

Three days later, the beginnings of eczema started on my face.

It’s a fear I have that started ever since I ended up with a rash all over my face when I was about 12 from a face wash.

I choose my products fairly cautiously with a delicate balance between the price, natural ingredients, lack of nasty ingredients, and if it’s safe for sensitive skin acne prone skin.

But alas, since I don’t actually know what I’m sensitive to aside from tea tree and neem, it’s a struggle that has resulted in me wasting a tidy sum over the years and sad itchy and even painful rashes.

So, is moisturiser really necessary? Here are all the ins and outs and some really unflattering photos of myself. Have mercy :p

The Moisturiser-Free Experiment

Disclaimer: Neither my friend or I are dermatologists or scientists. This is just anecdotal information.

My friend suggested I try going moisturiser free and leave the make up too for two weeks.

Yes, every now and then I cover the pimples up, even at home. It makes me feel better. Also the dark circles under my eyes make me look ill, and with no eyeliner, I look tired even when I’m not.

I know, I know, I say bashfully trying to hide my face. Anyway.

At first I was like:

  • My face is always super dehydrated after I wash it, even with plain water or gentle face wash or glycerine soap.
  • As I enter this new decade, skimping on the skincare seems like a very bad idea.

Her arguments were:

  • Just try it for two weeks, it shouldn’t cause any harm and at best I will have skin like a baby. Perfect.
  • Moisturiser stops the skin from making it’s own oil and clogs up the pores.
  • The skin can’t get rid of dead skin cells properly because of moisturiser.
  • We all get wrinkles eventually, there’s no stopping them.
  • Drink lots of water, it will help.
  • It’s lockdown, no one can see me.

Yip, no one can see me even when I do go out. I wear a scarf now instead, because that mask was horrible.

I could barely see, and it dried my contact lenses out quite badly. But at least I didn’t touch my nose or mouth which was the point. I am a serial face toucher.

So, point taken.

The Research in Favour of Going Moisturiser-Free

So not the type to take things at face value when it comes to health, including my skin, I looked it up.

There are many stories about women who have given up moisturiser completely, some who only use serum, or only use moisturiser at night or during the day.

This particular article drew me like a moth to a flame. Who doesn’t want the skin of their dreams?

Then I came across this article where a couple of dermatologists give their take on it.

According to them, moisturiser is unnecessary unless you truly have dry skin. Moisturiser, does in fact, trap dead skin cells, block pores, and hamper the skin’s ability to regulate moisture naturally. A fact that will be noticeable within 2-4 weeks of shunning moisturiser.

It’s more important to cleanse, exfoliate once or twice a week, and apply sunscreen if you’re going to be in the sun.

What’s scary is that there are also peachy articles, like this one, about how doing this will forever damage your skin. Yikes!!!!!! So who to believe?

Only Truly Dry Skin Needs Moisturiser

Some further research seems to back up the dermatologists who are anti-moisturiser.

Dehydrated Skin

The tight feeling in the skin, especially if there an oil slick present, is due to dehydration.

The skin is doing exactly what it’s meant to. Trying to provide moisture, but not quite getting there because another essential part of the skin barrier (the thing that prevents your skin from losing fluids), water, is lacking.

Given some of the other symptoms, namely tired looking eyes with dark circles and fine lines or wrinkles (especially on the forehead and around the eyes) that aren’t permanent, I know this is my particular issue.

I generally drink enough fluids to stay hydrated according to this TMI pee colour chart, but perhaps there is something to actually consuming 6-8 glasses of water, instead of my usual 5 (plus two cups of coffee).

Dry Skin

Dry skin, scientifically known by the fancy words, xerosis cutis, is due to a malfunctioning skin barrier caused by genetics and ageing in general. The skin will not be oily at all in this case.

The skin can’t hold on to the oils or water needed for a healthy skin barrier. In this case, moisturiser is necessary.

Symptoms are:

  • White, flaking skin
  • Eczema
  • Itchy skin
  • Scaly skin
  • Cracks in the skin
  • Pink or red irritated skin

The whole flaking skin with cracks is why I started using body moisturiser as a child already. My legs are especially prone to this.

It’s much better in the more humid climate of Cape Town than the drier climate in Johannesburg, but I generally can’t skip more than two days before the situation arises. Maybe only a day winter.

I now feel that at least my body lotion habit is justified because I actually like doing that.

The Verdict: I Decide To Go Moisturiser-Free

But I can try this for two or three weeks. Goodness knows I would love to reduce my spending on fancy lotions and potions for my skin. And if it improves my acne, hey!

I went from a 5-10 minute face care girl (cleansing and moisturising and make up all included) to someone who spends 15-30 minutes doing all these things. Ain’t nobody got time for that!


To be honest, this photo with a lovely background of tents in a store :p, was taken early March, but you can tell if you look closely that the texture of my skin isn’t great. Especially around my chin.

The second image was a picture I sent to another friend about three weeks ago. Excuse the look on my face. I hadn’t washed my face or anything. She had said the night before that she couldn’t see any pimples in the video call. But the lighting was poor on my side. So sent her this the next morning.

Week One of Moisturiser-Free Skin

Day 1

That Friday night, I washed my face using my face wash (Avon Care Even Tone).

I resisted the urge to moisturise, and my toner had run out before just after lockdown started and I thought screw it.

But my skin was tight and sore. I eventually swiped on some micellar water (Garnier Micellar Water-Sensitive). That at least took away the sore feeling.

This lovely photo was taken on Saturday morning after rinsing my face with water and then cleaning it with micellar water. Excuse my hair.

For the next two days, my skin felt pretty dehydrated, but not sore. I still had to blot my face, but instead of at around 12, only at about 3pm.

I used a facial scrub (Himalaya Herbals Oil Control Face Scrub) on day two because my skin felt very rough. It was even more comfortable on my skin than the face wash. It has more natural ingredients and way fewer chemicals, so maybe that’s why.

I did freak out about having no sun protection. My day cream contained sunscreen. I love the sun as you can see by the freckles on my face. But now that I know about the sun, I freaked out a bit despite knowing it’s totally fine to be in the sun for 10 minutes or so without sunscreen.

Anything to get back to the safety of face cream :p But I resisted.

Day 3

Funny faces aside, I took this picture on day three. Still got the dark under eye circles, and oil on my forehead.

Yes, I had caved and put on a little bit of eyeliner the day before and it didn’t all come off. But no concealer or face creams.

Just micellar water. I realised that rinsing my face in the morning caused it to dry out more. The glycerine in the micellar water seems to help a bit.

I also know that really hot water dries out your skin and I am a repeat offender, especially in winter when my body’s skin is driest. It’s not as nice when there isn’t a little burn in my opinion. But alas.

I found that showering in almost luke warm water was less drying and I stopped using lotion on my chest and back. I figured I’d give it a go because they are also affected by acne, and using micellar water isn’t too bad.

For the next few days, my skin feels much better in that the tightness has reduced significantly.

I had been drinking more water and herbal teas throughout the day and it really did seem to help.

My skin did start flaking a bit on my chin and around my nose, but unlike when I used face cream, the flakes came off easier. Dead skin finally escaping?

Day 7

So, on yesterday, I’d come full circle.

The oiliness had kicked in quite a bit because of PMS. Sigh. But not nearly as badly as when I used face cream.

More pimples arrived, it’s hard to see them at this angle which also somehow doubled the size of my nose. They are mostly along my jaw.

I still only need to blot my face late afternoon. Some of the skin flakes aren’t really flaked skin so much as nasty pores.


So today on day 8, I think my delicious smelling chocolate mask from Montagne Jeunesse is in order. Perhaps a pore strip or two as well to take care of the blocked pores.

So far it’s going better than I expected. I think perhaps since lockdown is still pretty much mostly underway, I will keep on.

Here’s What I’m Hoping For At The End of Two to Three Weeks Without Moisturiser

  • Skin like a baby’s!
  • Fewer pimples
  • Smaller pores on my forehead
  • Happy pores free of debris
  • Better skin texture in general
  • No flaking skin
  • A happier bank balance

Any Possible Caveats?

If this isn’t working for me, especially during winter, I think a hydrating hyaluronic acid and vitamin C serum might be in order.

Those dermatologists who are against using moisturiser (except on dry skin) often recommend a hyaluronic acid serum. It’s a substance that our bodies make on their own for the health of our skin and joints.

Serums can be pricey, especially compared to moisturisers, but no toner, no night cream, no day cream, I think it works out fine.

Plus I once got a sample, and my skin did feel so soft when using it, and that tiny sachet lasted more than a week because it took so little to spread all over my face and neck.

And of course, any time I am going to sit outside for a while which I do often during autumn, spring, and summer, and when I desperately need light in winter, I will use sunscreen. Dermatologists do recommend it after all.

In fact, I may even apply it daily when the UV index is high, because the sun gets us in the car and through the windows too. The sun is responsible for 90% of skin ageing!

It’s only been a week, so I’ll see how it goes. I think I’ll do a two or three part series depending on how long I do it for.

Have any of you stopped using moisturiser, or never started in the first place?

What are your thoughts?

P.s. I hope you are all healthy and staying safe and sane during this whole covid-19 pandemic. I am praying along with everyone for a quick end or at very least a cure, and certainly a vaccine for this virus.

A BIG THANK YOU to all the medical staff, cashiers, petrol attendants, pharmacists, engineers, etc, who are out there in the front lines. I also take my hat off to Mr Ramaphosa and the other politicians here in south Africa and world-wide for their efforts and for making the hard decisions to keep us all safe.

Source of featured image: AdoreBeautyNZ on Pixabay.


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