What is the Skin’s Moisture Barrier - And Why Moisturizing Your Skin Can Make it More Vulnerable

It seems paradoxical. Women and men use moisturizer every day to sustain their skin and enhance its natural barrier function – yet somehow end up achieving the opposite result. Could such a widely accepted skincare practice actually be harmful to skin health? Dermatological research says yes.

To understand why, we need to understand how the moisture barrier works in healthy skin.

What is the skin’s moisture barrier?

Maintaining a healthy balance of fluids is one of the main jobs of your skin. To achieve this, it must constantly adapt to conditions in the environment (such as humidity) and inside your body (such as fluid intake).

Your skin achieves this by managing its own moisture content, both within epidermal cells and in the spaces between them. This is what we mean by the moisture barrier.

It doesn’t end there. On top of managing hydration, your skin’s moisture barrier plays a critical role in temperature regulation and immunological protection. It also helps keep out environmental toxins that could otherwise damage vulnerable cells, and it helps maintain your natural defenses against ultraviolet radiation.

This is where things start to get tricky. To help skin function effectively we should not be continually adding more moisture to this delicate system. Instead we should support its innate ability to adapt to conditions and natural metabolic processes.

But that’s not what happens, in all too many cases.

What science says about long-term use of moisturizers.

There is certainly a role for moisturizing products in relieving certain skin conditions. However, a daily regime of slathering on moisturiser to keep skin youthful may actually have the opposite effect. Instead of a healthy moisture barrier that protects against irritants, you may wind up with skin that’s more vulnerable to the inevitable stresses of life.

Several studies support this:

Daily use of moisturizers on normal skin could theoretically interfere with the functional organization of the stratum corneum or with the synthesis of endogenous lipids, resulting in a change in the barrier function of the skin [Source].


The present findings indicate that treatment with moisturizers does not necessarily protect the skin, but may instead lead to increased susceptibility to irritants [Source].


Upsetting your skin’s natural balance by overusing moisturizers might even trigger deeper issues:

Topically applied substances may also penetrate deeper into the skin and interfere with the production of barrier lipids and the maturation of corneocytes. Furthermore, moisturizing creams may influence the desquamatory proteases and alter the thickness of the stratum corneum [Source]. 


For all these reasons it’s time for a different approach.

Tone down moisturizing - and strengthen your skin barrier.

Your skin is more capable than you think. By avoiding long-term daily use of moisturizers, you can help your skin ‘learn’ to regulate its own moisture content. This in turn supports the barrier function of your skin, so it can better shield you from the effects of sun damage and environmental toxins.

You’ll be better protected from inflammation, dryness and other conditions that can make skin look older than it really is. Healthier, more youthful-looking skin – that’s a prize worth having.

Moisturizing the right way: the Lo-Mo™ approach. 

Instead of layering moisture on the surface of your skin where it can only be marginally effective, this Ao treatment and serum work below the surface to optimize your skin function. This means that they help you produce and retain more of your own natural moisture. It’s a radical new way to hydrate.

Raw Nourish AM Treatment

Part of the Lo-Mo™ series, this EWG Verified (and recent Clean Beauty Awards finalist) daytime treatment doesn’t just layer on moisture for temporary gain – it naturally supports the skin’s ability to produce and maintain its own hydration. Learn more

Peak Strength AM Serum Shot 


Part of the Lo-Mo™ series, this EWG Verified (and recent Clean Beauty Awards finalist) daytime serum is perfect for undernourished and tired looking skin to revitalize and strengthen the skin’s dynamic boundary. Learn more



"Skincare science needs to be on the very edge of social change and evolution in order to succeed."

Dr. Mark Gray