A woman looking uncomfortable

Why Does Moisturizer Sting Dry Skin?

Moisturizers can sting or cause a burning sensation on dry, damaged skin. Thankfully, the solution is pretty simple.
Updated: November 9, 2022
Article Contents:

Moisturizers have a pretty great reputation as being soft, light, and helpful products. In fact, a good moisturizer can leave us feeling soothed and relaxed.

However, there is a growing portion of the population who are running into unexpected problems when using their favorite moisturizer, and those with dry skin seem to be getting the brunt of it.

Why does a simple moisturizer sting dry skin? We have the answers.

What is a moisturizer?

First, let’s briefly remind ourselves what a moisturizer actually is. Basically, a moisturizer is designed to help the skin retain as much vital moisture as possible. Hydration is super important for the skin to remain healthy, and throughout the day we all lose quite a bit of water from our skin due to physical exertion and environmental factors. Regular use of moisturizer can really help balance the skin and keep it fighting fit.

Not everyone will feel the benefits of a moisturizer

Unfortunately, nothing in this world is perfect. While moisturizers are really good at their job, some people will benefit from them more than others.

For example, those with dry skin will definitely get a bigger advantage from using moisturizers than people with oily skin. Dry skin is already deprived of water and needs help retaining it. Oily skin on the other hand has the opposite problem, it has too much moisture! Someone with excessively oily skin could actually make their problems worse if they use a moisturizer, which is why lighter products are recommended.

Everyone has different skin, so make sure you understand the unique properties of your skin type before deciding to use a moisturizer or any other skincare product.

Why does moisturizer sting my face?

There could be numerous reasons why moisturizer causes a stinging reaction. Firstly, if you have particularly sensitive skin in general, your chances of experiencing this are automatically higher than most other people. This is unfortunate, and people can develop sensitivity in the skin for a host of reasons. Consult a doctor or dermatologist for a more personal diagnosis.

For people with dry skin, the whole situation becomes a little easier to understand. Dryness can occur on a spectrum, sometimes it can be mild, and other times it can be more severe and lead to cracking and conditions like acne. It is these more extreme scenarios that cause trouble for moisturizers.

Excessively dry skin is, essentially, damaged skin. The lack of hydration and moisture has resulted in a lot of irritation that has left significant harm. More specifically, the protective skin barrier, which is the outermost layer of the skin, can be compromised, exposing the more vulnerable elements that lie underneath. This will allow external forces such as pollutants, dirt, and sun rays to impact the deeper layers of the skin, causing further damage.

The active ingredients within the moisturizer will also reach these layers, which is where the stinging or burning sensations come from. Ingredients such as alcohol, fragrances, hydroxy acid, and preservatives can sneak in and result in a painful experience. That’s really the crux of it.

How to stop moisturizer from stinging your skin

The question now becomes how we stop this from happening. Well, the solution revolves around making sure your skin doesn’t devolve into a bad condition in the first place.

Hydration is key. Skin is unlikely to get overly dry if it is sufficiently moisturized and hydrated. This can be done with, yes, moisturizers, though if you’re experiencing a lot of problems already you should take it slow and find products that don’t contain harsh ingredients. It can also be achieved through positive lifestyle changes. Did you know that most of us walk through our everyday lives dehydrated? We all need to drink more water, eat more fruits and vegetables, and just generally live better. Make sure you are always properly hydrated to reduce the chances of dry and problematic skin.

If you suffer from acne, you should always seek advice from a professional dermatologist or doctor. Resist the urge to take matters into your own hands, as more damage can be done.


Feeling a sting from a moisturizer is usually the result of already sensitive skin or the active ingredients within the product penetrating a damaged skin barrier. Remember to always keep your skin as healthy and balanced as possible to prevent this from happening.

Moisturizers are incredibly helpful products for the majority of people, and we recommend their regular usage to keep the skin hydrated and refreshed.

Let's take this to the inbox!
Get our latest skincare news, best product recommendations & brand-exclusive discount codes directly to your inbox.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.