Why Does Moisturizer Sting Dry Skin? Explained

Have you ever wondered why your moisturizer or cream irritates or burns your skin?

If that’s the case, you’re not alone. According to a study published in the International Journal of Dermatology in 2011, more than 44% of adults in the United States had sensitive or extremely sensitive skin. When using a skincare product, many persons with sensitive skin complain about burning, itching, and stinging.

In the realm of beauty, moisturizers are the bra equivalent. Both are meant to shape, protect, and support and are worn on a regular basis. Yet, much like the remarkable claim that around 80 percent of women are wearing the wrong bra size, there are a copious number of offenders wearing the improper moisturizer.

The real cause is that we overlook the number of variables to consider when selecting the ideal match. You can’t just wear the one you bought ten years ago or borrow one from a buddy. Moisturizers must be updated and adjusted to the current demands of your skin.

So, what’s causing these uneasy feelings?

8 Reasons Why Does Moisturizer Sting Dry Skin

1. Poor Skin Barrier 

The skin barrier isn’t spectacular, but it’s one of the most crucial factors to consider if you want healthy, youthful-looking skin.

The skin barrier is the skin’s outermost layer. It has a thickness of only a few micrometers, which is less than the breadth of your hair. Dead cells, proteins, and natural lipids make up this substance.

A healthy skin barrier decreases water loss, prevents irritants and allergens from penetrating the skin, and preserves the skin’s protective and functional integrity. All of these advantages result in skin that is smooth, moist, radiant, and healthy.

The skin barrier can be weakened or destroyed by a variety of internal and environmental factors. Our capacity to produce natural oils and lipids declines as we become older. The lipids and oils in the skin serve as the glue that holds the cells and proteins together. Also, as we age, our skin gets naturally dry and flaky, which can cause leakage.

Excessive washing with hot water or other toxins, which can take away the skin’s natural lipids, are external reasons. Sunburn, pollution, and skin disorders such as eczema can also cause the skin to break down.

Irritators, chemicals, allergies, germs, and viruses can penetrate and get access to the living section of the skin if this outer layer of protective skin is not functioning correctly.

This can cause inflammation and irritation, resulting in redness as well as unpleasant burning and stinging sensations.

2. Ingredients 

  • Fragrance 

We wish to differentiate odors from synthetic perfumes created from chemicals from aromas obtained from botanicals and essential oils.

Artificial perfumes, in general, are more prone to cause uncomfortable sensations such as burning or stinging.

  • Alcohol

There are a variety of reasons why alcohol should be used in a skincare recipe. They may do everything from function as a preservative to alter the texture of a product.

Alcohols can deplete natural lipids, impair the skin barrier, and cause stinging and burning.

  • Preservatives 

To keep fungus, germs, and yeast from growing in your skincare products, you’ll need preservatives. Preservatives are required in every serum, lotion, or cream that contains water. Otherwise, the items may be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria.

Formaldehyde, Diazolidinyl and imidazolyl urea, parabens, and methylisothiazolinone are some of the preservatives that might cause irritation and allergies in those with sensitive skin.

  • Alpha & Beta Hydroxy Acid

Many skincare products contain AHA and BHA. They exfoliate the skin, making it smooth and supple. Acne and other unpleasant blemishes can be treated with them. These acids can also aid to increase collagen formation and eliminate wrinkles at greater concentrations.

AHA and BHA are often included in many skincare products because of their anti-aging properties.

Acids, on the other hand, have a low pH. Acids may hurt and burn when they penetrate the skin. Furthermore, the acids destroy the oils and lipids that keep the skin cells together, causing the skin barrier to weaken.

Glycolic acid, lactic acid, benzoic acid, and salicylic acids are common acids utilized in the formulation. If you have sensitive skin, avoid lotions and creams that include such chemicals.

  • Surfactants & Emulsifiers 

Surfactants and emulsifiers, particularly ionic varieties, can irritate and sting the skin, mainly in those with sensitive skin.

Water and oil are combined to make lotions, serums, and creams. If you’ve ever made salad dressing, you’re well aware that oil and water do not mix well. They’ll split up.

In lotions, serums, and creams, surfactants and emulsifiers are required to keep water and oil together.

Look for pure oil products if you’re seeking anti-aging products. There are no surfactants or emulsifiers in it.

Choose serums, lotions, and creams that are free of strong surfactants. To create these goods with extremely little or no surfactants, proprietary formulation procedures are frequently required.

If you have sensitive skin or eczema, an ointment or balm is preferable. There is no water in it, only oil. As a result, no surfactants or emulsifiers are required in the composition.


There might be a lot of factors at play when a moisturiser hurts your skin, but the most typical culprit is water, which is found in all moisturisers. True, alcohols, perfumes, and other substances might irritate your skin, but they are usually in extremely low concentrations and shouldn’t hurt.

Most individuals have had a minor burning sensation when pool or tap water gets up their nose. The difference in salt concentrations between the water in the pool or tap water and the water or fluid in the cells of the nose causes this. The cells in the nose enlarge quickly, leading nerves to transmit signals to the brain that something is wrong!

Water accounts for at least 80% of the weight of a cream. Dry skin has a similar effect, in which the cells rapidly absorb water and expand, leading the skin’s nerves to alert the brain that something is wrong!

Ointments and oils by themselves do not moisturize the skin and merely serve as a barrier. So, how can you get this vital moisture into severely dry skin without causing it to sting?

Gradually is the best way to go! A pharmacist may customize the water content of your creams to meet your skin type at many pharmacies. It can begin with as little as 1% water and progressively increase until the skin is moisturized and healed.

There is a formulated version of cream that has less than 10% water for persons with severely dry eczema. Vitamin B12 Butter is what it’s called.

4. Skin that is irritated or very dry

If your skin is already sensitive or dry, it’s understandable that using a moisturizer can worsen the problem. Make the mistake of assuming that a moisturizer would provide you with the immediate remedy you require. You risk getting a burning sensation if you use a moisturizer that is not designed for your skin type or underlying skin conditions. When you use an oil-absorbing moisturizer on dry skin, for example, it will absorb all of the oil from the skin, exacerbating the dryness.

5. Skin Sensitive

When applying moisturizer, naturally sensitive skin is more likely to experience a burning sensation. Another reason to use the correct moisturizer for your skin’s needs is to avoid irritation. Sensitive skin needs the use of a moisturizer that is free of harsh ingredients.

6. Allergic Reaction

Allergies to the skin are plain bad luck. If you have an adverse response to a skincare product, it isn’t always the moisturizer’s fault. A personal reaction to a product or a specific element in the product is known as an allergic reaction. It has nothing to do with the moisturizer’s quality.

7. Products that have been poorly formulated

Not every reaction is instant. Your skin might sometimes reach a tipping point and react as a result of a product you’ve been using. This response might cause a rash or cause a burning sensation. Avoiding products that include harsh substances or a lot of chemicals, colors, and scents is an excellent way to ensure that what you’re putting on your skin is of good quality.

8. Brush for Cleaning

It’s not often the substance that causes irritation, but rather the way it’s applied. When used in an abrasive manner, an applicator like a Clarisonic, for example, might irritate the skin. The washing brush’s firm bristles may cause microcracks in the skin. Irritation and burning are more likely to occur as a result of these fissures. 

To figure out what’s causing the burning, try using your favorite product without a cleaning brush and see if you get better results and a more comfortable experience.

How To Stop Burning Sensation When Applying Moisturizer

1. Remove the Product Instantly 

If you feel a burning sensation after applying moisturizer, immediately rinse off the product. If you have experienced a burning sensation after washing off the product, gently pat dry.

2. Apply a Cool Compress

When your skin is burning, it’s normal to need fast relief. Applying a cool compress can alleviate the immediate pain. You’ll be able to purchase a cool compress from most pharmacies so you usually have one available. In a pinch, you’ll be able to build one reception by filling a clean and sealed bag with ice or frozen vegetables. Be sure to wrap the bag in a really skinny material before applying so you avoid the extra irritation to the skin. 

3. Don’t use Aloe Vera or Honey

While aloe vera and honey are known for their healing properties on the skin, now is not the time to test their effectiveness. Since your skin has just experienced a reaction, you want the irritation to subside before you apply anything else. Your skin should rest and breathe without adding various products or treatments.


A burning feeling when applying moisturizer can be caused by a number of circumstances. To figure out why your skin is burning, you need to explore all of the options.

It will be easier to pinpoint the problem if you introduce goods in a systematic manner and pay close attention to how different therapies interact with one another.

It’s never a good idea to put your skin’s health on the back burner.

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