What is the effect of moisturizing cream?

High school students collect data about their skin.



Daily creams and other facial products form part of the everyday routine of most women of all ages, generating billions of francs in sales every year. An important reason for why users apply them on a daily basis is the subjective impression of having dry skin, since a pleasant feeling is experienced on the skin within minutes of application. We therefore asked ourselves whether the feeling of dryness actually arises because users indeed have dry skin, or whether it is much more a side effect of the moisturizing creams. When applying lip balm in winter, for example, a habitual effect is created that requires the user to constantly apply the balm again and again. Could day creams have the same effect on face skin?

If the regular application of moisturizing cream is suddenly dropped, the skin can quickly become dry. The symptom of dry skin can come into effect even just one day after stopping the use of the cream and the feeling can be severe. We wanted to find out how long this effect lasts and whether the skin can return to its normal condition.

The study involved 20 participants with an average age of 18 years. On the left side of their face, each continued with their standard facial care routine as usual. This included the use of moisturizing cream and all other skin products regularly applied by the participants. On the right side of the face, they applied no moisture creams or any other skin products such as body lotion, anti-aging creams or acne treatments. Only water, make-up and make-up remover was permitted.

The data were collected in the form of daily reports filled out by the participants. Five symptoms of dryness were examined on each half-face: Itching, dryness, redness, wrinkles and dandruff. In addition to the daily reports, the participants photographed their face in order to collect data on the development of their skin throughout the test.

The results showed that even on the first day, a very strong feeling of dryness of the skin occurs when the use of moisturizing cream, which was otherwise used regularly, is suddenly omitted. The other half of the face where the application of day cream had continued showed no such symptoms. After seven days, the tension in the product-free skin area had disappeared. Our results show that the daily use of skin cream triggers a habitual effect that forces users into a cycle of dependency. This leads to continued daily application - maybe with no real positive effect but this was beyond the scope of our study.


Project members:

Marc Kägi, high school student at the Gymnasium Rämibühl Zurich

Prof. Dr. med. Dr. sc. nat. Alexander Navarini, Department of Dermatology

UniversityHospital, Zurich


Graphic artist:

Lukas Gallati