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Dr. Obagi's Anti-Moisturizer Theory Explained

Dr. Obagi's Anti-Moisturizer Theory Explained


Who knew that moisturizer could create such a stir? Recently, I interviewed Dr. Zein Obagi of ZO Skin Health regarding anti-aging skin care, his area of expertise. As we learned, Dr. Obagi is not an advocate of moisturizers, claiming that they can actually accelerate the aging process. As promised, here's further explanation.

Can you clarify why moisturizers accelerate aging?
"It seems antithetical — a moisturizer was probably the first product that you used on your skin — and the one you trusted and used most frequently. . . With young and healthy skin, the cells in the dermis collect water from the food we eat and water we drink, and deliver that water to the surface of the skin. But, when you apply a moisturizer to hydrate and plump the skin, the skin cells in the epidermis send a message to the cells in the dermis: slow down, we’re fat and happy up here. That causes the cells in the dermis to become lazy, go dormant, and the skin becomes drier, thinner, and less elastic."

To hear what Dr. Obagi told me about why he sells creams and what conditions make it OK to use a moisturizer, read more.

Why do you sell two different crèmes, and what makes them different?
"I’m not a fan of moisturizers that plump and smooth the skin, and work only at the surface. The products need to work at the cellular level. The Daily Renewal Crème ($95) and Overnight Recovery Crème ($95) do have moisturizing properties, but that’s not all that they do. So unlike traditional moisturizers, these two products contain retinol (to activate and stimulate the skin) as well as anti-irritants and herbal extracts to calm and soothe the skin. So do they moisturize? Yes. But labeling them as moisturizers would be an understatement."

What conditions would make it OK to use moisturizers?
"Moisturizers are OK under certain conditions:

  1. . . . We want to keep skin cells functioning — that’s what keeps [them] awake and vital. If you activate and stimulate your skin, and use a product that moisturizes your skin, that’s OK.
  2. After medical procedures (lasers or peels) that may be desirable or necessary.
  3. When you’re traveling to an arid climate — such as Palm Springs or Las Vegas, where the air is very dry.
  4. When you’re traveling in an airplane, where the cabin air may dehydrate your skin."

Do you think Dr. Obagi's explanation makes sense?

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