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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,


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?


MYC512 MYC512 5 years
I was so skeptical, esspecially to spend $350 on a kit that doesn't have an "acutal moisturizer", especially since there would be redness and peeling but I wasn't happy (and hadn't been for a while) with my current skin regimen so I was ready to take the advice from my doctor and give ZO skin health a try...the results are gorgeous!! I LOVE LOVE LOVE my skin. It's glowing and healthly looking and I have looked better. Haven't need any fillers this that's a huge I'd say the $350 was worth it...I'm hooked!!!
ChristineLoves ChristineLoves 5 years
I think there is some logic to the skin not producing moisturisers if artificial creams are added. Just like we are told not to over clean skin which is greasy as it stimulates the sebaceous glands to overproduce. Getting the balance right is not easy and without having witnessed someone who has used the system on a long term basis I would be fearful of causing skin damage with the obagi system as the first few weeks cause discomfort with dryness, redness, itching and flaking skin. However I know someone who is 60 and has used this for years and looks like she is 30. Her skin is plump and youthful.
Camarogirl67 Camarogirl67 8 years
Ok this is way late but - i just wonder if ANYTHING applied to the skin settles in lines and ages you. Even SPF! Also a tip that works for me - I have pretty bad dermatitis on my face, and eating avocado everyday seems to help that. Plus my skin isn't as red and irritated.
miller2008 miller2008 8 years
Hi, A very smart and diplomatic answer. It’s really appreciable and generous. Miller Skin Care Products
miller2008 miller2008 8 years
Hi, A very smart and diplomatic answer. It’s really appreciable and generous. Miller Skin Care Products
MsChoo MsChoo 8 years
Hilarious! Your cells don't get lazy!! Your cells take in water via Osmosis. Meaning water will always go to where there is less concentration of water. If your cells have too much water then it'll just go back the other way-the bloodstream. And if your cells went dormant you'd probably die.
ladysasha23 ladysasha23 8 years
i think i'll pass on his advice. cant do without moisturizer!! my skin is just too dry...esp in the winter time
Dr Obagi is spot on! I have been using the OBAGI system since Sept 08 and my skin hads done a complete transformation. I had horrible sun damage, melasma,wrinkles & brown spots. I used oil of olay and SPF 30 on my face for the past 10 year but the damage was there. I'm 38 and my skin looks like i'm in my early 20's! I have gotten so many comments from people ho haven't seen me in a while. People think I had work done (which I have NEVER done). I am telling you I look 10-15 years younger!My skin is glowing, radiant, the melasma is gone! It's amazing! I haven't used moisturizer since August and it's working for me. the products work so you don't need a "moisturizer". Dr. Obagi has NOTHING to do with Obagi medical Products anymore so he has nothing to gain from this. He started his own skin care company again after he sold OBAGI.I'm telling you he knows his skin care stuff inside and out! I don't know about any of his new products with ZO but the old Obagi is amazing!
oni1 oni1 8 years
i'm not buying his philosophy or product line.
Sashaqueenie Sashaqueenie 8 years
I don't buy it. I trust my SK-II skin care moisturizers and would not travel without them.
LoveSarah LoveSarah 8 years
Maybe I'll worry about this when I'm older, but at 20 my ponds cold cream works just fine. To me this just sounds like some quack trying to sell his $100 creams.
OhMyDragonflys OhMyDragonflys 8 years
I trust my aveda can't tear me away from how beautiful my skin looks with it.
bermyWHAT bermyWHAT 8 years
I buy it...I'm not saying I'd buy his products (because there are other products on the market that contain the same ingredients) but what he's saying does make sense And I've sort of had that same sneaking suspicion for awhile...Like when does my boyfriend never need lotion...even if he has a little bit of dry skin it goes away and is never as severe as mine... it's worth doing more personal research and experimentation...
witchbaby witchbaby 8 years
despite the moisturizer talk i heard his stuff for acne is really good. expensive but worth it.
almostloli almostloli 8 years
so he's actually saying that our skin adapts, if we're feeding it enough moisturizers it will stop collecting water from the inside? hm... makes sense but i think if we stop putting on moisturizers , our skin will start adapting too, and start collecting more water from what we eat and drink!
MommaChel MommaChel 8 years
yeah I also think he's just saying all this hooblah to sell his expensive crap. No thanks man, Avon's still the place for me.
Magdeline Magdeline 8 years
Rx Retin-A cream > Overpriced Obagi
Haethre Haethre 8 years
wait a minute. . .in the last post, he said that moisturizers are bad. in this post, he says they are okay to "activate" the skin, but doesn't mention on which cellular level they are okay. Bella, you need to be a harsher interviewer? sounds to me like he's selling something.
Antimony Antimony 8 years
Hmmm maybe it needs some sources to more information. I mean there ARE other products on the market with those ingredients so... it's hard to say. But he doesnt list them off or make other suggestions than his own stuff. :/
melxoxo melxoxo 8 years
um, my skin is way too dry not to use moisturizer.
Cris1192 Cris1192 8 years
I think it makes sense, like if you don´t use a muscle in a long time they cramp and shrink or something like that.
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