Home Skincare Why Does My Skin Feel Tight?

Why Does My Skin Feel Tight?

by Gabbi

If you have ever experienced your skin feeling tight, especially after washing your face, you know that it can feel uncomfortable and cause issues with how your skin care or makeup looks and performs.

While we may all experience a period of skin dryness from time to time, but tight and shiny skin can relate to a skin condition that requires more attention to properly treat. 

Although it may be temporary, xerosis is the condition that relates to extreme dryness in the skin, resulting in a tight, unpleasant feeling.

Tightness often occurs when the skin is dehydrated, especially if you are noticing your skin also looks shiny, as it is losing more moisture than it is retaining. The skin is attempting to produce more oil to rehydrate the skin, causing it to look shiny, but is not easing the tight feeling. 

Why does your skin feel tight? There are several possible reasons for uncomfortable tightness in your skin, including the change in weather between seasons, reactions to certain ingredients in your skin care routine, washing your face with too hot water, and more.

Any skin type can experience the discomfort that comes with skin feeling too tight, and below we’ll discuss the causes, solutions, and products to avoid or include to get your skin back to feeling normal.

Why Skin Feels Tight

There are many reasons why you could be experiencing skin tightness, and that discomfort can last for different lengths of time. Any skin type can experience tightness, or a lack of moisture in the skin, although it may occur differently or be caused by varying reasons.

The skin’s pH balance can easily be disrupted, which can then throw off balance the natural moisture barrier that is present. When the skin has trouble producing its own sebum, or oil, it can cause the skin to feel stripped of any present moisture.

Washing your skin too often can also strip the skin of its much-needed moisture and cause the skin to be dehydrated. Especially if you are washing your face with water that is too hot, it can further dry out the skin from any natural moisture.

Based on the products you are using, some cleansers that use harsh soaps or detergents can cause the skin to feel tight as well. Especially products that include ingredients like sulfates can cause the skin to feel overly dry.

Skin tightness can also be caused by the change in weather, especially if it is a rapid or unexpected change. The transition from different seasons often requires your skin to reacclimate to settle your moisture barrier once again. This can be seasonal, particularly in the winter months, and can be easily rectified.

Our skin naturally produces oil; however, the natural sebum production begins to slow and decrease over time. The tightness can occur, because the hydration that is no longer naturally occurring needs to be replenished.

There are also certain medications that can have the side effect of severely drying out the skin, especially if the product is relating to targeting skin concerns like acne.

Effects of Skin Feeling Tight

When the skin is stripped of the moisture it needs, it will begin to feel tight and uncomfortable. It can often look shiny; however, it will not feel hydrated or soft. The skin will work overtime to try to produce oil naturally to compensate for the lack of moisture present in the skin.

It can also result in the skin feeling itchy or inflamed. When the skin is feeling the extreme dryness that is causing the tight feeling, it can begin to crack and peel as well. There is also the chance the skin will look pink or red, resulting from the inflammation or discomfort.

Tightness in the skin can also lead to the skin feeling and looking flaky or scaly. It can be especially apparent when makeup is applied on top, as it will often separate, clump, or flake off the skin. The products applied on top of the skin will separate and not blend in as well.

Solutions To Help Skin Not Feel Tight

While there are many causes for skin to feel tight, there are also just as many solutions to alleviate the discomfort.

One of the best solutions to helping prevent your skin from feeling tight is to look at your skin care products and their ingredients, specifically your cleanser, for ingredients that can be stripping your skin of moisture.

As cleansers are often the culprit for having harsh detergents, it can be helpful to switch to a non-foaming cleanser to eliminate the tight feeling from happening to your skin. Looking for options that are sulfate-free will be important to re-balancing your skin’s pH and moisture barrier.

Cleanser products that are gentler, such as gels or lotions, will still cleanse the skin but help provide added moisture.

As water that is too hot can often cause the skin to feel tight and dry, it is best to not wash your face in the shower, as the temperature of the water will not help comfort the skin. Instead, it is important to make sure you are using lukewarm water, at the hottest, to cleanse the skin. 

Although the tightness can often cause flakiness which may make you want to reach for your exfoliator, it is best to avoid using harsh scrubs on the skin when you are trying to alleviate any discomfort. Harsh physical or chemical exfoliators are best to be avoided until the moisture barrier is restored.

The best solution to battling the tightness your skin is feeling is to focus on adding hydration back into the skin by using products that not only retain moisture, but also attract it.

Even if your skin is more on the oily side typically, you may want to add in more deeply hydrating products until your natural oil production and moisture barrier is restored.

It can also be helpful to use products like Vaseline in your routine when wanting to eliminate the skin’s tightness.

While these types of products can be too heavy for the skin normally, when wanting to retain moisture in the skin to prevent tightness, it can help to lock in the hydration your other skin care products are providing.

Products To Avoid With Skin Tightness

If your skin is experiencing extreme dryness, there are a few skin care ingredients to avoid in order to help eliminate the risk of disrupting your skin even more. The most common products to avoid contain ingredients like alcohol, which can severely dry out the skin and exacerbate the tightness.

It is also best to avoid products like salicylic acid, or any other AHAs, as it can irritate skin that is already experiencing discomfort and cause the skin to feel even more dehydrated. Retinoids should also be avoided, as they will harshly exfoliate the skin and can further disrupt the pH balance.

When looking for cleansers, the best options are ones that are without sulfates, as they are often too harsh for skin that is already feeling stripped of moisture. The sulfates can cause trans-epidermal water loss, which can result is stripping all the natural oils from the skin.

Products To Help Skin Not Feel Tight

While there are certain products that should be avoided when experiencing skin tightness, there are a variety of products that can be included in your routine to re-establish the moisture barrier in the skin.

To help to skin look and feel good, you want to focus on richly hydrating products like moisturizers and serums that will help to reduce the uncomfortable tightness in the skin.

Products that contain ceramides will help to restore the skin’s natural moisture barrier and deeply hydrate the skin to calm any discomfort. Hyaluronic acid is an ideal ingredient to attract moisture back into the skin and can be found in many serums and moisturizers. It is also an ideal product for any skin type.

It is also important to look for products that contain other humectants, such as glycerin, in their ingredients. Humectants work to not only lock in existing moisture but attracts moisture to the skin from its surroundings to keep the skin feeling hydrated and comforted throughout the day.

To combat skin tightness even more, you can also look to incorporate products that are occlusives, like Vaseline, as it creates a barrier to trap moisture from your skin care products into the skin while also blocking out any potential irritants.


Although the tight feeling in your skin may cause some mild discomfort or irritation, it can be treated in a relatively quick and easy way, based on what is causing the tightness to occur.

With skin tightness being caused by several situations, ranging from too hot water to too harsh cleansing ingredients, the solutions all focus on re-establishing the moisture barrier by using richly hydrating products.

By incorporating ultra-hydrating ingredients, that are able to penetrate deeply and attract more moisture to the skin, any tightness or discomfort should soon be eliminated to make way for soft, supple skin again.

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