It's also a good idea to protect your skin from environmental factors that can make it look older.

London - Even if your beauty regime is slapdash, the one thing you probably can’t live without is moisturiser.

As a nation, we buy more moisturiser than any other skincare product. Research firm Mintel found it accounts for 59 percent of women’s facial skincare sales, and we spend £549-million a year on the stuff.

But there are some experts who now claim moisturiser does more harm than good, as prolonged use can make skin weaker. Plastic surgeon Chris Inglefield explains that moisturiser is so effective, skin forgets how to soften itself. Normal, well-functioning skin keeps itself moist by producing “natural moisturising factors” (NMFs).

How many of these it produces depends on its environment. So if you go somewhere dry on holiday, your skin will produce more NMFs. But if you cover your skin in moisturiser, the NMFs presume everything is fine and become idle.

“If your skin is healthy, it can look after itself,” says Inglefield. “Moisturiser creates a clingfilm-like barrier, which making it feel soft by stopping moisture escaping from its lower layers. But it also blocks the skin’s natural repair mechanism. So if you stop using it, your skin feels terribly dry.”

So, using moisturiser traps your skin into a vicious cycle. Julie Cichocki, managing director of Karin Herzog - the natural skincare range favoured by the Duchess of Cambridge - says: “Women have been conditioned to use moisturiser, but it doesn’t help their skin. We get asked every day by customers which moisturiser they should use from our range, and we tell them to forget it.

“Our products work from within to balance and correct the skin so it is able to look after itself. We don’t have a ‘moisturiser’, though we do have a ‘comfort cream’. It serves no purpose other than giving people the psychological reassurance that they’ve moisturised.”

So if moisturiser is not the answer, what is? If left to its own devices, your skin recovers most of its ability to moisturise itself after a few weeks of feeling dry and tight.

Inglefield recommends a specialised - and costly - course of treatment involving glycolic peels that encourages skin cells to renew themselves and produce more moisture.

However, an eight-year study funded by skincare brand Olay and published in the British Journal of Dermatology showed that keeping skin hydrated kept wrinkles at bay.

Dr Sian Morris, principal scientist for Olay, says: “In skin, two things decrease with age - hydration and the ability to create a barrier against the world. You have to support the skin by moisturising it.”

Meanwhile, Dr Preema Vig, a Harley Street cosmetic doctor, says: “In an ideal world the skin should not need moisturising. But because of what the environment throws at our skin, not to mention lifestyle factors, our skin needs help.”

So should you give up moisturiser? Only if you are prepared to commit to a new way of looking after your skin - and make a big investment in the process. - Daily Mail