Is your skin dry — or is it dehydrated? And how can you tell the difference? We’re breaking down the differences between the two and giving you all the info you need for dealing with both!
People often use the terms dry skin and dehydrated skin interchangeably, but they’re actually two different (albeit both annoying) skin conditions and should be dealt with as such. Dry skin is characterized by a decreased production of sebum in the skin. In other words, dry skin doesn’t produce enough oil, causing an abnormal skin barrier function and leaving you with red, inflamed and very itchy skin. Dehydrated skin on the other hand, means that the top layer of skin doesn’t hold enough water.
So how do you know if your skin is dry or dehydrated? Or if you’re dealing with both dry and dehydrated skin? The proper diagnosis is key to understanding and treating both dry and dehydrated skin. We’re breaking down the differences between the two skin conditions and setting the record straight on skin hydration, including how to distinguish between dry and dehydrated skin, along with top tips for dealing with each.
Dry vs. Dehydrated Skin - There is a Difference!
Dry or alipidic skin is a skin condition characterized by a lack of oil in the skin. Because skin relies on oil to hold moisture in, without it, skin often feels rough, can look flaky and wrinkles are more pronounced. Dry skin can also lead to a damaged skin barrier function, increasing long term sensitivity and inflammation, and causing a chain or biochemical reaction like the breakdown of collagen. Dry skin tends to be uncomfortable, flaky, and itchy. The worst areas are typically near the eyebrows and around the corners of the nose and mouth. If your face feels tight after washing, you’re most likely dealing with dry skin.
While genetics obviously play a role in the type of skin you have, it’s possible to overcome dry skin with a proper skin care routine, including lots of skin hydration and the right skincare products. The following winter skincare tips can help you beat dry skin:
Avoid using hot water
Hot water is definitely not a friend to dry skin as it breaks down the lipid barriers in the skin, decreasing moisture even further.
Moisturize, moisturize and moisturize
After every shower or face wash, apply a hydrating face oil to your dry skin as it traps existing moisture in your skin.
Use a light exfoliating scrub to get rid of the top layer of dead skin cells and expose newer healthier-looking skin.
Use Lip Balm
Dry, chapped lips can be itchy and painful. A thick, emollient lip balm made from moisture-locking ingredients will protect and soothe your lips.
Use a humidifier
Putting moisture back into your home’s air helps prevent extreme dry skin. Keep a humidifier in your bedroom and run it overnight while you sleep.
Drink lots of water
You should try to drink at least eight to ten glasses of water a day to properly hydrate your skin.
Dehydrated skin feels tight, looks dull, and exaggerates the signs of aging like wrinkles and dark circles beneath the eyes. Like dry skin, redness and inflammation are common signs of dehydration. But unlike dry skin, dehydrated skin is characterized by a lack of water not oil, meaning even oily skin types can become dehydrated.
Dehydrated skin is caused by external elements, including extreme temperatures, air-conditioning, heaters, soap, medications, sun, alcohol, and smoking. These factors can affect the protective barrier of your skin, depleting its water content, resulting in a less supple appearance. Not sure what you’re dealing with? Here are four telltale signs that you have dehydrated skin.
- your skin is flaky.
Extreme temperatures, drinking too much caffeine and not eating right can strip moisture from the outer layer of your skin, causing a tight, itchy sensation. This is often accompanied by flaking, regardless of the amount of oil on your skin's surface.
You’re experiencing increased skin sensitivity.
Dehydration is a precursor to sensitized skin. When your skin’s moisture barrier is disrupted, it cannot properly protect itself from external stressors. As a result, irritants like bacteria and pollution can penetrate its outermost layer, worsening symptoms like redness, itchiness and irritation.
Your skin is dull.
Dehydration affects your skin’s ability to perform essential functions like cell turnover. This means that your skin does not shed its outer layer frequently enough, and dead cells accumulate on its surface, resulting in clogged pores and a lackluster complexion.
Your fine lines and wrinkles are more pronounced.
Dehydration in the skin weakens its defense and creates premature aging, meaning that any fine lines or wrinkles will appear more pronounced.
Luckily, dehydrated skin is temporary and can be relieved with the following tips to hydrate your skin.
Wash with a gentle cleanser.
The best way to cleanse dehydrated skin is with a gentle foaming cleanser and lukewarm water to wash away impurities, hydrate skin and leave no residue. Choose cleansers that are free of harsh chemical additives and artificial fragrances that can strip the skin of beneficial moisture and aggravate sensitivities.
Follow with a hyaluronic acid serum.
Hyaluronic acid is extremely effective in replenishing dehydrated skin. This superstar ingredient works as a magnet for moisture, helping your cells retain as much of it as possible so that your skin feels and appears hydrated, plump and healthy. Before applying a hydrating serum with hyaluronic acid, make sure your skin is slightly damp, and because water evaporates quickly, follow the serum with a moisturizer to create a seal.
Finish with an anti-aging face moisturizer.
Use an anti-aging face moisturizer after your hyaluronic acid to not only seal in the hydrating benefits from the HA, but protect your skin against the drying effects of environmental stressors. A facial essence is also a great option, packed with deeply hydrating and antioxidant-rich ingredients that work wonders for dehydrated skin.
Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake.
Caffeine and alcohol are two of the worst offenders when it comes to dealing with dehydrated skin. Both substances are diuretics that compromise your skin’s health by depleting its water content. And, alcohol doubles down by hindering the production of the hormone vasopressin which is essential for rehydration.
When it comes to skincare, dry and dehydrated seem like two words to describe the same thing. But in actuality, they are completely different issues with different underlying causes. The difference between dry and dehydrated skin is that dry skin is a type and dehydrated skin is a condition. That means you can have oily, dry, or combination skin, and it can still be temporarily dehydrated. Keeping your body hydrated with lots of water is always a good place to start when dealing with both dry and dehydrated skin. Once you determine what you’re dealing with, update your skincare routine with a hydrating face oil, hydrating serum with hyaluronic acid, or an anti-aging face moisturizer. And be wary of products with denatured alcohol, alcohol SD or ethanol (they’re different names for the same thing) as an active ingredient. This type of alcohol dries out the skin and any moisture along with it, making it a definite no for both dry and dehydrated skin. Afraid you’re dealing with dry or dehydrated skin? Your lackluster complexion is just a few tips away from being healthy, soft and hydrated!