August 13, 2020

The difference between dry and dehydrated skin

The terms dry and dehydrated are sometimes used interchangeably as it relates to skin. Do you know the difference between the two and what it means for how you care for you skin?

When your skin feels tight and parched after cleansing it's hard to know whether you have dry or dehydrated skin. But it's important to differentiate because it affects how you treat your skin. So let's first talk about the difference between the two, and how to determine your skin type.

Defining dry and dehydrated

Put simply, dry skin occurs when your skin doesn't produce enough oil and lipids. On the other hand, dehydrated skin occurs when there isn't enough water in your dermis.

Diagnosing your skin concerns

There is no one perfect method to understand your skin type. It can change in different environments, as you age, and with your hormones. But one method that has helped me is answering the following questions:

  • Do you use facial oils but your skin still feels tight?
  • Do you use moisturizer without humectants (glycerin, sodium hyaluronate etc.), but your skin still feels parched?
  • Have you ever traveled to a super humid climate (e.g. Hawaii, Florida) and your skin finally felt soft and supple?
If any of these scenarios describe your skin, you likely have dehydrated skin. If none of these scenarios describe your skin, but it still feels like a desert sometimes, you likely have dry skin.

Treating your skin

Dry skin underproduces oil. So the best way to add it back is with nourishing facial oils. Find your favorite varietal and incorporate it into your routine. Moisturizers that contain delicious plant oils and butters are another way to nourish dry skin. Some of the ingredients to look for includes borage seed oil, marula oil, rosehip seed oil, shea butter, coco butter and my favorite: Barbary fig seed oil

Dehydrated skin is missing enough water. Unfortunately, simply adding water to your face won't fix the problem due to transepidermal water loss (TEWL). As a result of TEWL that water will simply evaporate off the surface of your skin. To lock water in place you need a humectant. A humectant is a molecule that is water loving. So it pulls water in and hugs it into place. Some examples of humectants you can look for in a serum or moisturizer are: sodium hyaluronate, glycerin, panthenol, honey and Senna seed extract.

Can you have both dry and dehydrated skin? 

Yes! This is definitely possible. And the way you address it is to use both oils and humectants in your routine. Layering is your friend.

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I sought out this information and was not compensated monetarily or otherwise for this post.