Our Guide to Understanding The Difference & Giving Your Skin What It Needs.
When it comes to skin health, most of us have a pretty good idea of what healthy skin feels like. It’s soft, supple, smooth to the touch, and naturally a little bit glowing.
However, when you start to notice that your skin is lacking in these qualities, your first thought may be that your skin is dry, or dehydrated, or possibly both. What most people don’t understand, however, is the difference between the two.
It’s an easy point to get confused about. In many ways dry skin and dehydrated skin may look and feel a lot alike. However, for really getting to the bottom of things and restoring your skin to proper balance, understanding the nuances can be a game changer. Once you know the difference, it becomes much easier to treat and troubleshoot your skin. So, to help you out, here is a helpful breakdown with everything you need to know.
Dry Skin 101
Perhaps the most important thing to understand when discussing dry skin is that it refers to a skin type rather than a condition. Dry skin is something a person is born with and is determined by genetics. When your skin type is dry, this means that your skin produces little to no oil or lipids naturally, and is dry all over - including the face, hands, scalp, and limbs. Dry skin types are also the most likely to struggle with related skin conditions like sensitivity, eczema, and psoriasis.
Signs and Symptoms of Dry Skin
So how can you tell if you have dry skin? Some typical characteristics include small or barely visible pores covering the face, a tendency towards irritation and redness, as well as telltale signs like tightness, flaking, cracking, rough patches, and a scaly appearance. You may also notice that your skin can’t ever seem to get enough moisture, soaking up products like moisturizer, lotions, or oil very quickly.
Common Causes of Dry Skin
As we’ve already touched on, dry skin is primarily hereditary, and your skin type will remain the same throughout your life. However, dry skin can be exacerbated by environmental conditions such as extreme cold, harsh environment, using improper products, or certain health conditions and hormonal imbalances.
What to Do for Dry Skin
If you have a dry skin type, the best ingredients to look for in your skincare products will be emollients such as nourishing plant-based oils and raw butters. These types of components tend to have more occlusive properties that will help to lubricate your skin, and promote better moisture retention.
Dehydrated Skin 101
When the skin is dehydrated, this means that it is lacking in water and this condition can be both temporary or chronic, depending upon certain lifestyle factors. Dehydrated skin, unlike dry skin, is a skin condition and something that all skin types can experience. For example, dry skin types can be simultaneously dry and dehydrated, but oily skin can also struggle with not maintaining proper water levels, and become dehydrated as a result.
Signs and Symptoms of Dehydrated Skin
When your skin is dehydrated you may notice symptoms similar to that of dry skin, such as irritation or dry patches. However, some other things you will observe include itchy skin, dullness, dark circles, ashy skin, as well as an increased appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Additionally, because the skin has a tendency to produce more oil to compensate for the lack of water, dehydrated skin can often be more breakout prone.
Not sure if your skin is dehydrated? One more easy way to tell is with a quick “pinch test.” To check your skin’s hydration levels, you can try grabbing a small portion of skin and squeezing lightly. Skin that is well hydrated will bounce back quickly, but skin that needs more water will look wrinkled and take longer to return to normal.
Common Causes of Dehydrated Skin
The most obvious cause of dehydrated skin is an imbalance of water in the body, which can occur any time you are losing more water than you consume. This can happen anytime you sweat, become overheated, or simply aren’t drinking enough water. Additionally, similar to what we see with dry skin, dehydration can be worsened by external factors such as the environment or weather, your diet, or using too many products that strip the skin of hydration and moisture.
What to do for Dehydrated Skin
In addition to preventing water loss by drinking enough water, some ingredients you can look for to treat dehydrated skin will be humectant ingredients that boost the skin with a drink of much-needed H2O. Humectants are very effective for addressing dehydrated skin because they not only attract water, but are easily absorbed by the skin, essentially locking in hydration. Some good examples of ingredients that do this well would be aloe vera, glycerin, honey, and hyaluronic acid.
Also worth noting is that dehydrated skin is very common in conjunction with having a dry skin type. Your best course of action is to build a routine that includes both water-based and oil-based products, so that your skin has everything it needs to stay in balance.
Our Product Picks For Dry and Dehydrated Skin
Blue Tansy Beauty Balm - Featuring a base of rich cupuacu and shea butters blended with beautiful botanical oils, this nourishing balm is perfect for targeting dry skin, but can also be used to treat dehydrated skin, thanks to hydrating and healing ingredients that calm stressed skin.
Rose Essence Hydration Mist - A favorite elixir of ours for thirsty skin, this lightweight, replenishing mist contains aloe vera, glycerin, and other essential hydrators that skin loves. You can use it to instantly improve a dry or dehydrated complexion, without clogging pores.
Blue Lavender Tranquility Mist - A must have for sensitive, blemish prone and inflamed skin, this tranquil mist is formulated with anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and vitamin rich botanicals to instantly hydrate, calm and soothe skin.
Ambrosia Antioxidant Face Oil - Appropriate for all skin types but especially beneficial for dry skin, our facial oil provides the skin with vitamins, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, moisture, and more. Key ingredients include kakadu plum, guava, mangosteen, goji, plumeria, and prickly pear, plus squalane, and kalahari melon seed oils.
Dehydrated Skin vs. Dry Skin: How to Tell the Difference By American Spa Staff
Is my skin dry or dehydrated? By the International Dermal Institute
Dry Skin vs. Dehydrated: How to Tell the Difference — And Why It Matters By Deanna Debara, Medically reviewed by Carissa Stephens, R.N., CCRN, CPN
Is My Skin Dehydrated? Written by Kristeen Cherney, Medically reviewed by Cynthia Cobb, DNP, APRN, WHNP-BC, FAANP