How To Tell If Your Skin Is Dry Or Dehydrated
As skincare specialists, one of the most common questions we receive is, “What is the difference between hydration and moisture in the skin?”
At first glance, ‘dry’ and ‘dehydrated’ seem like two words to describe the same thing. But when it comes to skincare, they are completely different concerns with different underlying causes.
What’s the Difference between Dry and Dehydrated Skin?
Basically, dryness refers to a skin type, and dehydration refers to a skin condition that is temporary and one which anyone can experience. Dry skin is characterized by fewer sebaceous glands (more on that later) the result of which is a lack of oil, or lipids. With dehydrated skin, there’s a lack of water in the stratum corneum (the top layer of the skin) however, the skin may still produce oil. In fact, when skin is dehydrated it tends to over-produce oil in an attempt to compensate for the lack of moisture within the skin.
Therefore, you don’t need to have dry skin to have dehydrated skin and oily, combination and normal skin can all be dehydrated as well.
You can actually see and feel a difference between dry and dehydrated skin. Dehydrated skin feels tight and looks dull with superficial fine lines. Dryness can show up as redness, flakes and an uneven texture.
Dry Skin Characteristics
• Feels rough
• Appears dry
• Can be flaky
Dehydrated Skin Characteristics
• Looks dull
• Feels tight
• Feels rough
• Is sensitive
• Shows fine lines
• Shows accelerated signs of ageing, like sagging skin and deep wrinkles
Manufacturers of beauty products make claims on their labels about whether or not their products are hydrating or moisturizing. To ensure that you are choosing the right product and its function for your skin type, it’s essential to know the difference between the two.
Step 1: Diagnosis
Smile to test for dehydration – it’s that simple. If it feels tight you are probably suffering from dehydrated skin. If you see dark circles, dullness, and an uptick in fine lines and more exaggerated wrinkles these are additional indications. Additional common signs include redness, lots of congestion, and increased inflammation.
Dry skin, on the other hand, tends to be uncomfortable, flaky, and itchy. The worst areas are typically near the eyebrows and around the corners of the nose and mouth. On the body, common trouble areas include the neck, the inside of the arms, and the thighs. To test for dryness, rub gently on one area of skin. If you see loose skin cells in the form of flakes, or your face quickly turns red and becomes inflamed, then you have dry skin.
Step 2: Treatment
Attached to our hair follicles we have our sebaceous glands. These aptly named glands produce “sebum,” an oily substance that helps to protect, lubricate and nourish our skin, preventing it from drying out and causing premature aging. For those with clogged pores or oily skin types, there might be an overproduction of sebum, while those with dry skin types might have a lack of it.
Dry skin is a common condition caused by inherited, metabolic factors, and/or environmental conditions. Common moisturizers attempt to temporarily place extra water into the skin, or to prevent water evaporation through the use of water-repellent sealants.
A far more effective strategy is to assist the skin in building up it’s own natural sealants, including multiple amino acids, fatty acids, triglycerides, urea, ceramides, phospholipids, glycerin, saccharides, sodium PCA, hyaluronic acid and many other compounds all which serve as natural protective barriers to restrict water loss. The best hydration occurs not from without, but from within.
The application of highly active vitamins A, C and E combined with additional antioxidants and peptides is the most efficient means to achieve this. This in turn checks the formation of lines and the aging process, giving skin a bloom of youthful radiance.”
FYI: Darker skin naturally has lower levels of lipids than lighter skin tones. What’s more, the dead cells on its surface don’t slough off as quickly, which can give dark skin a grayish cast.
Lactic acid is an exfoliator that is gentle enough to use on dry skin although it’s important to avoid over exfoliating as this will strip skin of moisture. Once or twice a week should suffice.
Regardless of your skin type, moisturizing is an essential part of your daily facial routine.
When scanning the ingredients’ list of serums and creams, look for humectants like glycerin, which pull moisture from the atmosphere into the skin.
Also important are repairing ceramides [a form of lipids or fat molecules]. These fill in the cracks between skin cells by forming a protective layer that limits moisture loss and protects against damage from pollution.
In other words, ceramides give skin its plump, hydrated, balanced appearance.
All these products are a rich source of humectants and ceramides:
Dehydrated skin, on the other hand, lacks water, not oil. You can have an oily complexion but still have dehydrated skin.
Dehydration is caused by many factors, but the most common are excessive caffeine consumption and/or sun exposure, dry weather as well as central heating and low humidity, diet, aging, and hot showers or baths all of which sap water content within the skin.
Another key factor is your skincare products. If you’re using products that are too harsh, too light, or you’re using them infrequently, your skincare could be contributing to your dehydrated skin concerns.
Look for moisturizers with ingredients that prevent water loss. Hyaluronic acid is the gold standard as it is a sponge-like molecule that naturally attracts water. It then binds it to the collagen in your skin, giving your face back its dewiness.
You’ll find hyaluronic acid in all these products:
What’s the Difference?
So now that we have a basic understanding of the functions of both hydrating and moisturizing the skin, we’ll answer how, when, and how often.
Since the purpose of hydrating is to bind water to our skin and moisturizing is to prevent the water from leaving our skin, it’s important that hydration comes before moisturizing (when applying products topically).
Finding a Balance
This is why serums are to be applied first, as most hydrating treatment serums contain a humectant. Once you get that layer of hydration on, you want to seal it all in with a lipid (facial oil). This combination creates a healthy balance.
For those with particularly oily skin, you may or may not prefer to moisturize as often. For you, applying just a hydrating product might sometimes be enough. Your skin naturally produces enough (in some cases, more than enough) oil to keep water from leaving the skin. (If you do find that your skin could use a little extra moisture, try something light like Environ Vita-Antioxidant AVST Gel. The sunflower seed oil base is non pore-clogging.)
Step 3: Maintenance – What Else Can You Do?
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle alongside your skincare routine will help support plump, radiant skin and prevent issues like dehydration. This includes a good diet, drinking lots of clean water, and other healthy lifestyle habits all of which help to bring out the best in your skin.
But it doesn’t stop there. Good skin health includes a custom skin care regime and regular facials that include exfoliation and skin care products that infuse skin with the nutrients it needs. Monthly facials help to cleanse, exfoliate and nourish skin thereby promoting a clearer, well-hydrated, radiant complexion. Our selection of clinical grade facial treatments combined with our medical-grade skin care products affect the skin at a biological level helping to achieve cell optimization, transforming it on a cellular level. These treatments are further enhanced through the addition of red and near infrared light therapy, administered via the world renown Opera LED Light Therapy Mask, and/or Joovv Light Therapy Panels for full body light therapy. Together these treatments serve to naturally and instantly lift cheekbones and brows, de-puff and brighten the face, intensely hydrate, tighten and firm the skin, balance sebum production and refine pore size, while softening fine lines and wrinkles without the need of botox or fillers.
The Golden Rule for Both
Whether you have dry or dehydrated skin, the biggest mistake people make is incorrectly layering their skincare.
Always remember to layer your products in order. Start with the lightest products first, such as serums, and work your way to the heaviest in texture. These are your creams, oils and sunscreens.
Why is this important? Products designed for traveling into the deeper layers of skin, like serums, are made up of tiny molecules. Moisturizer, on the other hand, has larger molecules as it sits on the uppermost layers.
Top 5 lifestyle recommendations for dehydrated skin:
1. Use sun protection
2. Limit alcohol and caffeine and avoid smoking
3. Eat a low sugar, low inflammatory diet full of nutrient dense food and high in omega-3 essential fatty acids
4. Drink lots of CLEAN, FILTERED water
5. Consider a home humidifer
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