How to Tell If Your Skin Is Dry or Dehydrated

At first sight, ‘dry’ and ‘dehydrated’ are terms that seemingly describe the same thing. But when skincare is involved, these words describe two completely different skincare concerns with different underlying causes. To put it simply, one is a skin condition and one is a skin type. We set the record straight. 

What’s the difference between dry and dehydrated skin? 

Dehydrated skin is a skin condition that occurs when there is a lack of water in the skin. Anyone can suffer from dehydrated skin, even those with oily and combination skin. On the flip side, dry skin is a skin type, typically characterised from lack of oil and lipids on the skin. 

Which do you have?

Dry skin produces less sebum than other skin types. It tends to feel uncomfortable, rough, flaky and itchy. Certain areas like near the eyebrows, around the nose and lips, tend to feel the worst. On the other hand, dehydrated skin does not have enough water, so it can look reddish, dull, tight, with accelerated signs of ageing such as increased fine lines, sagging and wrinkles. 

What causes it?

Just like combination skin and oily skin, dry skin is a skin type that you are born with. It is likely that you also have dry skin on other areas of your body like your legs, scalp, torso and palms. Dehydrated skin can be caused by many factors. Any type of harsh weather like rain, cold and wind, but especially sun damage can cause dehydrated skin. Hot showers, hot baths, hard water, not drinking enough water, air conditioning and central heating can also cause dehydrated skin. Ageing naturally makes the skin more dehydrated and using skincare products that are too light, too harsh or too infrequent can also cause dehydrated skin. 

How to treat dry skin? 

If you have dry skin, you might notice that your skin soaks up skincare very quickly. Opt for heavy creams because gel textures may be too light for this skin type. Make sure to moisturise frequently with products that contain ceramide as it can help replace lipids that your dry skin doesn’t produce naturally. Use gentle skincare products, SPF and remember not to over-exfoliate as this will strip your skin of lipids. Always stay hydrated and consider using a humidifier to increase the water content in the room. 

How to treat dehydrated skin? 

Dehydrated skin is very prevalent during harsh weather like hot summers when people are enjoying the sun and amping up the air conditioning; as well as winters when the wind blows very harshly and the thermostat gets cranked up. Make sure to use sun protection and drink at least eight glasses of water per day. Drink less caffeinated beverages as it will dehydrate you more. Avoid long hot showers/baths and take quick and cool showers instead. Whenever possible, keep the thermostat and air conditioning down. Consider making a moisture sandwich to prevent excessive moisture loss.