Often used interchangeably, these terms are staples in a well-rounded skincare vocabulary. But does having dry skin mean the same thing as having dehydrated skin? Turns out, they’re actually not the same. Dry skin doesn’t always need the same care as dehydrated skin, and vice versa.
Let’s dive in to the characteristics, causes, and care of each — uncovering just what you need for an A+ complexion.
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Dehydrated skin: it’s only temporary
Noticing tightness or peeling in some areas? Feel like your skin’s lacking its usual glow? It may be sending signals that it’s dehydrated — meaning it’s lost some of its precious water content.
Regardless of whether your skin type is oily, dry, normal or combination, dehydration can affect the skin from time to time. Just like when you lose more fluids playing sports on a hot summer day, the same thing can happen to your skin. And when its hydration reserves run low, it needs to replenish water.
But how does your skin lose water? Transepidermal water loss (or TEWL) is a natural process that takes place in the outermost layer of your skin. And some daily stressors (weather, pollution, and sun exposure, among others) can speed up this function, causing more water loss. The result? Dehydrated skin.
The good news is that dehydration is only temporary. With proper care, your skin can get back to feeling happy and healthy in no time.
Can the sun dehydrate your skin?
Burns, tans, spots — the sun has both short and long-term effects on your skin. Over time, without proper protection, sun damage can affect skin cells and proteins. And this overexposure to UV rays can cause your skin to experience more water loss than usual. Turn to proper sun care to best protect yourself.
Dry skin: a trait with staying power
Everyone has a skin type determined by various genetic and hormonal factors — meaning that overall, you’ll find that your skin is either oily, dry, normal or combination.
Much like dehydrated skin, dry skin lacks water content. But on top of that, it’s also running on a low supply of natural oils. These natural oils (AKA sebum) help keep your skin barrier functioning at its best. And what’s your barrier in charge of? Protecting you from pathogens while balancing skin’s moisture levels.
When you have dry skin, the layer of skin your barrier calls home is permanently altered. This means that your skin cells lose some of their power to retain and replenish water. And unlike dehydration, skin dryness isn’t a temporary condition but a characteristic.
The short version? If your skin type is dry, you’ll probably always be on the dry side of things. That’s because in addition to losing more water, your skin also experiences more difficulty replacing it. However, with a tailored skincare routine for dry skin, you can work to smooth, calm, and hydrate for a healthy look and feel.
Tips to tell if your skin is dry or dehydrated:
- Is sensitive (think itching, peeling, and flaking)
- Has refined, barely-visible pores
- May feel tight, especially after washing your face
- Can suddenly feel tight and uncomfortable
- Might have a dull or lackluster appearance
- May peel occasionally
- Temporarily loses its ability to bounce back (literally)
Try this test: Gently pinch your skin between your fingers and then see if it takes longer than normal to return to its usual position. If so, your skin might be dehydrated.
Ready to rehydrate? Here’s how:
As mentioned, dehydrated skin needs to replace the water it has lost. Follow these tips to turn things around, stat:
- Drink water. Getting the recommended amount for your daily activity levels and weight works to keep your body hydrated from the inside out.
- Maintain a balanced diet filled with your favorite fruits and veggies.
- Keep caffeine and alcohol in check — these can further dehydrate your body.
- Always use sunscreen and moisturize more frequently after sun exposure.
- For your face, opt for a hyaluronic acid serum to keep your skin hydrated around the clock.
- Apply a body cream or lotion at least once a day. Pay special attention to drier areas such as feet and hands.
Tips to help nourish dry skin
Remember: dry skin needs specific care to help restore its balance of natural oils, so hydration might not be enough. Opt for formulas that work to retain moisture, support your skin barrier, and plump things up.
If soft, smooth, and elastic skin is your goal, look for rich formulas with nourishing ingredients. Ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin E help restore the skin barrier and maintain optimal moisture levels.
The bonus? Many moisturizing mainstays (like peptides and hyaluronic acid) also boast well-aging benefits — acting to restore skin firmness and help reduce wrinkles.
And our favorite reminder: apply sunscreen daily. On top of protection from UVA and UVB rays, you can help slow the signs of skin aging and keep dehydration at bay, too.
Although clothes help protect you from external stressors, overall, your skin still deals with the consequences of daily triggers. Temperature changes, sun exposure, and even hot showers can lead to flare ups in itching, tightness, and roughness.
Hero ingredient urea acts to quickly replenish and retain water, minimizing common symptoms of dry and dehydrated skin. Furthermore, if you opt for a lotion with a light texture and quick absorption, you can revel in the comfort of hydrated skin, without that sticky feeling.
Whether your skin is dry, dehydrated, or even both, you’re already on the right path — learning and discovering new ways to find relief. And above all, love your skin, care for it, and protect it, always.
Our namesake embodies the spirit of embracing life and all its wonder. As wellness journalists, we explore topics that invigorate the senses and keep curiosity alive. We believe that glowing skin is the result of a healthy body and mind. Weaving beauty with science, we aim to inspire you to live young at every age.