There is a lot of confusion surrounding dry skin and dehydrated skin. After all, they sound like the same thing right? While the terms dry skin and dehydrated skin are often used interchangeably and they can exhibit some of the same symptoms, they're actually quite different.
Basically, dry skin is caused by a lack of natural substances that keep skin healthy, while dehydrated skin lacks water and moisture in the top layer of skin.
Dry skin is a skin type that means skin routinely feels tight and/or dry. The intensity of this can change a bit throughout the year if you live in seasonal climates. In the absence of a good moisturizer, the dry, tight feeling is always present.
Like oily or combination skin, dry skin is a skin type that can be managed but not changed willingly (either by diet or product). However, skin types may change naturally as we age. Typically, skin gets drier due to the breakdown of our natural barrier.
Dry skin consistently feels tight and dry all over (including other areas of the body), lacks oil, and looks dull and lacks luminosity. Dry skin can get worse depending on climate or environment, and are more prone to flaky patches.
If you have dry skin, choose products with more emollient (thicker), skin-restoring, and skin-replenishing ingredients.
Dehydrated skin can look and feel dry all over but this feeling tends to come and go rather can persist. Another tell-tale sign of dehydrated skin is that it’s often accompanied by excess oil on the surface. Despite this extra oil production, skin still feels tight or dry and is often accompanied by flaking. Many people describe this feeling as feeling oily and dry simultaneously, or the feeling of “dry on the inside, oily on the outside”.
Dehydrated skin is a skin condition that can be managed and changed. Dehydrated skin is the result of the lack of hydration and the ability to retain moisture in the skin. It can occur in skin which is oily or combination and makes skin look dull and sallow (an unhealthy yellow or pale brown color).
Typically, dehydrated skin is a sign of a compromised barrier, and can be caused or worsened by the use of harsh products that strip natural oils from the skin
Fixing Dehydrated Skin
Because the cause of dehydrated skin is a compromised barrier, fixing that barrier is one big step towards seeing an improvement of the condition.
The skin natural barrier (technically called the Stratum Corneum) is composed of cholesterol, free fatty acids, and ceramides – this prevents moisture loss and provides general environmental protection.
- Choose products with ceramides, fatty acids, glycerin, amino acids, cholesterol to help restore a compromised skin barrier. Niacinamide has some research which shows that it can also aid in increase ceramide and free acid levels in the skin.
- Consider using hyaluronic acid (HA). HA is a humectant, so it attracts moisture from both the external environment and from the deeper layers of the skin to moisturize the upper layers.
- Use products with antioxidants. Antioxidants help to protect skin against external environmental stressors. They complement the job of your skin’s natural barrier and also help to replenish lost nutrients in the skin.