What is the difference between dry and dehydrated skin?

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Hanna Ibraheem
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When it comes to skin, dry and dehydrated are not the same thing. If you’re struggling to spot the difference, let us break it down for you, and recommend the best products for both scenarios.

In order to determine the best skincare routine for you, it’s important to determine your skin type. This little nugget of useful information will help you to select ingredients that will actually target your specific skin needs and concerns. While some skin types are easier to spot (my incredibly oily nose and flaky cheeks are a tell-tale sign of combination skin), some can cause a bit more confusion.

Some people with dry skin sometimes mistakenly think they have dehydrated skin, and vice versa. But the two are very different. In fact, dehydrated skin isn’t even a skin type.

“Dehydrated skin is a condition that anyone can experience, but it is temporary,” explains Daniel Isaacs, Director of Research at Medik8. “Dry skin is a skin type and is a long-term infliction. You don’t have to have dry skin to have dehydrated skin, the two types can often overlap.” Meaning you can even have oily skin that gets dehydrated.

Here, Isaacs breaks down everything you need to know about dry skin and dehydrated skin, from the definition and causes to the best way to treat them…

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What is the definition of dry skin? And how can you tell if you have it?

“Dry skin is a lack of oils or lipids in the skin, essentially the skin does not have enough moisture content,” says Issacs. “Skin can be flaky, feel rough and appear dry.”

What are the main causes of dry skin?

“Dry skin is caused by an impaired skin barrier where we have a distinct lack of lipids which we need to retain moisture,” he explains. “Without these lipids, too much water can escape and the skin barrier is compromised resulting in dry skin. The process is called transepidermal water loss (TEWL).” 

How to treat dry skin

“Invest in skincare products containing a combination of humectants, emollients and occlusives,” says Isaacs. “Your skin needs all of these components for true moisture – commit to moisturising regularly in the morning and evening.” Isaacs also suggests making little lifestyle adjustments, such as bathing and showering in lukewarm water, rather than hot.

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What is the definition of dehydrated skin? And how can you tell if you have it?

“Dehydrated skin is lacking in moisture, this can cause a decrease in flexibility – resulting in sallow, lacklustre skin, accelerated signs of ageing like fine lines and wrinkles, uneven skin texture and tone, tightness and sensitivity,” he explains.

What are the main causes of dehydrated skin?

“Essentially dehydrated skin is when not enough water is supplied to the skin and it needs moisture replenishment,” says Isaacs. “This can be caused by many environmental factors that we come into contact with daily, including the sun, low humidity, central heating, air conditioning, or, one of the most common - not drinking enough water.”

How to treat dehydrated skin

“The key is to stay hydrated,” says Isaacs. “An easy solution is to drink plenty of water throughout the day or add water-rich vegetables such as watermelon, cucumbers and celery into your diet.”

Isaacs also recommends looking for products that contain multi-weight hyaluronic acid and deliver long-term, all-day moisture. “Multi-weight hyaluronic acid has a unique ability to attract and retain more than 1,000 times its own weight in water as it draws moisture from the surrounding atmosphere into the skin,” he explains. “Naturally occurring in the skin, by adding more through your skincare it will help the hyaluronic acid bind to the water and retain moisture in the skin.”

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