Although they are often used interchangeably and may have similar treatment options, dry and dehydrated mean different things in your skin. Dry skin is a skin type, referring to a lack of natural oil (sebum), whereas dehydrated skin is a skin condition, referring to a lack of water. All skin needs water to function, so even the most oily skin has the potential to be dehydrated…and spoiler alert, it probably is!
Signs of dehydrated skin
People with dry skin typically experience itchiness, redness and flakes. While these symptoms may also occur with dehydrated skin, there are a few key signs of dehydrated skin:
- Dull looking and lacking radiance (water is not plumping up your cells)
- Rough texture (because your skin can’t slough off dead skin cells)
- Skin wrinkles when it’s pinched instead of snapping back into place (this typically won’t happen with just dry skin)
- You feel like your face “eats” your makeup and leaves it patchy (your thirsty skin is taking the water from your makeup)
What happens when your skin is dehydrated
Think about what happens when your body is dehydrated: you feel tired, sluggish, unable to fulfill your maximum potential. When your skin is dehydrated, similar issues arise and your skin cannot perform optimally. Water is necessary for tons of processes and chemical reactions in your skin, from self exfoliation to collagen production to immune responses and much more. But as important as adding water, is keeping it there. This is where water and oil work together to strengthen and support your skin.
Water is constantly evaporating off the surface of your skin via a process called trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). While drinking water is incredibly important for all of your organs, your skin relies on additional topical hydration to combat the rate of TEWL. A healthy skin barrier helps to prevent TEWL, because when your barrier is damaged – from over exfoliation, sun exposure, the weather etc. – water can escape and irritants can get in. This creates a vicious cycle, further dehydrating and compromising your skin’s barrier function, leading to increased redness, irritation, inflammation and breakouts.
Dehydration and acne
Your skin needs water to carry out all functions, preventing and fighting acne included. Otherwise, your active treatments will exacerbate the dehydration cycle described above. Plus, only hydrated skin will be able to use those acne-fighting ingredients to their full potential! You can’t truly manage acne without first tackling dehydration.
In addition to drinking enough water, add in a humectant-heavy hydrating serum or essence underneath your daily moisturizer. Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, aloe vera, and urea. This extra hydration will be able to penetrate deeper into your skin and attract water, while your moisturizer (a blend of humectants, emollients and occlusives) will replenish your skin barrier and prevent TEWL. Need more hydration? Try misting throughout the day to replenish and refresh.