Is My Skin Dry or Dehydrated?
What is the difference between dry and dehydrated skin and how to best manage these skin conditions
Dry skin is something we get asked about a lot by our Renude community, and how to build a routine to support this. Sometimes those who are looking to target dry skin are in fact dehydrated, and the products that are best are slightly different. Here we explore how to tell if your skin is dry or dehydrated, and what is best to do in either case.
How to tell if you have dry skin
Dry skin is a skin type and is characterised by a dull skin tone, dry flaky skin, an overall tight feeling and even burning or itching. Dry skin doesn't produce a sufficient amount of sebum, due to a lack of sebum-producing glands. Sebum is our skin's natural oil, which acts as a barrier and protects the skin from moisture loss, and environmental assault. As this skin type is not receiving enough oil-based hydration naturally, through the skin's processes, it causes the symptoms of dry skin.
What causes dry skin?
Dry skin is inherited and passed on through generations, we can thank our families for this gift. Ageing is also a culprit in causing dry skin. By age 40, we have lost an incredible 40% of the lipids in our skin. The depletion of these lipids contributes to facial sagging, fine lines, wrinkles and of course dry skin symptoms.
Which ingredients are best for dry skin?
With dry skin, you need to topically replace the lipids or fats in the skin that the body is not producing. Products with lipids in them act as a barrier on the skin and replace the function of sebum in dry skin types. There are 3 main types of lipid replacing ingredients:
Cholesterol - Cholesterol is a key ingredient to help the skin's barrier recover and improve the overall elasticity of the skin
Ceramides - Ceramides are key ingredients that increase hydration in the skin and improve the barrier function
Fatty Acids (e.g. Omega 3&6) - Fatty acids help give your skin a youthful hydrated appearance by maintaining the lipid balance in the skin
The barrier function is important to overall skin health and is determined by the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the skin). Imagine the stratum corneum as a brick wall containing bricks and mortar. The bricks are the corneocytes (or dead skin cells) ready to shed off naturally, and the mortar is made up of lipids. The lipids hold the structure together and prevent water loss, as well as protect from environmental aggressors from entering the skin. If there is not enough mortar, gaps form, where moisture leaks out and environmental aggressors get in, causing the skin to weaken and become dry.
How to manage dry skin
Don’t over-exfoliate and give your skin a chance to heal. I know it's tempting to scrub off the dead skin but trust me, give your skin a chance to recover and you won't regret it.
Do use a creamy cleanser to start your routine. Foaming gel cleansers can strip the skin causing more damage to the lipid barrier. Cream-based cleansers are still effective at removing dirt and debris while keeping the lipid barrier intact.
How to tell if you have dehydrated skin
Dehydrated skin is a temporary skin condition that is characterised by dull skin tone and increased appearance of wrinkles, as well as itchiness in some cases. Dehydrated skin is thirsty! And thirst is temporary, all it needs is to be quenched.
What causes dehydrated skin?
Dehydrated skin is caused by external factors. Everything from stress, alcohol consumption, hard water, hot water cleansing, over-exfoliation, diet, and indoor temperature controls.
Dehydrated skin lacks water, not oil. The water in your skin evaporates through the skin via a process known as TEWL (trans epidermal water loss). If this water loss is not replaced topically, your skin becomes dehydrated and you experience the associated symptoms. Drinking water is important to all body functions, especially preventing dehydration. For optimal skin health, drinking 2 litres of water will help, although the hydration needs to be replaced topically too.
Which ingredients are best for dehydrated skin?
Humectants such as hyaluronic acid are the best ingredients for dehydrated skin. Humectants are hydrating ingredients which are able to draw water molecules towards them from the atmosphere and deeper layers of the skin, in order to plump and hydrate the area. Hyaluronic acid is a powerful humectant that can famously hold up to 1000x it’s molecular weight in water. It is naturally produced by the body, a process which slows as we age. You can add hyaluronic acid serums into your skincare regimen to replenish this vital component of the skin.
However, humectant serums are not enough on their own. You need to use a lipid-based moisturiser to seal the hyaluronic acid into the skin. The lipids act as a sealant so the hyaluronic acid can't escape and the dehydrated condition of the skin can be healed.
How to manage dehydrated skin
Do use a gentle cleanser. It can be a gel or foam as long as it's gentle and not stripping the skin. Even oily acneic skin can become dehydrated and our first thought is to rid the oil with harsh cleansers. This is not the way! Your skin will overproduce oil to compensate for the water loss. A gentle cleanser will balance the skin and keep it hydrated.
Don’t overdo the alcohol, your skin will pay for it. Alcohol, as we know, dehydrates the body, and your skin is the largest organ in the body. If your skin is experiencing dehydration - skip the second tipple and drink your water - your face will thank you.
A summary of dry vs dehydrated skin
Dry skin types and dehydrated skin conditions can both be managed with a regular skincare routine using the ingredients your skin is craving. For dry skin look for products containing lipids to nourish your skin and replace the natural oils. Don’t worry if you don’t like heavy creams, there are light textures too that contain these nourishing ingredients.
For dehydrated skin look for serums containing hyaluronic acid to replace the water loss in the skin, giving you the plump radiant complexion you deserve. Make sure to seal the water hydration in with a lipid-based moisturiser to seal the hydration inside.
With both dry and dehydrated skin be sure to avoid products that contain alcohol, because this can dry the skin and the last thing you want is your skin to be stripped of any more moisture.