Is Your Skin Dry or Dehydrated?


“Your skin is dehydrated.” A simple statement thrown around beauty departments and Sephoras alike. It seems everyone deals with dehydrated skin these days. It’s ubiquitous and a phenomenon that arose from this generation of skincare obsessives. I don’t think they talked about or dealt with “dehydrated” skin during our parents’ youth. So what does it mean? How does it happen? And is dehydrated skin different from dry skin? We talked to esthetician and Vice President of Treatment for Burke Williams Day Spas, Diane Hibbard, for further insight.

Dry vs. Dehydrated
Dry skin is a skin type, whereas, dehydrated skin is a skin condition. “The main difference is that one is about oil and the other is about water. Typically, with dry skin you are lacking oil production, always flaking, your pore size is really small and you have rough texture to the skin on an ongoing basis. Dehydrated skin, on the other hand, lacks water. When you push on dehydrated skin it feels paper thin and transparent. And you will see microscopic tears and lines in the skin, which can, if you allow your skin to be dehydrated for a really long time, turn into wrinkles.” (gasp!)

How does skin become dehydrated?
Weather conditions and lifestyle play a role. Excess sun exposure, harsh cold winds, arid climates, along with drinking too much alcohol, caffeine, or smoking can zap water from the skin. “Anything that creates more damage to the skin is going to dehydrate it. Alcohol and caffeine are big factors. For every glass of alcohol or caffeine you drink, it will deplete equal amounts of water in the skin, so you really need to double your water intake when drinking both,” says Hibbard.

What you put on your face can play an even bigger role in this dehydration puzzle. Use of inappropriate products, either too harsh or drying, or using too much of a stimulating product (exfoliating a tad too often, perhaps?) can lead to loss of water. Especially over exfoliating says, Hibbard, “If you take lots of layers of skin off you are going to lose water in those layers, and your skin will use more of the water it has to repair the damage. If you over exfoliate you are going to end up dry and dehydrated.”

Signs your skin is dehydrated
If you’re dealing with dehydrated skin, she says you’ll notice your skin feels simultaneously oily and dry, since dehydrated skin has a tendency to create more oil to compensate for missing water. This can cause excess oil, breakouts, irritation and dry patches. (One reason why if you’re breaking out from dehydrated skin and you try to use drying acne products, it could make things a lot worse…)

Alleviating dehydrated skin
Repair is all about finding balance and putting water back into skin. Using a gentle non-drying cleanser like Clarins Gentle Foaming Cleanser and a soothing toner to reestablish pH balance like Clarins Toning Lotion With Camomile are the first steps. We also love super concentrated 75% hyaluronic acid serum VIZ-1000 by Peter Thomas Roth  for a super boost of hydration. If you’re dehydrated and dealing with flakes, use a gentle exfoliator like SKIN INC Pure Revival Peel or an exfoliator with an enzyme. Hibbard says, it’s like exfoliating with a safety belt on since enzymes won’t disturb healthy cells. “Enzymes know when they come into contact with a healthy cell and won’t digest it. I like those types of exfoliators for dry and dehydrated skin because it’s just safer.” For a daytime moisturizer try something lightweight, like SKIN INC Hydrating Shield and for nighttime REN V-Cense Revitalizing Night Cream has us swooning. Top it all off with SKIN INC Pure Deepsea Hydrating Mask before bed and let’s just say your dehydration nightmare will be a very, very distant memory. 

-by Amy Chang
Photographed by Amy Chang