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Our Ultimate Guide: Dry vs Dehydrated Skin

Woman with map overlay that indicates signs of dry skin and dehydrated skin

While dry skin is a common catch-all for a range of potential skin concerns, such as rough texture, dull skin, crepey skin, or all the above, there could be another culprit: dehydrated skin. And no, dehydrated skin and dry skin can’t be used interchangeably, though it commonly happens, because they are really two separate things. Let’s break it down.

What Is Dry Skin?

Dry skin describes skin that lacks oil.1 It’s also a skin type, with genetics being a major factor; so, just as you may have naturally oily skin, you could have been born with dry skin. And because skin doesn’t produce enough oil — an important component of a healthy skin moisture barrier — that can impair its function and lead to tight, rough, or itchy skin. Age can also contribute to dry skin, as well as external factors causing dry skin like harsh weather, UV exposure, and extreme changes in temperature.

What Is Dehydrated Skin?

Dehydrated skin, on the other hand, lacks water. It’s also a condition, meaning it can happen no matter what your skin type is. It ultimately occurs if your skin loses water faster than it receives water.2 The big point of difference here is that dehydrated skin isn’t a measure of the oil in skin — meaning it’s entirely possible to have oily dehydrated skin, or even acne with dehydrated skin.

Dehydrated skin can be caused by not properly hydrating as well as anything that compromises the skin barrier, as the skin barrier is integral in preventing trans-epidermal water loss, a process through which water from the skin is evaporated into the air.3 That includes over washing skin, which can strip skin of moisture, and not moisturizing well or frequently enough. This may seem counterintuitive if you have oily dehydrated skin, but removing too much oil may actually cause your skin to overproduce oil.

How Do I Know If My Skin Is Dehydrated or Dry?

Can’t tell whether you have dry or dehydrated skin? You’re not alone. Dry skin tends to be flaky or itchy and may be accompanied by inflammatory conditions like eczema and atopic dermatitis. With dehydrated skin, on the other hand, skin may feel tight, appear dull or have a more wrinkled appearance. Try doing a pinch test, a.k.a. a skin turgor test, to test for it.4 How to do it:
1. Pinch your skin with two fingers
2. Release the pinched skin
3. Judge how long it takes your skin to return to normal

What does dehydrated skin look like? Well, if your skin snapped back pretty quickly, it’s probably not dehydrated. But if it does take longer for skin to return to the state it was before you did the pinch test— think any more than an instant — dehydrated skin may be the cause as low skin turgor, a measure of elasticity, is a sign of dehydration.

How to Fix Dry Skin and Dehydrated Skin

If your skin is dehydrated, drinking water and upping your overall hydration is a good first step.5 Introducing humectants are also suggested, as these help to draw water into the skin’s surface and help retain it. Two well-known humectants are hyaluronic acid and glycerin. They’re well paired with occlusive ingredients, like oils, to keep water from evaporating from skin’s surface.6

Not surprisingly, a hydrated skin barrier is key here. Dry skin can impair the skin barrier, and an impaired skin barrier can lead to trans-epidermal water loss and thus, dehydration. (If you’re wondering: Yes, it’s possible to have both dry and dehydrated skin.) So, if you notice signs of either, it’s helpful to hydrate your skin barrier. First, don’t cleanse too frequently or with harsh formulas. Then, opt for hydrating formulas that help to fortify the skin barrier with moisture.

How Can I Hydrate My Skin Fast?

Consider Advanced Génifique Face Serum, which is formulated with both ceramides and hyaluronic acid, as well as Advanced Génifique Night Cream, which offers overnight repair with a blend of active ingredients, including ceramides, hyaluronic acid, as well as bifidus extract, which helps promote balance of the skin microbiome.

If you have a dry skin type, you’ll want to maintain a good skincare routine long-term, one that includes moisturizers that help to provide specifically what dry skin lacks — mainly, lipids that are integral to the skin barrier. Consider using products that contain ceramides, which are naturally found in a healthy skin barrier and serve as the “mortar” to the skin cells, which are the “bricks.”

Also, give skin lasting moisture with a moisturizer like Absolue Revitalizing & Brightening Rich Cream, which delivers 24-hour hydration along with firmness and radiance. Infused with Grand Rose Extracts and nourishing plant oils, it supports the skin barrier. For the daytime, try Rénergie H.P.N. 300-Peptide Cream SPF 25, which contains a unique blend of hyaluronic acid, 300 peptides, and botanical waxes. Not only does it provide moisture, but it also offers sun protection.

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