Dry or Dehydrated Skin & How to Beat It!
Dry and/or dehydrated skin can be caused by a variety of different factors and affect us all at one point or another sporadically or long term. Understanding the difference (and there is a difference) between dryness and dehydration can help you better correct the matter.
To put it simply, dryness is a lack of oil and dehydration is a lack of water. Dry skin is a skin type and dehydrated skin is a condition.Your skin can have one or both, and if you’re really lucky? Neither.
So how do you know which one you have? Let’s break it down.
Dry skin is a skin type stemming from genetics and is more permanent. Causes can range from environmental factors like weather, dry air, harsh chemicals and soaps, over-washing and over-exfoliating, excessive sun exposure, chlorinated pools, and also diseases and disorders like diabetes, hypothyroidism, psoriasis, nutritional deficiencies, etc. Some of these things may not be within your control but there are things you can do to help improve the state of your skin.
Dehydrated skin is a skin condition which is more temporary and can come and go. It occurs when the body loses more water than it is taking in like with excessive sweating or simply not drinking enough water. It too can be caused by environment, weather, AC, lifestyle, etc. It's also caused by not drinking enough water or getting enough sleep, long hot showers or steams/saunas, an aggressive skin routine and harsh products. With a few changes, you can get your skin back in balance pretty quickly.
First, a common test you can do on yourself to determine if you’re dry or dehydrated is the “pinch test.” On the back of your hand, abdomen, or in this case, the face, pinch the skin between your undereye and upper cheek and hold for a few seconds then release. If your skin springs back right away then hooray! You’re likely not dehydrated! But if it takes a few moments to return to normal, then you’re likely dehydrated and it's time to take action.
Dry skin typically will appear as scaly, white flakes, tightness, redness, irritation, inflammation and perhaps an increased incidence of psoriasis, eczema or dermatitis.
Dehydrated skin typically appears as dull, itchy and sensitive, surface wrinkles and/or a crepe-like texture, darker undereye circles, and tired eyes. This skin condition can occur even on oily skin types because remember, dehydration is a lack of water, not oil. Which means that even oily skin still needs hydrating!
Tips ‘n’ Tricks
Dry and dehydrated skin, while different, both respond positively to these following guidelines:
-drink plenty of water- Kind of an obvious one but super important! Did you know when you drink water your skin is the last to receive it before it passes through all your other organs first? Kind of sad seeing as our skin is the largest organ of our body. It is vital you drink plenty of water per day to ensure your skin receives that hydrating TLC as well!
-eat water-rich foods- Eating plenty of fresh produce aids in your water intake such as dark leafy greens, cucumbers, carrots, avocado, water-rich/low-sugar fruits like melon, berries, kiwis. Other great foods to aid in hydration include coconut and olive oil, nuts and seeds, wild salmon, sweet potatoes, green tea, tomatoes, citrus, collagen powders, and fish oils.
-get plenty of sleep- I know, easier said than done. But did you know that sleep is the body’s (and the skin’s) time to repair itself? 8-9 hours is ideal for proper regeneration. In this busy day and age that may be a stretch but sleep is sooooo important. Good luck!
-use a gentle cleanser- when dealing with dry or dehydrated skin its always best to avoid harsh products especially daily cleansers with acids, granules, high alcohol and fragrance content that can all strip the skin’s barrier. Oil and milk cleansers are ideal at least until the skin regulates into a healthier state. Try our favorite here!
-regular exfoliation is key- It might be your inclination to not exfoliate for fear of making matters worse but it is actually necessary to remove excess dead skin and oil that accumulates on the surface as sort of a barrier on your skin. Having that barrier of dead skin present actually keeps hydration from reaching the deeper layers and thoroughly hydrating throughout. Exfoliate just a couple times a week with an enzyme, a gentle acid like lactic or low percentage glycolic.
-add a toner to your regimen- If you don’t have one already this is such an easy fix. Toners are so under-rated in my opinion. Their main purpose is to balance the pH in your skin. Skin that is not in proper pH balance is more susceptible to dryness, inflammation and breakouts. Even if your cleanser is “pH-balanced” it doesn’t mean the water you rinse with is, so it’s important to always tone after cleansing to “reset” the skin before applying serums, moisturizer, etc. And fun fact: after toning, the products you apply after will actually be able to penetrate and do their job better when the skin is in a healthy pH state. So you’ll see better results than you would without the toner. Skin that is in proper pH balance is happy skin! Just make sure if you’re addressing dryness or dehydration to use a hydrating toner vs an astringent or purifying toners containing acids.
-avoid excessive heat- Washing your face with hot water, long hot showers, steams and saunas will exacerbate the dry/dehydrated condition and create a lot of other sensitivities. Limit showers to 5-10 minutes, use lukewarm water on your face, skip the saunas. Think COOL.
-limit coffee and alcohol- These fluids are diuretics and deplete your hydration. But you gotta live your life too, right? So for every drink you have, replenish with 1 or more glasses of water to make up for the loss.
-limit or avoid smoking- The only thing that hurts my esthetician heart more than not wearing SPF is a smoker. To each their own, of course. But the damage it inflicts on the skin and the process of aging, not to mention the toll it takes on you internally, is immense. Dryness and dehydration from smoking are just the tip of the iceberg so as long as this habit persists, skin conditions like dehydration, dryness, dullness, clogged asphyxiated skin will persist as well. Sorry, not sorry.
-adapt & adjust- Seasons change and so should your routine. When the weather turns chilly, windy and dry, break out your cream or milky cleanser vs gel, grab your coveted hydrating hyaluronic serum, moisturize and lock it all in with an oil, do a weekly moisture mask, place a humidifier in your bedroom as you sleep. What worked for you in the summer months won’t serve you well in the winter. If you’re a frequent traveler you may need to increase hydrators since flying in recycled air depletes the skin. If you moved to the desert, adjustments need to be made.
Recommended Products & Ingredients
Both dry & dehydrated skin:
-Hyaluronic Acid- each molecule holds 1,000 times its weight in water. Like a drink of water for skin! (If using in serum form, you must always moisturize on top to lock it in.)
-Ceramides- are lipids, a type of fat, in the skin that seals moisture. Gives a plumping effect and fills in fine lines.
-Glycerin- a humectant used in facial moisturizers & creams for its ability to draw water to itself.
-Lactic Acid- for exfoliation purposes in addition to binding moisture to the skin and brightening the complexion.
-Shea butter- rich in fatty acids, softens, smoothes and is anti-inflammatory. -Plant oils- such as jojoba & rose hip oil, coconut, almond & sunflower seed oil soothe and revitalize in addition to providing antioxidants.
-Aloe- soothes skin and adds moisture as well as amino acids.
-Honey- natural humectant that draws water from the air to your skin.
Addressing your skin concerns starts with a great at-home regimen with appropriate ingredients for your skin type and condition. Sifting through the information (and often misinformation) on the internet can be overwhelming so it’s always important to reach out to a professional skin expert such as an aesthetician who has had the training to properly assess your concerns. They can recommend a specific regimen for you and/or treatments such as a Hydrafacial which rids the face of excess dead skin through mild acid formulations (remember, to get rid of that dry barrier) and then thoroughly replenish back hydration through serums full of hyaluronic and other nutritive ingredients.