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the skin edit.

Dry or dehydrated? What’s the difference?

Dehydrated skin is not the same as dry skin. It’s important to know whether you are suffering with dry skin or dehydrated skin or both so that you know how to optimise your skincare routine so that it’s treating the right problem.

Dry skin is lacking in oil.
Dehydrated skin is lacking in water.

Dry skin is the result of genes that say ‘don’t produce enough sebum’.
Dehydrated skin is the result of external factors such as environmental factors and diet.

Dry skin is a skin type.
Dehydrated skin is a skin condition.

You may have dry skin, dehydrated skin, neither or both.

How do you know whether your skin is dry or dehydrated?

Dehydrated skin tends to look dull and feel tight, even when properly moisturized. With dry skin, lack of moisture can result in rough-to-touch and flaky skin.

If you are not sure whether your problem is dryness, dehydration or both, you really have to get know your skin. When you notice that your skin feels uncomfortable or looks flaky, dull, patchy or tight, note down what you are eating, drinking and how you are feeling generally. Monitor your skin over a 30-day cycle – if it eventually returns to normal status quo, then you were just dehydrated.

Here’s how to know if you fall under the scientifically dry category: Wash your face with a gentle, sulphate-free cleanser and check on your skin an hour later. If it’s lacking in moisture overall, you probably have true dry skin. If, however, your cheeks feel tight and itchy (and definitely don’t look dewy), then it’s more likely to be an issue of dehydration.

How to treat dry skin

If your skin is dry, make sure that you are using the right moisturising ingredients. Honey, squalane and aloe are examples. Treating dry skin involves dealing with the lack of protective oils on the topmost layer of the skin. This involves a more topical approach that locks in moisture, and helps the skin to balance its natural oil production.

A penetrating night oil will benefit dry skin hugely. Oils allow the skin to breathe and they penetrate deep into the dermis, rather than creating a barrier.

Commercial cleansers are huge contributors to dry skin, as most contain chemicals that strip the skin of its natural sebum layer. This results in further drying of the skin, which then overproduces oil to compensate. The result is an undesirable combination of flaky and oily. Make sure to invest in a gentle cleansing system that is hydrating and nourishing.

Avoid products containing pore clogging sulphates, silicones or parabens or anything that is heavily fragranced. 

How to treat dehydrated skin

The purpose of hydrating is to bind water to our skin. The purpose of moisturising is to prevent water from leaving our skin.  It therefore makes sense that hydration comes before moisturising when applying products topically. This is why serums are to be applied first, as most hydrating treatment serums contain a humectant. Hyaluronic Acid is an ingredient that will greatly benefit dehydrated skin by locking in moisture and drawing water from the atmosphere into the skin. Once that layer of humectant is on, it’s important to seal it all in with an oil-based moisturiser. This combination creates a healthy balance.

An ultra-hydrating acid toner will have instant visible benefits for dehydrated  skin. Lactic acid is a super-hydrating alpha-hydroxy-acid that is suitable for all skin types and combines gentle exfoliation with intense hydration.