Most people think that dry and dehydrated are two words to describe the same thing. However, when you related it to skincare, dry and dehydrated are two completely different concerns that have different underlying causes as well. Distinguishing between dry and dehydrated skin will also help you understand the difference between hydration and moisturization and to determine which one is the best for your individual skin type and complexion. Read on to understand how to tell if your skin is dehydrated or just dry. Dry skin versus dehydrated skin and how to differentiate.

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Dehydrated Skin Vs Dry Skin: Differences Based on Definition

Dehydrated Skin Definition

It is important to distinguish between dry skin and dehydrated skin. Dehydrated skin is a type of skin condition that happens due to a lack of water in the skin. This condition can affect anyone, regardless of what skin type you have. People who have oily or combination type of skin can also experience dehydration of the skin. You can tell dehydrated skin from normal skin since dehydrated skin usually appears to be dull and can start to show premature signs of aging, such as surface wrinkles as well as a loss of elasticity.

The best way to tell if you have dehydrated skin is the pinch test. Even though the pinch test is not definitive, it is nevertheless one of the best ways to start thinking about the health of your skin from the inside out. If you have dehydrated skin, you are likely to also notice the following signs:

  • Itchiness
  • Dullness of the skin
  • Skin is more sensitive to wrinkles and fine lines
  • Darker under-eye circles or eyes appear to be tired all the time even after a good night's sleep

How To Do The Pinch Test?

Here's how you can try to determine if you have dehydrated skin:

  • Pinch a little bit of your skin on the abdomen, cheek, chest, or the back of your hand and hold it for a couple of seconds.
  • If you find that your skin snaps right back to its original form, then you do not have dehydrated skin.
  • If you find that it takes a couple of moments for the skin to bounce back to normal, then it is likely that you are dehydrated.
  • You can repeat in other areas of the body to confirm.

Dry Skin

On the other hand, if you have dry skin, it means that your water intake is not the problem. Dry skin is just another skin type, similar to oily or combination skin. It just means that the complexion is lacking in oils or lipids, and due to this, the skin takes on a more dry and flaky appearance.

Some of the other signs of dry skin include:

Dehydrated Skin Vs Dry Skin: Differences Based on Causes

Many of the causes of dehydrated skin and dry skin are the same.

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Dehydrated Skin

Some of the major causes of dehydrated skin include:

If you are experiencing the symptoms of dehydrated skin, then it is essential to figure out what is the underlying cause behind your skincare problem. Some of the key causes responsible for dehydrated skin include:

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Sun: UV rays in sunlight are the primary reason that causes dehydrated skin. The sun makes your skin dehydrated and the UV type A rays that are present in sunlight is the primary factor that affects the skin, increases oxidants in the skin, boosts the aging process, and dehydrates your skin, increasing free radicals present in your skin cells and causing damage to your skin from the inside.

Aging: Aging is a factor responsible for many skincare issues, and dehydrated skin is one of them. As you age and your skin gets older, you will find it more and more challenging to maintain its moisture levels. The aging process naturally makes the body more dehydrated, including the skin as well. There are structural changes that are associated with the aging process that causes dehydration and causes a slowdown in the cell turnover process. Due to the skin becoming dehydrated, you further start to look older as well.

Air Conditioning and Central Heating: Air conditioning and heating surely make the temperature in the room more comfortable, but they do more harm to your skin than you realize. This is because air conditioning and central heating have a direct effect on the skin's hydration. They also worsen skin dryness.

Wrong Skin Care Routine: It might be that you are using products that are too light, too harsh, or you are not using them frequently enough. Your skincare routine could also contribute to your dehydrated skin. It is essential that you get an excellent moisturizer for the body and a separate moisturizer for the face. Also, avoid using harsh chemicals and scrubs when you are cleansing your skin.

Dry Skin

Dry skin, a condition also known as xerosis, usually has an environmental cause. There are also certain diseases that can also cause you to develop dry skin. Some of the potential causes of dry skin can include:

  • Weather: Weather has a profound impact on the skin. Skin usually tends to be at its driest in the winters when temperatures and humidity levels start to drop. However, if you live in desert regions, then the season is unlikely to have too much of an effect on your skin.
  • Heat: Wood-burning stoves, central heating, fireplaces, and space heaters are all known to lower the humidity around you, drying out your skin.
  • Harsh Detergents and Soaps: There are many detergents, shampoos, and popular soaps that end up stripping the moisture from your skin as they are manufactured to remove oil from the skin.
  • Hot Showers and Bath: Taking long and hot showers or baths can also dry out your skin. So does regular swimming, especially if you swim in heavily chlorinated pools.
  • Medical Conditions of the Skin: People who have skin conditions such as psoriasis or atopic dermatitis (eczema) are highly prone to having dry skin.

Dehydrated Skin Vs Dry Skin: Differences Based on Treatment

When it comes to dry skin, there are a number of ways in which you can soothe your dry complexion.(1) This includes increasing your intake of antioxidant and lowering the amount of acids in your skincare routine.

On the other hand, dehydration is a completely different story, and hydration is key to treat your dehydrated skin.

There are also many home remedies available to help with both dry and dehydrated skin. For example, exfoliating at least once a week will help remove the dead skin cells, allowing your moisturizer to work better and get absorbed by your skin. The buildup of dead skin hinders the absorption of moisturizers, thus making your skin dry and causing it to appear dry.

You also need to hydrate your dehydrated skin. In order to do this, while increasing your water intake is, of course, the number one step, you should also add a serum to your skincare routine. Apply serums before any moisturizer so that it traps the moisture in the skin. It is recommended that you find a serum which includes hyaluronic acid for best results(2) Hyaluronic acid is best for both dry as well as dehydrated skin, just as long as you apply an oil or a moisturizer to lock it in.

Some of the best treatment options for dehydrated skin include:

The best ingredients to use on dry skin include:

  • Seed or nut oil such as almond, hemp, or coconut
  • Shea butter
  • Plant oils such as rosehip, jojoba, squalene, and tea tree oil
  • Mineral oil
  • Lanolin

You can use products that include ceramide as an ingredient for both dry and dehydrated skin since ceramides work from the inside to strengthen the skin's barrier to help stop loss of moisture.

Conclusion

If you have dehydrated skin, oral hydration is very important. Oral hydration adds water into your skin from the inside. You should include foods that are rich in water into your diets such as strawberries, celery, cucumber, and watermelon. You can also carry around a water mist such as rose water to spray on your skin whenever you feel your skin drying up.

If you have dry skin, then moisturizing is key. Frequent moisturizing helps your dry skin absorb and retain water better, and this helps your skin maintain an adequate level of hydration. The key to addressing dry skin problems is to find the correct products that will help you lock in moisture, especially when you are sleeping at night. In the winter months, you can try using a humidifier. Wearing a gel sleeping mask will also provide an extra boost of moisturization to your skin.

References:  

  1. Nast, C. (2019). The Best Dry Skin Fixes. [online] Allure. Available at: https://www.allure.com/story/how-to-treat-dry-skin [Accessed 19 Jul. 2019].
  2. Nast, C. (2019). Why Skin-Care Superstar Hyaluronic Acid Deserves a Spot in Your Routine. [online] Allure. Available at: https://www.allure.com/story/hyaluronic-acid-treatments [Accessed 19 Jul. 2019].
Sheetal DeCaria MD

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

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Last Modified On: August 22, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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