Unlike having dry or oily skin that is determined almost entirely on genetics, dehydrated skin is a condition that is dependent on lifestyle choices, environment, and a bit on genetics, too, and can be alleviated or reversed. The terms ‘dry skin’ and ‘dehydrated skin’ are often incorrectly used interchangeably. It’s true that they share overlapping skin side effects, however, they are distinctly different as dry skin is lacking sebum from the dermis, while dehydrated skin is lacking water from the stratum corneum – the outermost layer of skin.
How to tell if you have dehydrated or dry skin
The diagram below outlines the similarities and differences of both skin states. To tell if your body – and thus your skin – is dehydrated just take notice of your body’s natural cues. If you have dark urine, don’t pee often, experience headaches, have random muscle cramping, or when your skin pulled tight does not snap back into place you may be dehydrated. Mature skin that might not show these body cues can still be dehydrated since as we age the cell’s ability to hold water simply decreases. Insufficient water molecules within the cell causes shrinking, which affects the visible skin by making it undesirably scrunched and not smooth.
Best practices to fix dehydrated skin
Changing your day-to-day routine to live a healthier lifestyle from drinking more water, getting enough sleep, decreasing stress and consuming water-dense, unprocessed foods will absolutely help repair dehydrated skin. However, aging skin will need assistance in retaining water even when all these lifestyle goals are met. Specific types of skincare products can either harm or help your quest to rehydrate your skin. Using products meant for dry skin can cause an overproduction of sebum that results in breakouts, while using products meant for oily skin can overly dry-out and irritate the skin. To find a happy medium you’ll need:
Thick and creamy cleansers contain much-needed moisturizing and hydrating agents. Formulated for sensitive skin types, they often omit the strong AHAs and BHAs that can over exfoliate and cause irritation to skin that is broken with scaly texture. It’s best to also avoid foaming cleansers as they contain surfactants that bind to water molecules to help pull up dirt and grease, which will leave the skin lacking water once again.
Be on the lookout for serums that focus on hydration. One of the top ingredients to increase water retention is hyaluronic acid as it can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water. There are different molecular sizes of hyaluronic acids which makes it great for penetrating the stratum corneum and seeping all throughout the dermis.
Harben House's Pick: NEOCUTIS Hyalis+ Intensive Hydrating Serum
Living our modern life within buildings is absolutely a privilege, but the constant A/C and heater can dry out the air and dry out the skin. Applying a humectant moisturizer is ideal because it bonds with water molecules and slows the rate at which water naturally leaves the skin. Seek humectant ingredients within a moisturizer such as glycerin, aloe vera, propylene glycol, hyaluronic acid and honey.
Harben House's Pick: SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator
For an additional burst of hydration during the day try a mist with humectant and antioxidant ingredients. Avoid exfoliating ingredients that are desined to treat acne even if your skin is oily as this can overcorrect the problem and leave dry patches.
Harben House's Pick: Truth Treatment Systems Biomimetic Priming Mist ($39)
Some days it seems that serums and moisturizers just aren’t enough. Whether it be after a long night out, sudden dip in temperature, or after traveling, take 5-15 minutes to apply a hydrating mask to really allow the ingredients to soak in. It's best to stick with gelatinous or cream-based masks instead of clay masks that dry out and harden.
Harben House's Pick: Osmosis MD Tropical Mango Barrier Repair Mask
Overall, it is tricky to identify if your skin is dehydrated as it can affect both dry skin or oily skin individuals. Once you know the source of your red, scaly, itchy, dull or taunt skin you can change up your lifestyle and use select skincare products to achieve a youthful, clear appearance.