Dry, Dehydrated, what’s the difference?

‘My skin is so dry’, ‘my skin is so dehydrated’ , these are terms I hear from my clients on a regular basis, but do you really know what the difference is?

The terms ‘dry’ and ‘dehydrated’ are thrown about so much and almost seem interchangeable.

They are usually used to describe a skin that may feel tight, rough to the touch, flaky looking, crepey even, but dry and dehydrated are two very different things when it comes to skincare!

Dry is a skin type, something you’re born with and aren’t likely to change, while dehydrated is a skin condition brought on by poor skincare and both internal and external factors, but is very treatable.


When we say our skin is dry, we mean lipid dry, in that our skin isn’t producing the right amount of oils/lipids to keep our skin nourished, supple, etc. Dry skin is usually characterised by small pores, may feel slightly rough to the touch, will feel tight and may look dull.

A dry skin finds it quite hard to absorb products as the pores are so small, that is why layering your products is so important (please see previous post), rather than just applying a thick moisturiser that will just sit on top of your skin and do nothing for you. Also exfoliating 1 – 2 times a week is key in order to remove any build up of dead skin that will further inhibit any products absorbing into your skin properly.


Dehydration as mentioned in a skin condition, that can change with the seasons. When we talk about dehydration in the skin we are talking about the water content, not the oils.

We’ve all suffered with dehydrated skin at some point whether our skin is normal, dry, oily or combination. None of us are immune. Dehydration is likely to show up around the eye area first as the skin is so thin there. I’ve spoken with many of my clients who are worried about fine lines starting to appear when in fact its just dehydration, and that’s easily fixed, no botox required! Another easy way to check if your skin is dehydrated is to stand in front of a mirror and gently pinch around your forehead with two fingers vertically, if you can see little lines starting to appear, then you’re dehydrated. Another clue is your makeup. Do you often find your foundation going patchy throughout the day? This is another sign as your skin is absorbing the water content out of your makeup, leaving it looking patchy, and you thought it was just bad makeup!!

So what causes it? Well, a lot of things!

It could be poor skincare, or no skincare at all. Over exfoliating will do it, using the wrong products, (think face washes, face wipes etc). Most people with dehydrated skin will find that even after applying their proper skincare, after a while they will feel the need to reapply it. So what can you do? treat your skin kindly. That means no over exfoliating, and plenty of layering. Look for products with hyaluronic acid which is a humectant which helps to draw water to the skin like the Hyaluronic Acid & Multi Vitamin Face Serum. When applying a hyaluronic based product, it is best to apply it to slightly damp skin to help trap in the water. You can apply your serum and leave it for half an hour or so and apply another layer as needed before moving on with your moisturiser. And it’s not a time to opt for an oil free moisturiser either, as oils are needed to help lock in the moisture and stop the trans epidermal water loss.

External factors also play a part, especially this time of the year. The cold weather outside and the central heating inside can all wreak havoc on your skin but here are a few things that can help:

    • Don’t sit too close to the fire despite how nice it might feel, likewise if you have a stove or a radiator nearby it’s no harm to keep a bowl of water near them, it will help it to stop absorbing the water out of your skin.
    • Don’t stay too long in the shower
    • Turn down the heating in the car

Our diet also lends a hand to dehydration i’m afraid, with the main culprits being alcohol, salt and sugar (all the nice things of course).

Alcohol parches the skin. I’m sure you’ve woken up after a great night out with your mouth feeling like your tongue is stuck to the roof of your mouth, that’s dehydration and your skin is feeling the same. Bringing a glass of water to bed with you will help (if you can remember it) and some definite TLC for your skin the next day.

Salt in your diet will lead to puffy, dehydrated skin. We’ve all felt it, our skin is a little lack lustre. There’s salt in most foods so just be aware when you’re adding that salt to your soup, or adding some more gravy to your spuds…

Sugar is by far the biggest culprit though. Too much sugar in our diet causes glycation in our skin, which hinders our skins ability to produce collagen.

It’s simple to remedy and that is to increase your water intake. Just drink more water. When we have enough water in our bodies and are using the right skincare to help lock in that hydration, those tiny, crepey looking lines will be greatly reduced and your skin will look more plump and healthy looking.

I hope this helps you to differentiate between dryness and dehydration and the ways in which you can help them.

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