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SKIN DEEP: Is your skin dry or dehydrated?


It’s possible to have both a dry skin type and dehydrated skin at the same time, which makes for a very uncomfortable feeling.
It’s possible to have both a dry skin type and dehydrated skin at the same time, which makes for a very uncomfortable feeling. - 123RF Stock Photo

How to tell the difference

There is so much confusion about dehydrated skin and dry skin. I’m here to put the debate to rest. The importance of knowing the difference is imperative in choosing the right products for your skin and how you treat it at home.

Skin therapists and estheticians are often asked by clients, “Why is my skin so dry?”

The answer to that is often, “Let’s see if it is actually dry.”

This reply is followed by a closer look at your skin to see if you have the telltale signs of a truly dry skin or if you are suffering from dehydrated skin.

Dry skin is characterized by a few solid traits. Small pores, little to no oil production from these pores and often a tight surface feeling on the skin, leaving you feeling like you need constant moisture added to the surface of your skin. Dry skin is something you are born with, so thank your parents for that genetic trait. It is a lack of oil or lipids produced in your skin.

Dehydrated skin is categorized as a skin condition, not a skin type. You can have oily, dry or combination skin and still suffer from dehydrated skin. This is a lack of water in your skin, which can be addressed by raising your hydration levels throughout the day by drinking more water and other non-caffeinated beverages, cutting down on salt and using products that work for your skin.

Dehydration presents itself as flaking, irritation, tightness and possibly rough patches. It is possible to have both a dry skin type and dehydrated skin at the same time, which makes for a very uncomfortable feeling.

You can treat both dryness and dehydration with topical products, but they are very different. For a truly dry skin, you will look for products that contain oils and lipids, such as heavy creams and serums, to replace the oils your skin can’t produce on its own.

Treating dehydration can be a bit trickier because you still need to treat your skin appropriately for your skin type. You certainly want to drink more water, protect yourself from wind and sun and use cleansers that will not strip your skin of natural oils. But it will be necessary to add in water-loving products to your regimen to hold some hydration to the surface of the skin.

If you have dry skin, your products will help restore oil and lipids, along with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, which help bind water to your skin.

If you have oily skin, but are also suffering from dehydration, you will need to restore the moisture back into your skin without using heavy creams, so your skin doesn’t get too much oil. It’s a balance. Water-based moisturizers are best for this skin type because they feel less like heavy creams and more like a light lotion.

If you have combination skin, where your cheeks are dryer than your t-zone, you can use two different moisturizers for best results. If you would rather use one product instead of complicating your regimen, err on the side of caution and go with a product that is light on oil and heavier on water during the summer and you can always switch to a slightly heavier moisturizer in the winter.

Do you have questions about skin types or conditions? Send me an email.

Moisturizers to consider

  • For dry skin: Avène Eau Thermale XeraCalm A.D. Lipid Replenishing Cream
  • For combination skin in the summer: Tatcha The Water Cream
  • For combination skin in the winter: Philosophy Hope in a Jar
  • For oily skin: Murad Oil-Control Mattifier SPF 15

Denise Surette is a journalist, master esthetician and part-time instructor at the Hair Design Centre’s school of esthetics. She lives in Lawrencetown with her family and two cats.

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