October 25, 2019
Dry vs Dehydrated Skin: How to Tell the Difference
Dry vs Dehydrated Skin: How to Tell the Difference
Whenever the temperatures drop, more and more people tell me how their skin has become dry, it feels tight, it’s dull… Now, I don’t want to be harsh, but when it comes to skin, it’s almost impossible to change the type of skin you have; it’s genetic. Either your sebaceous glands work normally, or they don’t. The only exclusion to this is skin ageing, when as time passes, the sebaceous glands produce less and less oils. However, there is a difference between skin type, skin condition, and skin behaviour. So whenever your skin isn’t behaving as it normally is, you need the find the culprit.
Dry skin is a skin type, while dehydrated skin is a skin condition. That’s the most basic explanation I can provide for the beginning of this post. With that in mind, of course you can have oily but dehydrated skin. And you can also have dry and dehydrated skin. While I have combination skin, my skin gets very dehydrated in the colder months.
But what is the actual difference?
Dry skin has less oil-producing glands, so it lacks oils/sebum, which is what locks moisture into your skin. Dry skin needs mositurising products. Dehydrated skin, however, means that yous skin lacks water, so you needs hydrating products.
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How to tell the difference?
If your skin is dry, red, irritated, tight and flaky, mostly around the eyebrows, nose and mouth, but it can be anywhere else, you most likely have dry skin and need moisturising ingredients that will lock moisture into the skin.
However, if your skin feels a little tight, it is itchy, your complexion is kind of dull with fine lines, wrinkles and dark undereyes are a little more noticeable, there is lots of congestion and inflammation, then it is probably dehydrated and you need hydrating ingredients. Dehydrated skin means that your cells are starved for water and you need hydrating products to attract it back into your skin. Dehydrated skin can happen from higher alcohol and coffee intake, cold weather, unbalanced diet, and just not drinking enough water.
Which ingredients should you choose?
Hydrating ingredients are called humectants. They attract water from the dermis to the epidermis. When humidity is higher than 70 percent, humectants can also attract water from the atmosphere into the epidermis. Such ingredients are hyaluronic acid, butylene glycol, glycerin, propylene glycerol and many others.
Recent studies have shown that glycerin helps degrade the corneodesmosome that hold skin cells together. The end effect of this degradation is more consistent desquamation (shedding of the outer layer of skin) and ultimately smoother-looking skin.
The moisturising ingredients are further divided into two categories - occlusives and emollients.
Occlusives increase the water content of the skin by slowing the evaporation of water from the surface of the skin. These ingredients are often greasy and are most effective when applied to damp skin. In this category we see ingredients like Squalane, which is a natural lubricant in the human body; Mineral oil, which has nice texture, but is not as effective as other occlusives; Lanolin, which is expensive and potentially irritating, and Silicone derivatives (dimethicone and Cyclomethicone), which are not greasy but have a limited moisturizing effect. They are often added to petroleum to make it feel less “greasy.”
Emollients are ingredients that remain in the outermost layer of the epidermis (which is made of 5 layers, remember your biology classes?) where they act as lubricants. They are the ones that help maintain the soft and smooth look of your skin. Emollients are often thought of as “filling in the crevices” between dead sells that are in the process of shedding. The type of emollient used in a moisturizer plays a key role in its “skin slip,” which is the smooth feeling imparted to the skin after application. Such ingredients are Lanolin (yep, both occlusive and emollient ingredient!), castor oil, jojoba oil.
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While dehydrated skin can happen because your water intake is low, drinking water won’t magically cure your dehydrated skin. I’m not saying that it does nothing, I am just saying that you can’t fight dehydrated skin by simply drinking more water. Water still has all of its benefits for the skin and body, and while it can really help improve your skin, it’s not a solution because it doesn’t go straight to your skin.
Hydrating ingredients are beneficial for all types of skin. You would never hear me (or anyone for that matter) say that your skin is a little too well hydrated. However, over hydrating is also a thing. It’s called skin maceration and it weakens the skin. It is similar to when you spend a lot of time under the shower or in the sea and your fingertips get wrinkly, but to a lesser extent.