Everything You Need to Know About Dehydrated Skin


Dehydrated skin is skin that lacks water. The low water content could stem from dehydration throughout the body as well as dry, low-humidity air, since there’s less moisture for your skin to absorb. Unlike dry skin, which is a skin type, dehydrated skin is a skin condition that could happen whether you have normal skin, dry skin, oily skin- it doesn’t matter.

What are the Causes of Dehydrated Skin?

Dehydrated skin happens when your skin’s protective barrier is damaged.

A healthy barrier keeps water in, so everything is hydrated, supple, and working as it should.

But, when this protective barrier gets damaged, all hell breaks loose:

  • Skin cells stick and clump together(instead of shedding), causing flaky, dull, and rough skin – and increasing your chances of acne!
  • Water evaporates out of the skin, leaving it feeling tight and dry.
  • Germs get into your skin, possibly causing infections and all kinds of trouble.

What damages your skin’s protective barrier so much to cause dehydrated skin? All the usual culprits:

  • Harsh (both dry and cold) weather
  • Medical conditions
  • Natural aging
  • Over-cleansing (especially with soap)
  • Over-exfoliation
  • Overuse of harsh skincare ingredients (like Tretinoin and Glycolic Acid)
  • Some medication
  • Unprotected sun exposure

Dry Skin vs. Dehydrated Skin:

The difference between the two is that while dehydrated skin lacks water, dry skin lacks oil, or sebum. It’s a skin type you may be genetically predisposed to, and ultimately affects skin barrier function. For that reason, someone with dry skin might experience flaking or peeling of the skin, redness, deep cracks within the skin – and in some severe cases, eczema and psoriasis. Unlike dehydrated skin, you can manage dry skin but not cure it.

Dehydrated Skin Symptoms:

If dehydrated skin looks a lot like dry skin, how can you tell if you have it? Here are the most common symptoms:

What dehydrated skin feels like:

  • Itchy
  • Sensitive
  • Inflamed
  • Tight
  • Dry
  • Rough

What dehydrated skin looks like:

  • Dull
  • Rough
  • Flaky
  • Scaly

Ways to Fix Dehydrated Skin:

Now you know what to avoid to make dehydrated skin worse and slow down the healing process, let’s talk about how to fix it.

As dehydrated skin is characterized by a broken protective barrier and lack of water, the cure is simple. Let’s patch up that protective barrier so that water stays in and helps skin function its best.

How? By using moisturizers with skin-identical actives.

Skin-identical actives are substances that make up your skin’s protective barrier. Add them back in and you can patch up any holes in it.

Here are the best skin-identical actives to look out for:

A) Ceramides: 

They’re a family of waxes (cera means “wax” in Latin) that quickly repairs a broken skin’s barrier. Studies show they work even better when paired with fatty acids and cholesterol. Together, they reduce water loss and increase skin hydration within 30 minutes!

B) Fatty Acids: 

Linoleic, oleic, Linolenic acid & co are incredibly moisturizing and help your skin’s barrier heal faster. You can find them in moist oils, but sometimes they’re added in skincare products on their own. They’re great for dry skin, but may clog pores and cause acne in oily skin.

C) Hyaluronic Acid:

A humectant on steroids, it attracts and binds to the skin up to 1000 times its weight in water! Studies show that as little as 0.1% hyaluronic acid improves both hydration and elasticity.

D) Niacinamide: 

The jolly of the skincare world, this form of Vitamin B3 soothes irritations, treats acne, fades away dark spots, reduces the appearance of wrinkles, and even hydrates skin. It works by increasing the levels of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids in your skin, helping it heal faster.

E) Urea: 

A powerful humectant, urea attracts and binds water into your skin to reduce water loss and increase hydration.

Anyone can have dehydrated skin. It happens when your skin’s protective barrier is damaged and your skin starts losing too much water – yet, oil production often confusingly stays the same or increases. The fix is simple: repair your protective barrier and your skin will heal within a few short weeks.


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