Dry vs. Dehydrated Skin

I find myself explaining the difference between dry and dehydrated skin at least once a week and thought I’d put my ranting knowledge on here rather than on the poor client who come into discuss their latest projects with me.

The difference between dry and dehydrated skin is simple, easy to determine and something you should become well versed in.

Products for Dry Skin

Dry skin lacks oil (or sebum if you want to get technical) and is a skin type – meaning you can’t “cure” dry skin, but rather must learn which products and treatments are best for this type. Signs of dry skin are small pores, red flakey patches, tight feeling skin, and a lack of sebum production. Skin types can and do change over time due to where you live, age, and hormonal changes, etc. but they are not cured with one product, only managed.

Since dry skin is lacking oil, throw in some oil-heavy products in your routine. Add an oil or creamy cleanser, hydrating toners/essence/serums, top off your moisturizer with a nice oil. Brands, just like consumers, are becoming more aware of how to shop for products based on skin type/conditions. One great example is my K-Beauty favorite – SokoGlam, you can search for products based on 4 skin types and 7 skin concerns. Treatment wise, dry skin still needs to exfoliate – yes you read that right! Dry skin still needs to eliminate those old skin cells so shiny new ones can come to surface. Personally, I would recommend a chemical exfoliator like lactic acid that’s gentle and has been show to be effective for dry skin types. Massage manipulations is a great way to stimulate dry skin without irritation. Get yourself an oil-rich massage cream and your favorite massage tool (or fingers and a basic oil if you’re ballin’ on a budget) and make slow upward manipulations to stimulate circulation.

Products for Dehydrated Skin

Dehydrated skin lacks water and is a skin condition – meaning it technically can “go away” if you treat your skin with proper treatments and procedures. Skin can be dehydration-prone though, meaning this condition can come back frequently. Signs of dehydrated skin are tight feeling skin and creepy lines (can be seen very easily with foundation on). Dehydration can be due to so many things – air travel, poor office air circulation, intense heaters during the winter, poor body hydration, weather, humidity, etc.

Dehydrated skin can be a bit more tricky to manage because it can feel like it’s constantly showing up to kill the party. Skin that is dehydrated needs lot of care and water much like your sad hungover roommate. Product wise you’ll want to focus on anything that has a ton of hydrating ingredients – those humectants and emollients. Hyaluronic acid, facial spray and sheet masks are your new best friends. I have very dehydrated skin and tend to stay away from oil heavy products so I can focus on water-rich hydrating ingredients. Treatment-wise, gentle exfoliation and masking are a golden duo. I do sheet masks at least once a week, sleeping mask every night and my esthetician likes to use hydrating molding masks on me.

TLDR? Dry skin should be treated like you’re an Italian chef, soaking everything in delicious plant-based oils. Dehydrated skin should be treated the exact opposite of that succulent house plant you have – water as much as possible. Skincare is so much more simple when put into food and plant terms, right?

5 thoughts on “Dry vs. Dehydrated Skin

  1. Chris says:

    Interesting that you should recommend staying away from oils for dehydrated skin. I definitely had it as well, especially some major recurring peeling/cracking on the sides of my nose and just above my eyebrows.

    The best results I got so far, amazing actually after all the moisturizers and I tried, were with rose hip seed oil. It filled in and plumped up my fine lines and almost totally eliminated that persistent dryness that I would still be fighting after leaving on 3 layers of moisturizer and/or moisturizer plus jojoba oil as a final layer. I saw these major results after applying the rose hip seed oil just once!

    I also usually put the oil on over The Ordinary’s NMF moisturizer for added benefits.

    As you know though, everyone’s skin might react differently, but I don’t think you should discount oils so quickly.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Paige DeGarmo says:

    Hi Chris,

    Of course, everyone’s skin is different and I’m glad you found a solution for yourself! The peeling/cracking you mentioned is a definite sign of dryness and not dehydration. This post was meant to compare dry and dehydration in the context of esthetics where the definitions are that dry is a lack of oil and dehydrated is a lack of water. I will have to give oils a try myself.


    • Chris says:

      Hi Paige,

      Thanks for the reply. I definitely have always had the combination skin type, not dry, because there’s certainly no lack of natural oil on my face in the T-zone! (Not to mention the large pores I’ve always had, which I’ve read dry skin does not have.) I developed those persistent dehydrated patches several months ago (I think it was due to a very long, dry winter or maybe certain products I tried). Perhaps my natural oil was not sufficient to retain the water/moisture in my skin. In any case, I know my natural acid mantle was damaged due to ph imbalances, which us what caused the dehydration. The moisturizer I mentioned in addition to the oil also has humectants to help my skin retain water, so that may be another reason that combo worked well for me. In the end, as you say, you have to find what works for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Soraya says:

    Hi, I really like this article. Recently I had an appointment at a beauty salon that only uses organic/natural skincare. They mentioned my skin is dehydrated. The advice they gave me was to stop using products that have water/aqua as the main ingredient (so when the list of ingredient starts with water), because water is dehydrating my skin. So, the water in my products but also cleaning my face with water (too much because I teach fitness classes).
    Now keeping that in mind it is becoming very hard to find suitable and affordable products that meet this requirement. What are your thoughts on this?


    • Paige DeGarmo says:

      Hey Soraya! I would definitely continue using products that contain water as the main ingredient. Dehydration is lack of water, but dryness is lack of oil. If you were speaking to a natural/organic salon it is likely they were trying to interest you in their products. Many natural/organic products are water-less because they want to avoid using synthetic ingredients like preservatives, buffers, etc.


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