Is Your Skin Dry or Dehydrated?

May 13, 2021

By Matthew Pruitt

It’s tight and scaly, does it even matter? Actually, yes. Because if you’re treating the wrong condition, you won’t solve the problem and might actually create new ones.

Heres the distinction:

Dry skin is short on oil (lipids), which is caused by things like aging and hormones as well as external factors like harsh cleansers and astringents.

Dehydrated skin is short on water, which is caused by overall dehydration (which comes from not drinking enough water to replace what you’e losing). It’s also tied to exposure to sun, wind and hot water (too many long showers), which can harm the skin’s barrier function and cause it to lose moisture. (By the way, that the old saw about improving your skin by drinking 8-plus glasses of water a day? Not true, unless you’re a marathoner or otherwise in need of massive fluid intake. It’s also a myth that drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages dehydrates you. Just be sure to drink enough to keep your urine looking like lemonade and not orange juice and you’ll be fine.)

Dryness and dehydration both leave the skin looking wrinkled, thin and just plain old. They can actually accelerate the skin’s aging process over time, so they’re definitely worth treating. Just do it the right way.

Here’s the solution:

Dry skin needs help with its oil content, which means you should step up the emollients. Use a creamy (not foamy) cleanser and an oil-based moisturizer (look for one with ceramides, a type of lipid that’s one of the main components of human skin).

Dehydrated skin needs more water (from the inside), plus help with its barrier function to keep the water where it belongs. That means drinking more fluids and using a moisturizer that’s right for your skin type (oil-based if you’re dry, water-based if you’re not).



Matthew Pruitt

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