When you read a description or hear someone mention dry skin or dehydrated skin, your mind probably paints the same picture: a feeling of tightness, a rough texture, a red appearance, and other not-so-pleasant symptoms.
While both dry skin and dehydrated skin can manifest in some of the same ways, they have very opposite root causes that need to be addressed differently. Don’t worry. In this guide to dry vs dehydrated skin, we will explain just what those root causes are and how to treat them so you can kiss the symptoms goodbye.
When you can properly identify whether your skin is dry or dehydrated, you can alter your routine accordingly to give your skin what it needs and experience much better results more quickly.
Dehydrated Skin vs Dry Skin
The main difference between dry and dehydrated skin is that in one case the skin lacks oil, and in the other case, the skin lacks water. Both oil and water, although they might seem to repel one another, are critical components of healthy-looking skin.
Both dry and dehydrated skin, though, are affected by our diet, environment, and routine. For example, during the winter, when temperatures are cold and winds are harsh, skin can easily become dehydrated and drier than usual. The same can occur when we use skincare products that are too harsh on our skin or when we are in an environment that has greater levels of pollution. Much of this we can’t control, but we can control how we care for our skin so it can function at its best all of the time and the extra attention we give it when it needs it.
Let’s define dehydrated skin and dry skin so we can care for them accordingly.
Dehydrated Skin is...
To put it simply, dehydrated skin is thirsty. It lacks water, which, as we all know by now, is the source of life. When your skin is short on this all-important ingredient, it shows. Fine lines become more apparent, blemishes pop up, and radiance is nowhere to be found.
Dehydrated skin can happen to anyone. It’s often a result of a damaged skin barrier, which can be thought of as the great wall around your skin. It keeps water from escaping and external impurities from entering. The skin barrier can become damaged for any number of reasons from sun exposure and environmental pollution to harsh climates and chemicals. In addition to a damaged skin barrier, dehydrated skin can result from not getting enough water through your diet too.
The first step to treating dehydrated skin is identifying that your skin is dehydrated in the first place.
How to Identify Dehydrated Skin
When your skin cells are dehydrated, they don’t function as well as they could; this means you’re not shedding dead skin cells as quickly or as evenly, which contributes to dullness, dry patches, and less of that coveted bounce that skin has. While the signs of dehydration can be difficult to notice, you know your skin best. Does it lack its regular glow? Are fine lines and wrinkles more visible? Are blemishes appearing more often than normal? All of these could be signs that your skin is dehydrated. You can also simply pinch your skin to see if it’s holding its shape or if it’s wrinkling up, in which case it is dehydrated.
How to Help Treat Dehydrated Skin
Alleviating dehydrated skin begins with supplying it with hydration and supporting its natural barrier so it can retain those hydrating ingredients. You can check off both of these steps by using skincare products that feature hyaluronic acid—a naturally occurring compound in the skin that helps it hold onto water—and lipids, which strengthen the bonds that make up the skin barrier. The hero product we recommend? Our Wake Wonderful Nighttime facial. It features hyaluronic acid and plenty of omega-rich oils that will help support your skin’s barrier so you can wake up with smoother, hydrated, and more radiant skin.
When it comes to caring for dehydrated skin, you shouldn’t limit your efforts to only your face. Alleviating dehydrated skin all over your body with a regular exfoliator and hydrator. You can do this in one step with AHA Smart Renewal Body Serum which contains lactic acid to help the skin’s natural cell renewal process, lactococcus to help strengthen the skin's natural barrier, and xylitol to help optimize the skin’s water reserves for better hydration.
Caring for your skin isn’t just about applying products topically, either. It’s equally as important to supply your body with proper nutrients and hydration because it is all connected. So, reach for that water bottle, down it, and refill it consistently throughout the day to ensure you’re getting ample hydration. Trust us, the difference will show up in your skin.
Dry Skin is...
Dry skin lacks oil and is usually chronic, meaning, if you have dry skin, you probably have always had dry skin and may consider it your skin type. However, just because you have naturally dry skin, doesn’t mean it’s dry all of the time. Many external factors play a role in dryness, including the weather, the products you use, and your environment.
Unlike oily skin, which is defined by an excess of oil, dry skin may be defined by a lack of oil. Many of those factors we just mentioned can strip what oil you do have from your skin and exacerbate dryness. Applying products with harsh chemicals, taking super hot showers, traveling in airplanes, and aging can all contribute to dryness and make symptoms worse.
Once you notice the symptoms, though, you can make every effort to encourage your skin back into balance.
How to Identify Dry Skin
So, how do you know if you have dry skin? The symptoms can include tightness, flakiness, itchiness, and an overall feeling of discomfort. You’re probably familiar with the feeling of dryness; we all have stayed out in the sun a little too long or felt the difference in our skin once winter sets in, but it is noticeable too. You may notice patches of dry skin, roughness, and flaking skin as well.
Dry skin doesn’t just show up on your face, but on your body too, so be on the lookout for these symptoms all over. It’s no surprise that most of us spend more time on our skin care routine for our face than for our body, but it deserves a little attention too. Keep reading to learn how to treat dry skin in all areas.
How to Help Treat Dry Skin
When you have dry skin type, your skin is lacking some essential lipids that it would normally get from natural oil production. The good news is you can supply those lipids and support the skin with products such as clean moisturizer and facial oil.
First and foremost, if you have dry skin, you should always use a daily moisturizer to support your skin’s natural barrier with the hydrating ingredients it needs. We recommend using a moisturizer in the morning and at night to keep symptoms at bay. This dream duo will hydrate and help protect your skin from external aggressors by day and recharge, revitalize and intensively hydrate it overnight. Both products are packed with omegas to help supply the lipids dry skin is lacking.
It’s also a good idea to have a richer formula on hand that you can go to when symptoms flare up and your skin needs rescue. Insert the Evercalm Overnight Recovery Balm, an intensely moisturizing nighttime product for smooth, supple, and soothed skin come morning.
Treat dry skin on your body by exfoliating with a gentle body exfoliator such as our Atlantic Kelp & Magnesium Salt Body Scrub to help remove rough patches and dead skin cells and to replenish skin with moisture and essential minerals. Massage it onto dry skin before you jump in a warm shower or bath. Then, when you get out of the tub or shower, reach for a rich moisturizing cream such as our Atlantic Kelp & Magnesium Body Cream, which helps restore the skin’s moisture balance and leaves it feeling smooth and soft.
Yes, You Can Have Both
While there are major differences between dry and dehydrated skin, you can have both at the same time. In fact, dry skin is more prone to become dehydrated because the skin’s natural oils play an important part in water retention. So, less oil can mean less water. If you follow the steps for treating dry skin above, though, and ensure you are getting an ample amount of water in your diet, you can avoid dehydrated skin most of the time. Should your skin become dehydrated after one too many cups of coffee or a trip to the mountains, you now know how to deal with that too, and can help it recover quickly.
Camille Poggi is a doctor in Pharmacy (PharmD.) and is passionate about skincare and how the skin works in general. She specializes in the cosmetic industry and worked for renowned companies in France like L’Oréal and Chanel before moving to London. After being a training manager for 4 years, Camille is at ease with explaining how products work in the skin and how to adapt her speech according to the audience.
She joined REN in January 2020 as International Training Manager and moved to the Research & Development team earlier this year to be the new Scientific Education Manager. A tailored-made role where she assesses and leads all technical communication and ensures scientific compliance is always met. She’s also involved in new product development from the earliest stages. Finding a way to create sustainable skincare products and making sure the message is properly delivered and understood is definitely a big challenge but also her favorite part working for REN.