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Is Your Skin Dry or Just Dehydrated? Here’s the Difference

It’s easy to assume that the words “dry” and “dehydrated” can be used interchangeably, but when it comes to skincare, they shouldn’t be. Both may result in your skin feeling, well, dry, but are caused by different factors and therefore, require different ingredients and products to help your skin bounce back. If you’ve ever gotten frustrated because your moisturizer or serum didn’t seem to be yielding the skin-smoothing results you were seeking, it may be due to improperly diagnosing whether your skin is dry or just dehydrated.

Read on for a full breakdown on the difference between dry skin and dehydrated skin, plus how to tell which one you’re dealing with. 

Dry Skin

Like oil-prone or combination skin, dryness is a skin type. Based on genetics, those with dry skin naturally lack enough oil (aka lipids) to keep it feeling smooth and supple, resulting in red, flaky, itchy, ashy skin. Dry skin can extend to all parts of your body, including your scalp, and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it.

If you have dry skin (more on how to determine that below), you’ll want to be on the lookout for products that contain precisely what your skin is lacking in: Oil. Jojoba (like what’s in our Silk Slip Conditioning Lip Oil), squalane (in Skin Soak Rich Moisture Cream), and almond oils (found in Keep It Supple Body Oil) will help restore the skin’s lipid barrier and relieve some of that dryness. Hint: You can shop by skin concern, including dryness, on our site to explore all products that are made specifically for this skin type.

Dehydrated Skin

Dehydrated skin, on the other hand, is a skin condition (not a type), meaning it’s treatable and temporary. Fact: You can have an oily skin type, but still experience dehydration. Similar to your body, skin becomes dehydrated when it’s lacking in water. There are several reasons your skin may experience this loss in H2O, causing it to appear dull, rough, and tight: 
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Changes in weather 
  • Indoor heating and cooling systems
  • Washing your skin with hot and/or hard water
  • Applying products that strip your skin of moisture

Luckily, hydrating skin is a quick fix. Besides drinking your 8 glasses-worth, opt for products that help your skin retain water, such as aloe (found in Dew Point Moisturizing Gel-Cream), lactic acids, and coconut water (hi, Baby Cheeks Hydrating Milk). Night creams, overnight masks, and adding a humidifier to the bedroom can deliver extra hydration while you snooze as well, since your skin experiences severe fluid loss while you’re sleeping.


Which Do You Have?

How can you tell if your skin is dry or dehydrated? Experts advise taking a “pinch test”. Pinch your cheeks for a few seconds and let go. If your skin immediately bounces back to normal (yet feels flaky), you have dry skin. If it takes a few seconds, even leaving some fine lines, your skin is probably dehydrated. You can always consult a dermatologist or facialist if you’re unsure. Like we mentioned before, you can have dry and dehydrated skin. Hyaluronic acid (found in our Hydration Station booster) is a skincare ingredient that can help you tackle both. Our Antioxidant Oil-Serum also contains both hydrating and moisturizing ingredients.