Dehydrated Vs Dry Skin: What’s the Difference?
Understand the differences between dehydrated skin and dry skin and learn which Lancôme products can help.
While dry skin is a common catch-all for a range of potential skin concerns, such as rough texture, dull skin, crepey skin, or all of the above, there could be another culprit: dehydrated skin. And no, dehydrated skin and dry skin can’t be used interchangeably, as commonly happens, because they’re actually two separate things. Here, we break it down for you.
What Is Dehydrated Skin?
Simply put, dehydrated skin lacks water. It’s also a condition, meaning it can happen no matter what your skin type is. It ultimately occurs if your skin loses water faster than it receives water. The big point of difference here is that dehydrated skin isn’t a measure of the oil in skin — meaning it’s entirely possible to have oily dehydrated skin, or even acne with dehydrated skin. Hydration is essential for healthy skin as it supports skin's barrier function and is essential in maintaining its elasticity.
Dehydrated skin can be caused by not properly hydrating as well as anything that compromises the skin barrier, as the skin barrier is integral in preventing trans-epidermal water loss, a process through which water from the skin is evaporated into the air. While it can occur naturally, certain lifestyle factors can also lead to dehydrated skin, such as lack of sleep, stress, an overactive lifestyle, poor diet, and of course certain beauty routines. That includes over-washing skin, which can strip skin of moisture, and not moisturizing well or frequently enough. This may seem counterintuitive if you have oily dehydrated skin — but removing too much oil may actually cause your skin to overproduce oil.
What Is Dry Skin?
On the other hand, dry skin describes skin that lacks oil, as well as Natural Moisturizing Factors and lipids. It’s also a skin type, with genetics being a major factor; so, just as you may have naturally oily skin, you could have been born with dry skin. And because skin doesn’t produce enough oil — an important component of a healthy skin moisture barrier — that can impair its function causing skin to look and feel tight, rough, flakey, or itchy. More likely to be felt with age, dry skin can be triggered and/or sustained by environmental factors such as detergents, climate, extreme changes in temperature, air conditioning, pollution or UV exposure.
How to Tell a Difference between Dry and Dehydrated Skin
If you can’t tell whether you have dry or dehydrated skin, trust us: You’re not alone. Dry skin tends to be flaky or itchy, and in some less common casses accompanied by eczema and atopic dermatitis. With dehydrated skin, on the other hand, skin may feel tight, appear dull, less smooth, and creased. Try doing a pinch test, a.k.a. a skin turgor test, to test for it. Here’s how to do it:
- Pinch your skin with two fingers
- Release the pinched skin
- Judge how long it takes your skin to return to normal
If your skin snapped back pretty quickly, it’s probably well dehydrated. But if it does take longer for skin to return to the state it was before you did the pinch test— think any more than an instant — dehydrated skin may be the cause as low skin turgor, a measure of elasticity, is a sign of dehydration.
How to Help Address the Appearance of Dry and Dehydrated Skin
If your skin is dehydrated, drinking water and upping your overall hydration is a good first step. Introducing humectants is also suggested, as these help to draw water into the skin’s surface and help retain it. When paired with occlusive ingredients, like oils, these well known humectants keep water from evaporating from skin’s surface:
- Hyaluronic acid : A fermented ingredient obtained by biotechnology. Known to absorb water, it helps smooth and replump the skin with moisture.
- Glycerin: A plant-based ingredient extracted from vegetable oils such as rapeseed or sunflower oils. It is capable of capturing and retaining water efficiently and has moisturizing, emollient and protective properties.
- Aloe Vera : A plant-based ingredient extracted from the leaves of the aloe plant, organically grown, hand-harvested and solidarity sourced in Mexico. Well known for its hydrating and soothing properties
Not surprisingly, a hydrated skin barrier is key here. Dry skin can impair the skin barrier, and an impaired skin barrier can lead to trans-epidermal water loss and thus, dehydration. (If you’re wondering: Yes, it’s possible to have both dry and dehydrated skin.) So, if you notice signs of either, it’s helpful to hydrate your skin barrier. First, don’t cleanse too frequently or with harsh formulas. Then, seek out hydrating formulas that help to fortify the skin barrier with moisture.
For dehydrated skin, consider Hydrazen, which thanks to glycerin and other active ingredients helps provide long lasting hydration. Formulated with hyaluronic acid, Advanced Génifique Face Serum pairs this humectant with pre & pro-bioitics and plant oils to support skin’s barrier function and prevent much needed hydration from evaporating, making it ideal for dehydrated skin as well.
If you have a dry skin type, you’ll have to nurture and maintain it long-term with moisturizers that help provide what dry skin lacks — mainly, those lipids that are so integral to the skin barrier. Consider using products that contain ceramides, which are naturally found in a healthy skin barrier and serve as the “mortar” to the skin cells, which are the “bricks.”
For dry skin, ceramides, noble oils and shea butter, a plant-based ingredient extracted from the kernels of the shea tree are essential. Our shea butter is solidarity sourced from West Africa and Burkina Faso and is used to nurture and protect the skin. You’ll find it in products like Rénergie Yeux and Nutrix, which nourishes skin with intense moisture to soothe, comfort, and smooth dry skin’s irritations. For daytime, try Rénergie Multi-Lift Ultra, which contains a unique blend of jojoba, sunflower and mimosa flower waxes. Not only does it provide moisture, but it also offers sun protection.