Saturday Dec 09, 2023

Do you have dry or dehydrated skin? Here’s how to figure it out according to the pros

Featured Photo by Curology on Unsplash

Assuming you applied your face cream this morning and it only ‘sort of’ did what you wanted it to, then you probably haven’t nailed whether you have dry or dehydrated skin. You see, there’s no point in splurging on the best moisturiser for dry skin(opens in new tab), when actually your skin is just dehydrated.

“You can actually see and feel a difference between dry and dehydrated skin,” says Georgia Louise,(opens in new tab) La Mer Global Ambassador and facialist to Jennifer Aniston. “Dehydrated skin feels tight and looks dull with superficial fine lines. Dryness can show up as redness, flakes and an uneven texture.”

Also important: dryness refers to a skin type(opens in new tab). Dehydration is a temporary skin condition that can be reversed. Both dryness and dehydration require some nurturing of the skin barrier(opens in new tab).

Here’s a breakdown of the key differences and what you can do to get your skin looking its healthiest again…

How to test if your skin is dehydrated or dry

Smile to test for dehydration —it really is that simple.

“If it feels tight, you are probably suffering from dehydrated skin,” says Louise. “If you see dark circles and an uptick in fine lines, that’s also an indication.”

To test for dryness, rub gently on one area of skin. “If you see loose skin cells in the form of flakes, or your face quickly turns red and becomes inflamed, then you likely have dry skin.”

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What is dry skin and how do you treat it?

Dry skin lacks oil because it produces less sebum than normal skin.

“As a result it lacks the lipids it needs to retain moisture, make rough skin feel smooth and keep the skin barrier strong,” says Paula Begoun(opens in new tab), founder of Paul’s Choice skincare.

This is particularly true of Black skin, which naturally has lower levels of lipids than white skin. What’s more, the dead cells on its surface don’t slough off as quickly, which can give dark skin a greyish cast. Lactic acid is an exfoliator that is gentle enough to use on dry skin to eliminate this ashiness.

But be warned, there is such thing as exfoliating too often. “Avoid over exfoliating as this will strip skin of moisture,” says Louise. “Once or twice a week should suffice.”

When scanning the ingredients’ list in search for the best treatment, look for humectants like glycerin, which pull moisture from the atmosphere into the skin.

“Also important are repairing ceramides [a form of lipids or fat molecules],” says Begoun. “These fill in the cracks between skin cells by forming a protective layer that limits moisture loss and protects against damage from pollution.”

In other words, ceramides give skin its plump, hydrated, balanced appearance. On labels, you’ll see them listed as ceramide AP, ceramide EOP, ceramide NG, ceramide NP, ceramide NS, phytosphingosine and sphingosine.


The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2% Superficial Peeling Formulation

This lactic acid treatment can be diluted with hydrating serums to reduce intensity if your skin is feeling sensitive. Just apply it in the evening, before bed, and be sure to follow up with sunscreen the next morning.

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Drunk Elepgant Lala Retro Whipped Cream

Jam-packed with ceramides and nourishing oils, this moisturiser is a great option for all dry skin types.

Elizabeth Arden Advanced Ceramide Capsules Daily Youth Restoring Serum

This ceramide-packed serum is housed in individual biodegradable capsules to keep the formula as potent as possible.

CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser

This cleanser is formulated with ceramides and hyaluronic acid to give dry skin the hit of moisture it requires.

What is dehydrated skin and how do you treat it?

Dehydrated skin, on the other hand, lacks water, not oil. “So you can have an oily(opens in new tab) complexion but still have dehydrated skin,” says Louise.

Dehydration is caused by many factors, but the most common are low humidity, diet, hot showers and central heating, which sap skin of water and make it more sensitive during the harsh winter months.

Look for moisturisers with ingredients that prevent water loss. Hyaluronic acid is the gold standard as it is a sponge-like molecule that naturally attracts water. It then binds it to the collagen in your skin, giving your face back its dewiness.


Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Hyaluronic Marine Hydration Booster

With cooling, plumping and moisture-quenching hyaluronic acid, this serum will soothe dehydrated skin in no time.

La Mer The Moisturizing Cool Gel Cream

This cooling gel-cream is easily one of the most luxurious beauty products on the market. With a plethora of hydrating, glow-boosting ingredients such as, magnesium, kelp, calcium and vitamins C, E and B12—it’s a treat for dehydrated skin.

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The golden rule for both dry and dehydrated skin

Whether you have dry or dehydrated skin, the biggest mistake people make is incorrectly layering their skincare(opens in new tab), says Louise.

“Always remember to layer your products in order,” she says. “Start with the lightest first, like serums, and work your way to the heaviest in texture. These are your creams, oils and sunscreens.”

Why is this important? Products designed for travelling into the deeper layers of skin, like serums, are made up of tiny molecules. Moisturiser, on the other hand, has larger molecules as it sits on the uppermost layers.

“A serum placed on top of moisturiser can’t penetrate through these larger molecules,” she adds.

Trust us, follow these rules and your lacklustre skin will be back at its juiciest in no time.





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Hailey Josephine

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