Dehydrated vs. Dry Skin: How to Tell The Difference

Dehydrated vs. Dry Skin: How to Tell The Difference - Three Ships

The words “dry” and “dehydrated” are often misused interchangeably. Both may feel the same and have the same symptoms, but they’re very different. Identifying the difference between dry and dehydrated skin  is vital for taking proper care of your skin. So, here is everything you need to know about dehydrated vs. dry skin.

What’s the Difference Between Dehydrated and Dry Skin?

Dry skin requires lipids (oils) for balance, while dehydrated skin requires water. Dehydrated and dry skin defines itself as flaky, itchy, sensitive, tight, and dull. So, how do you tell the difference? 

What is Dehydrated Skin? 

Dehydrated skin occurs where the body lacks sufficient water in the skin. This can happen to anyone, regardless of their skin type. In fact, people with combination or oily skin can still experience dehydration.

Dehydration sends skin into overdrive trying to protect itself, resulting in oiliness and dryness. 

When your skin lacks water or has a damaged epidermal barrier, it becomes dehydrated. Healthy skin contains about 30% water, which is vital for the skin’s structure, resiliency, and strength. 

Symptoms of dehydrated skin may be itchy, flaky, dry, and dull, with fine lines more prominent than usual. Dehydrated skin may appear similar to dry skin, but it is quite different. Dehydration is considered a skin condition, and anyone with any skin type can experience it. 

Symptoms of dehydrated skin include:

  • Itchiness
  • Dry under-eye
  • Dullness
  • Loss of skin’s elasticity
  • Sunken eyes
  • Shadows around the face, such as around the eyes and nose
  • Increased appearance of fine lines and wrinkles

What Causes Dehydrated Skin?

Dehydrated, thirsty skin results from a lack of water hydration in the body. Your skin hydrates from the inside out, so your skin will reflect that without consuming enough water and other nutrients. 

Is Your Skin Dehydrated?

You can determine your skin's hydration level by performing a simple pinch test at home. Gently pinch a small area of skin in the area around your cheek. Does the skin wrinkle? Does the skin very slowly bounce back after it is released? 

If you answered yes to either of these questions, you might have dehydrated skin. Your dermatologist or esthetician can determine whether or not you have dehydrated skin and help you with solutions to reclaiming hydrated skin. 

How To Support Dehydrated Skin

Dehydrated skin is usually simple to treat with lifestyle changes. The first step to replenishing your body’s hydration levels is to drink more water. Begin by drinking eight glasses of water. This amount may vary depending on your weight and exercise levels. 

Contact your doctor with any questions you may have. Consuming excessive quantities of water may lead to mineral loss and unbalanced sodium levels in the body. 

Here are a few common ways that you can replenish dehydrated skin naturally:

  • Drink plenty of water (begin with eight glasses per day)
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet, including water-rich veggies and fruits (watermelon, celery, etc.)
  • Drink less caffeine (coffee, tea, and other sources)
  • Moderate alcohol, or nix it altogether (alcohol zaps hydration levels)
  • Exercise regularly and sip water throughout your workouts
  • Get plenty of sleep

What Is Dry Skin?

Dry skin lacks natural oils and is associated with a chronic lack of sebum production in the sebaceous glands. Common categories of skin types are considered dry, normal, and oily, and it’s important to note that your skin type can change with age due to hormones, diet, and the seasons.  Common signs of dry skin include:

  • White flakes
  • Scaly Skin
  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Tightness
  • Rough Texture
  • Dullness

What Causes Dry Skin?

Dry skin lacks oils, or lipids, giving it a more flaky, dry appearance. It is also associated with environmental aggressors, such as extreme hot or cold temperatures. 

Is Your Skin Dry?

While dry skin can be just part of your genetics, it can also be affected by extreme environmental temperatures, harsh skincare products, over-exfoliation, accelerated aging, and traveling on airplanes. That’s right! Air travel can make your skin dry due to the altitude changes. 

Once you’ve determined that you have dry skin, you can take action to support and balance it as soon as possible. The blotting test is an easy way to determine if your skin is dry. 

Cleanse your face with a gentle facial cleanser and leave your skin bare for three hours. Gather a few facial blotting papers and place them on various areas of your face. Allow the papers to stay on your face for a few minutes, then remove them, evaluating the amount of oil. If you don’t see signs of oil, that means your skin may be dry. 

How To Support Dry Skin

Dry skin is more challenging to treat than dehydrated skin. People with dry skin usually experience even drier skin during the winter months, resulting in chapped, irritated, and sometimes redness

Using rich facial moisturizers, which contains ingredients like emollients and occlusives, work to manage dry skin and its symptoms. 

By consistently using this type of moisturizer, you aid in reducing the effects of dry skin (think: less flakiness, reduced redness and a more nourished skin barrier. For extremely dry skin, another tip is following up after moisturizer with an oil-based serum to help lock everything in all day long.

Followed by a lightweight yet nourishing moisturizer, like our Radiance Grape Stem Cell + Squalane Day Cream, dry skin should also include an oil-based serum such as the Boost 49% Rosehip Oil Serum.

What is Your Skin Type?

There are five skin types, oily, sensitive, dry, normal, and combination. Different symptoms characterize each skin type. No one possesses the same skin, but most people will fall into one of these four categories or a combination of two. Knowing which skin type you have determines which skincare products suit you best. Balanced skin begins with proper skin care and a dedicated regimen.

  • Oily - Characterized by having consistent oil production throughout the day. 
  • Sensitive - Easily irritated, especially by skincare products, and environmental changes
  • Dry - flaky, rough skin that craves moisturizers
  • Normal - Evenly balanced skin with tiny pores and no visible concerns
  • Combination - Characterized by having oily skin in the T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin), and dry cheeks

  • Not sure where to start? Take this 1 minute quiz to determine your skin type and build your personalized routine.

    How To Care For Dry or Dehydrated Skin (Skin Barrier)

    Dry and dehydrated skin symptoms lessen with a proper daily skincare routine and quality skincare products. For a healthier glow and softer skin, follow these four suggestions:

    Nourish & Protect Your Skin Barrier

    The skin is the largest organ of the body, making up nearly 15 percent of your body weight. Your skin protects your delicate organs from the outside world and is one of the most important organs in your body.  It consists of a network of cells, lipids, proteins, and ceramides, but the most vital of them all is the skin barrier.

    The outermost layer of the skin is the epidermis (stratum corneum), or the skin barrier. The skin barrier has several jobs that are vital for your overall health, but it has three specific roles:

    1. Protects your body from external stressors (UV rays, pollution, etc.)
    2. It helps retain water to keep your body and skin hydrated
    3. Transports vital nutrients to your skin

    Choose a Quality Cleanser

    Cleansers with harsh ingredients such as acids or aggressive physical exfoliants can damage the skin barrier, resulting in water and oil loss in the skin. If you tend to have dry or dehydrated skin, the cleanser you choose is crucial to how your skin looks and feels. 

    Look for non-stripping formulas that are gentle and made to effectively clean the skin without removing natural oils. 

    Focus on Ingredients That Add a Glow Back to Your Skin Dehydration

    Dehydrated skin results in dull, lifeless and loss of elasticity in the skin. 

    Natural ingredients in our Dew Drops Serum, such as Tremella mushroom (natural hyaluronic acid), Kakadu plum, and red algae, help soften, hydrate, brighten, and plump the skin.

    What Causes Skin Barrier Dysfunction?

    Genetic makeup, lifestyle, environmental factors, and many other things affect skin barrier function. Any internal or external stressors that result in visible epidermal changes can damage your skin barrier. 

    A few examples of potential sources that damage or disrupt the skin barrier are:

    • Chronic exposure to pollution
    • Smoking
    • UV radiation
    • Over exfoliating
    • Lack of sleep
    • Stress

    How to Maintain a Healthy Skin Barrier With a Routine

    One product alone will not prevent skin barrier dysfunction or damage, but the proper routine will make a noticeable difference in your skin’s texture, resilience, and overall appearance. Here are a few tips to maintaining a healthy skin barrier:

    1. Use a gentle cleanse your skin twice per day to remove impurities.
    2. Spritz a spray toner your skin to balance and soothe skin. This is less harsh on the skin when compared to rubbing a liquid toner with a cotton pad.
    3. Apply a targeted serum to treat specific skin concerns such as dryness or oily skin.
    4. Lock in hydration with a moisturizer designed for your skin type.
    5. Protect with SPF.

    How To Maintain a Healthy Skin Barrier With Nutrition

    Research suggests that a diet rich in whole foods and healthy fats supports a healthy skin barrier. Liquid fish oils and fish oil supplements contain antioxidants and other vitamins that promote healthy skin and the skin’s elasticity. Here is a list of other skin-healthy foods to add to your diet.

    • Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and microgreens
    • Fruits and vegetables that are orange or yellow, such as apricots, oranges, and carrots
    • Beans, lentils, and peas
    • Nuts such as walnuts and almonds
    • Berries such as blueberries and blackberries
    • Fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as mackerel, salmon, and tuna
    • Filtered water and herbal teas
    • Coconut oil

    Why Do You Get Acne With Dry Skin?

    Acne is often associated with oily skin; however, breakouts are still possible if your skin is dry or dehydrated. When your skin is unbalanced, it attempts to balance itself by over-producing oil in the sebaceous glands.

    Dehydrated skin can still be oily, meaning low water content and high sebum levels. Hydration is vital for people with acne and oiliness because acne treatments are usually drying and irritating. 

    When skin is dehydrated, it produces excess oil to compensate for the lost hydration. This oil production causes breakouts, irritation, and dryness. Your skin may even feel dry and oily at the same time. 

    Make sure you are drinking plenty of water if your skin is dehydrated to create balance. If your skin is dry, use skincare products that hydrate and soothe the skin while treating acne.

    Skincare Ingredients Beneficial for Dehydrated Skin

    There are beneficial ingredients for dehydrated skin that you should look for when shopping for your skincare. Replenish hydration with water-based skincare and natural plant-based oils. 

    Here’s what we suggest:

    Skincare Ingredients Beneficial For Dry Skin

    Dry skin requires lipid supplementation to balance the skin barrier. These are a few plant-based oils and ingredients to look for in your skincare for dry skin:

    Ingredients to Avoid

    Several ingredients make dry and dehydrated skin much worse, causing irritation, excessive dryness, and possibly rash. People with dry and dehydrated skin should steer clear of skincare containing the following harsh ingredients:

    • Fragrances
    • Alcohol
    • Soap
    • Products with high concentrations of chemical exfoliants

    Help your skin retain its natural oils by avoiding these harsh ingredients.

    Bottom Line

    Three Ships Beauty offers natural skincare formulas specifically designed for dehydrated and dry skin. Both dehydrated and dry skin exhibit similar symptoms, yet they are quite different. 

    Dehydrated skin lacks hydration from water and is a condition that resolves itself through drinking more water and incorporating water-rich vegetables and fruits into your diet. Meanwhile, dry skin often benefits from lifestyle changes, such as using quality moisturizers and avoiding long, hot baths. 

    Ready to get started? Take our Skin Quiz to build your personalized routine or shop our Dry Skin Collection.


    How to Tell if Your Skin Is Dehydrated | Dermatology & MOHS Institute

    Dry skin: Signs and symptoms | American Academy of Dermatology

    What causes eczema? | American Academy of Dermatology

    Understanding and treating various skin types: the Baumann Skin Type Indicator | PubMed

    Diet and Skin Barrier: The Role of Dietary Interventions on Skin Barrier Function NCBI

    Dermatologists' top tips for relieving dry skin | American Academy of Dermatology

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