Dehydrated Skin vs. Dry Skin: Understanding the Differences

Dehydrated Skin vs. Dry Skin: Understanding the Differences

While they’re often used interchangeably, dehydrated skin and dry skin refer to different concerns. As such, they have different causes and different solutions. 

Do you know if your skin is dry or dehydrated? Read on to discover how you can tell and what you can do to change it. 

What Leads To Dehydrated Skin?

In many cases, dehydrated skin is very temporary. A night of heavy drinking, a long-haul flight, or an especially intense workout session may lead the skin to become dehydrated. Once you give your skin a few days to heal, it may return to its regular hydration levels. 

However, dehydrated skin may also last weeks, months, or even years. In this case, it may be linked to certain lifestyle habits. In theory, anything that zaps water from the body can lead to skin dehydration. 

This may include:

  • Not drinking enough water or other hydrating fluids.
  • Engaging in vigorous exercise that leads to excessive sweating.
  • Consuming alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and using illicit drugs.
  • Being exposed to the sun without SPF protection. 
  • Using harsh skincare products that disrupt the skin barrier and increase evaporation. 

While your environment is technically not considered a lifestyle factor, it can also play a significant role in skin dehydration. Living in a dry climate can increase evaporation from the skin, leading to skin dehydration. 

However, those in warmer climates aren’t off the hook: Spending a lot of time in air-conditioned rooms may also speed up water loss from the skin. 

Fortunately, you can change all of the above factors to replenish skin moisture. We will discuss this in more detail below. However, before we get there, let’s look at the root causes of dry skin. 

What Causes Dry Skin? 

Dry skin is considered a skin type, meaning some people are born with underactive oil glands. However, as with most things concerning the body’s largest organs, it may not be so simple. You can develop dry skin due to various factors.

Aging is something that everyone will experience at some point, which may come with dry skin. By around the mid-40s, sebum production may begin to decline. While rates of decreasing oil production may vary from person to person, it is a pattern observed in most people

However, dry skin can also occur in those younger than 40.

Skin requires nutrients to stay healthy. For those who aren’t getting enough vitamin D, vitamin E, zinc, and essential fatty acids, dry skin may be the outcome. It’s also important to eat enough overall. Those who undereat, such as those with an eating disorder, are much more likely to develop dry skin. 

Some medical conditions can also lead to dry skin. Diabetes, kidney disease, and thyroid disease are all associated with dry skin. Dry skin is also a possible side effect of certain medications, such as statins. 

Some factors that cause dry skin, such as aging, are inevitable. However, it is still possible to address dry skin at its root, leading to increased oil production. 

What Are the Main Differences Between Dry & Dehydrated Skin? 

While there are many differences between dry and dehydrated skin, they all narrow down to three main factors.

Here’s how they differ: 

1. Dehydrated Skin Is Caused by Water Loss

The main difference between dehydrated skin and dry skin is that the former is caused by water loss. 

The skin is about 65% water by volume. If you lose water through evaporation (which is common in dry climates) and don’t drink enough to replenish your fluids, then your skin can suffer as a result, leading to dehydration. 

On the other hand, dry skin results from a lack of naturally-occurring oils, such as sebum. 

Lack of sebum is due to underactive sebaceous glands — something that has a major genetic component. That said, topicals, such as harsh skincare products, may also cause the sebaceous glands to produce less oil. 

2. Dehydrated Skin Is a Temporary Condition

Because dehydrated skin lacks water, which can be easily replenished, it is a temporary condition. If you stop the moisture-zapping habits that led to skin dehydration, you may quickly see an improvement in your skin. 

However, getting rid of dry skin is not so easy. Because it is considered a skin type, it may be less temporary and require more drastic changes. 

3. Dehydrated Skin Requires a Different Solution 

You can address dehydrated skin by replenishing water supplies. This means drinking more fluids and eating more water-rich produce. In addition, skincare ingredients that pull in water from the environment, such as hyaluronic acid, may help. 

However, addressing dry skin at its root may require stimulating oil production. This could mean a combination of lifestyle changes, such as moving to an area with a different climate, treating certain underlying medical conditions, and adopting a new diet. 

For the most part, managing dehydrated skin requires a different approach than treating dry skin. However, some strategies — such as using active ingredients — can help address both concerns. 

How Can You Fix Dry or Dehydrated Skin?

Fixing dry or dehydrated skin requires getting to the root cause of the condition — as outlined above. However, some strategies can help to address both skin concerns. 

Here are some ways to fix dry or dehydrated skin: 

1. Drink Plenty of Fluids 

Being dehydrated is bad for overall health, but especially for your skin. 

Not getting enough fluids can make your skin look dull, flaky, and blotchy. Aside from your skin’s immediate appearance, being dehydrated can compromise skin cell turnover. This, in turn, may lead your skin’s moisture barrier to go off-kilter, leading to various issues with this natural process. This can exacerbate both dehydration and dryness. 

A sure sign of dehydration is your thirst level. If you feel thirsty, you may already be dehydrated. 

To keep well-hydrated, drink plenty of fluids like filtered water and herbal teas throughout the day (preferably at least 10 cups). Try to avoid too many caffeine-filled beverages as these can be dehydrating. 

2. Supplement With Fish Oil 

Essential fatty acids are extremely important for skin health. They are the building blocks of fat in our bodies, including the skin barrier. A skin barrier that functions as it should keeps moisture from evaporating, which prevents dryness and dehydration. 

In addition, fatty acids can help to stimulate sebum production, which can be a natural solution for those with a dry skin type. 

You can get fatty acids from natural sources, such as fatty dishes (e.g., salmon), nuts, and seeds. If getting these essential nutrients from food is difficult, you can compensate with a high-quality fish oil supplement. 

However you choose to get fatty acids, be consistent for optimal results. 

3. Avoid Harsh Skincare Ingredients 

Some skincare products are advertised as “powerful.” While some can be an effective way to address certain skin concerns, many of such products may cause dryness, flaking, and itching — making dry and dehydrated skin even worse.

Common ingredients to watch out for include benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and willow bark, often used to treat acne. Some surfactants, such as sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate, are also known to be extremely drying. 

Last, as much as dermatologists revere retinol, it can be too irritating for those with dry or dehydrated skin. Natural collagen-stimulating alternatives, such as bakuchiol, should be considered instead. 

Instead, it’s best to stick to gentle skincare products. Nourishing Biologicals has a selection of cleansers, serums, and creams that won’t strip your skin of its moisture, helping preserve and restore a healthy skin barrier. 

4. Use Active Ingredients 

Many skincare products on the market promise to restore your skin’s moisture and hydration. However, only a few have been clinically proven to fulfill that promise. They are otherwise known as active ingredients

Our favorite active ingredient for boosting hydration is hyaluronic acid. It has been shown by clinical trials to boost skin hydration by as much as 130%, which can be helpful for dry and dehydrated skin. 

You can find hyaluronic acid — in addition to various other botanical ingredients — in our Miracular Face Serum.

5. Use a Humidifier

Lack of moisture in the atmosphere can cause temporary skin dehydration. But over time, it’s also possible for it to lead to chronically dry skin.

While you can’t always change your environment, you can make some tweaks to it. If the air around you is dry, using a humidifier can be what you need to get an extra moisture boost in the air. In addition to the skin on your face, your entire body may benefit from this one addition. 

Nourishing Biologicals for Plump, Smooth, and Dewy Skin 

Dehydrated skin and dry skin have different causes. However, they may be addressed in similar ways. Both skin types can benefit from increased fluid intake, supplementing with fatty acids, and nourishing skincare products.

For a skincare routine that won’t strip your skin of its moisture, Nourishing Biologicals has everything you need to get started. From our gentle cleanser to our hydrating serum to our ultra-nourishing face cream, you can be on your way to getting your most supple skin yet. 



The Water in You: Water and the Human Body | US Geological Survey

Characteristics of the Aging Skin | PMC

Skin signs in anorexia nervosa | PMC

Sebaceous gland lipids | PMC

Efficacy Evaluation of a Topical Hyaluronic Acid Serum in Facial Photoaging | SpringerLink

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