Dry vs. Dehydrated Skin. What is the difference?


Winter is clearly here (as I am writing this on my snow day off from work), and winter always takes a toll on skin. If you're outside too much the cold and the wind get to it, and if you're inside the dry heat does. So does winter leave your skin dry? Or is it dehydrated? 

Dehydrated skin is a skin condition where the skin is lacking hydration (duhhhhh Hali) while dry skin is lacking moisture. 

Hydration clearly deals with water, when you are dehydrated you want to drink water to get your hydration levels back to normal. Your skin and skin cells need the same thing, and when you’re hydrated you skin is plump, healthy, and happy. The problem with just drinking water is that while your skin is the largest organ in your body, it is also the last to get hydration from water, so all those Facebook memes about drinking water are really just looking out for your skin. 

Dry skin is a skin type, like combination or oily. Don’t let Cosmo fool you though your skin type can change, just not as quickly as skin conditions. With dry skin sebum comes into play. I know, I know the word sebum is awful, but it’s a thing so we can’t avoid it. Typically people with oily skin produce too much sebum and people with dry skin don’t produce enough. Now if you’ve ever accidentally extracted sebum mistaking it for a blackhead (you’re not alone) have you ever noticed it’s a little shiny? Because it’s an oil, specifically an oil that is moisturizing skin. 

So how can you tell the difference? Well dehydrated skin feels tight. Ever drink a little to much one night and wake up with your skin feeling a certain way? It’s dehydrated (and so is your entire body, drink some water). Whereas dry skin will get a little flakey when it gets dry enough. 

Dehydrated skin needs water and humectants to help it. This is why hyaluronic acid is, and has been trending. Glycerine and urea are good examples of humectants. Alpha hydroxy acids are also humectants! Most people think of them as exfoliants which is also true, but AHAs actually work to help your skin cells produce more hyaluronic acid on their own which is better than any topical hyaluronic acid out there. This is why AHAs will always be such a cool ingredient to me!

Dry skin needs moisture, so think oils and occlusives. Occlusives are ingredients that form barriers to prevent water loss and the loss of your skin’s natural moisturizer. Propylene Glycol, squalene, beeswax, and mineral oil are good examples of these. 

As far as products go, I will go over some in my next post. However one thing that has really helped me is carrying a water bottle. I recently purchased a couple of the BKR Bottles and I just carry them with me wherever I go. These have really helped me to 1) stop buying the liter sized disposable water bottle and 2) continue to drink water throughout the day. 


Understanding the difference between dry and dehydrated skin is difficult. You are always welcome to reach out to me if you have any questions, but if what you’re trying doesn't seem to be working too well I always encourage a trip to a dermatologist or an esthetician.