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Cheat Sheet – Dry or Dehydrated?

I change my skincare ‘wardrobe’ every time I change my actual clothing wardrobe over from winter to summer and vice versa. However, this weekend I realised I had probably left it a couple of weeks too late as my skin was dull as ditchwater, flat and dry to touch. That coupled with the blog posts and tweets I’ve seen recently about dry skin/skin feeling tight etc leads me to think this little guide might prove useful.

Are you DRY or DEHYDRATED? (or both!)

Dry and dehydrated skins have similar characteristics, but different underlying reasons.

Dry Skin – normally a skin type* but can be a temporary skin condition

  • caused by lack of oil in the skin
  • small pores
  • ‘tight’ feeling
  • may be flaky
  • milia, blackheads and spots may still be present
  • skin looks dull
  • skin is not plump
  • doesn’t absorb products easily
  • easily irritated – more likely to suffer reactions to products
  • aggravated by poor skincare

Dehydrated Skin – is a skin condition affecting any skin type – including DRY

  • caused by lack of water in the skin (not lack of water taken orally!)
  • pores can be large or small
  • skin feels tight and dry although it can confusingly sometimes look oily and have breakouts
  • absorbs moisturisers really quickly
  • blackheads and spots are still visible
  • makeup disappears (and goes patchy) throughout the day as the skin is absorbing any water in your foundation
  • skin looks ‘ashen’
  • aggravated by lifestyle circumstances – may suffer from a lot of headaches

Skin is made up of 70% water – around  20-30% of that is in the epidermis (top layer of the skin). In normal circumstances, your hydrolipidic film acts as a regulator and barrier – retaining moisture and protecting against germs. If – for whatever reason that is compromised, the moisture in the epidermis evaporates too quickly and the normal, healthy state of the skin is compromised.

The reality is that most of us at one time or another – but ESPECIALLY at this time of the year – are dehydrated.

Any and all of the following can cause dehydration – standby!:

  1. Environment – wind, cold air, dry air, too much sun, air conditioning, central heating
  2. Diet – the wrong foods, alcohol, caffeine, not eating enough water-heavy foods, not drinking enough
  3. Lifestyle – stress, poor skincare routine, using the wrong products, medication – including birth control, smoking
  4. Genetics – monthly cycle, pregnancy

It is quite common to be both dry and dehydrated but if by looking at the above you have ascertained that you are one or the other – these do’s and don’t might help.

Do and Do Not:

  • Do upgrade your moisturiser to something suitable for dry skin if you recognise the signs – go for products using the words ‘nourishing’.
  • Do change your moisturiser to something labelled ‘hydra’ or ‘hydrating’ if you suspect you are dehydrated.
  • In either case adding a little hyaluronic acid to your routine wouldn’t hurt.
  • Make sure you are not using products that are too harsh or too stripping for either.
  • Do steer clear of foaming anything  – keep the bubbles for your dishes
  • Do use balms, oils and serums for dry.
  • Do use milks, specified oils and treatments for dehydrated.
  • Do stay away from mineral oils, lanolins and synthetic fragrance which will make a dehydrated skin worse and make a dry skin scream for help

 A word on supplements – omega oils found in either flax or fish oil supplements will help both dry and dehydrated skins – however, you’ll need a good 3 months to see the benefits on your skin so if you want to think ahead for the deep winter of end Jan/Feb you could do worse than to get cracking now.

*I use the word ‘type’ loosely, I’m not a huge believer in skin ‘types’.