Dry Skin vs. Dehydrated Skin: What’s the Difference?

The terms dry skin and dehydrated skin are frequently used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. If your skin feels rough, flaky, and tight, it could mean that you have dry skin, but it can also mean that your skin is just in need of a hydration boost. Vague? We get it. To explain, we tapped board-certified dermatologist and BeautyLeeBar.com expert Dr. Dendy Engelman

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The Difference Between Dry and Dehydrated Skin

There is a minor (albeit important) distinction between dry skin and dehydrated skin. Dehydrated skin is a skin condition, and it can affect all skin types. Even oily skin can be dehydrated if it is lacking in moisture and hydration. “Dehydrated skin can be the result of not drinking enough water or liquids,” says Dr. Engelman. “It can also be caused by irritating or drying products, which can strip the skin of its moisture.” 

Dry skin, on the other hand, is a skin type. “ Anyone can be categorized as having a dry skin type if you have minimal oil production,” says Dr. Engelman. Many factors can play a part example age, climate, genetics, hormones, or untreated dehydrated skin. 

The moral of the story? Dry skin lacks oil, and dehydrated skin lacks water.

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How to Know if Your Skin Is Dry or Dehydrated

“Dehydrated skin feels parched and crepe-y,” says Dr. Engelman. “It might have an oily film on the skin because dehydrated skin can be mistaken for dryness by skin cells, causing them to produce excess oil as a result.” 

Dry skin tends to flake, so if you see lifted skin — white flecks, usually — you probably have dry skin, Dr. Engelman says. Because dehydrated skin can affect all skin types, it’s possible to suffer from dehydrated skin and dry skin at the same time. When in doubt, consult with a dermatologist. 

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How to Treat Dry and Dehydrated Skin

Whether your skin is dry or dehydrated, nourishing it with moisturizing products can help. The ingredients you should look for might differ depending on which skin issue you’re dealing with.  

“ Dry skin will benefit from products that replenish oil and repair the lipid layers of the skin,” Dr. Engelman says. The SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 boasts a maximized concentration of lipids in its formula — including 2% pure ceramides, 4% natural cholesterol, and 2% fatty acids — to help restore the skin’s moisture barrier and provide up to 24 hours of hydration. 

Here are other similar yet affordable products:

Biossance Squalane + Omega Repair Cream

Omega Fatty Acids: Fatty, moisturizing molecules that hydrate while visibly restoring and plumping. Hyaluronic Acid: Visibly plumps and supports hydration on the skin‘s delicate surface. Acai Berry Sterols: A plant sterol that is known to mimic and support the cholesterol found naturally in skin.

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair BarriAIR Cream

Tri-Molecular Weight Hyaluronic Acid: A powerful humectant in three molecular sizes, that helps boost skin’s moisture content, plump, and smooth skin on multiple levels. Ceramides: A lipid that naturally occurs in skin that helps strengthen the skin barrier and moisturize. Oxygen: Upon contact with air, creates a blanket of bubbles to energize skin and help active ingredients penetrate.

Skinfix Barrier+ Triple Lipid-Peptide Cream

Triple Lipid Complex: Helps to restore skin’s natural lipids and fatty acids for glowing, smooth, healthy-looking skin. Peptide Protein Blend: Nutripeptides support the skin barrier function and help protect the skin from free radical damage. Lily Root Extract: Tightens the look of skin, and helps reduce water loss and support long-term moisturization.

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“ Dehydrated skin will benefit from products that help retain moisture and formulated with ingredients like hyaluronic acid,” says Dr. Engelman. The L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum does just that. Follow it with a moisturizer formulated for your skin type.

More amazing serums that works even greater:

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 from The Ordinary is formulated with a combination of low, medium, and high molecular-weight hyaluronic acid, as well as a next-generation hyaluronic acid crosspolymer, at a combined concentration of 2% for multi- depth hydration. This system is supported with the addition of B5 for enhanced surface hydration.

Kiehl’s Vital Skin-Strengthening

Kiehl’s Vital Skin-Strengthening Hyaluronic Acid Super Serum strengthens skin while helping defend against skin-aging stressors for youthful, radiant skin. These stressors include UV exposure, pollution and extreme temperatures along with tobacco, stress, lack of sleep and nutrition which can cause dullness, dehydration, fine lines and other signs of aging.

Super BounceVitamin b5 serum

Pro-Vitamin B5 promotes long-term hydration and healthy looking skin. Three molecular weights of Hyaluronic Acid pull moisture deep into the skin (and keep it there) to instantly smooth the skin’s surface. The silky formula is fast-absorbing and never sticky—designed to layer with moisturizers and makeup.

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