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The Science of Skincare: Dry vs. Dehydrated Skin

Keep your skin hydrated this winter with the right product.
Keep your skin hydrated this winter with the right product.

As the weather gets colder and the winds get harsher, many people experience seasonal skin dryness—skin that’s itchy, tight and/or flaky. But changes in skin condition because of the weather are symptoms of skin dehydration, not dry skin. What’s the difference?

Dry or Dehydrated?

Dry and dehydrated skin both affect the condition of the stratum corneum—the uppermost layer of skin. Hence, symptoms are very similar and may include:

  • Tightness
  • Flakiness
  • Itchiness
  • Redness
  • Sensitivity

Rather than smooth and supple, dry or dehydrated skin may feel papery to the touch.

The difference between dry and dehydrated skin is in cause of the symptoms.

Dry Skin

Dry skin is skin type—a relatively unchanging classification of skin condition largely determined by genetics. However, dry skin may develop as a result of untreated dehydrated skin and/or the natural aging process.

Dry skin results from the lack of protective oils in skin cells. Insufficient oil production is the result of small or underactive sebaceous glands in the dermis. For some people, oil production may be affected by linked to an underactive thyroid or other hormone imbalance.

Dehydrated Skin

Dehydrated skin is a treatable condition that may be caused by environmental and/or dietary factors.

Dehydrated skin is simply moisture-depleted skin. Moisture may be sapped from skin’s epidermis by evaporation, or the body may be dehydrated systemically, leaving skin cells parched.

Although the symptoms are similar, dry and dehydrated skin will not necessarily respond to the same treatment. So, identifying the cause of symptoms will help you find the right skin care practices and products to relieve itchy, flaky and/or tight skin.

Treating Dry and Dehydrated Skin

Many skin care sources promote drinking water to remedy dry skin. While making sure your body is adequately hydrated will not hurt, dry skin (the skin type) is not likely to improve simply with an increase in water consumption. Dehydrated skin, on the other hand, which is caused by insufficient hydration, will improve with increased water content to the cells. Moisture may be provided both internally by drinking water and eating foods with high water content (i.e. fresh fruits and vegetables) and topically.

Because dry skin results from genetics and/or hormonal conditions, treatment may require nutritional supplementation or other medical intervention. The objective of topical skin care, essentially, is to protect the oil content the skin does have by:

  • Using a gentle, oil-based cleanser
  • Cleansing with lukewarm water
  • Limiting exfoliation
  • Applying an oil-based moisturizer

Gentle skin cleansing practices will benefit dehydrated skin, too, but using oil-based products may actually cause breakouts if someone’s skin type is oily (or combination). To effectively treat dehydrated skin, moisture content at the skin surface must be replenished, and many water-based lotions and serums may do that without clogging pores.

Hale Cosmeceuticals has skin care products formulated to soothe dry skin and nourish dehydrated skin. To find the products tailored to your skin care needs take our Personal Skin Assessment or talk to a customer service representative (1-800-951-7005).

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