Skincare tips & advice
CeraVe Dry Skin Tips: Is My Skin Dry or Dehydrated?
Dry skin is a skin type that is caused by a lack of sebum production, whereas dehydrated skin is a temporary state caused by a lack of water in the skin. If you're unsure how to tell if your skin is dehydrated or dry, keep reading. There are some tell-tale signs to look for that can help you understand the difference.
The terms “dry skin” and “dehydrated skin” are often used interchangeably in skincare. However, dry and dehydrated skin actually have two different meanings—and distinct needs for maintaining healthy-looking skin. Dry skin is a skin type that doesn't produce enough oils to keep your skin moisturized and protect it from the environment. Dehydrated skin, on the other hand, doesn't have enough water in the uppermost layer of the skin. This water loss can disrupt your skin's protective barrier function, resulting in uncomfortable skin that feels itchy, dry, and tight. Keep reading to learn about the primary signs of dehydrated skin and dry skin, plus tips for building a skincare routine that supports the skin barrier and manages each concern properly.
Facts About Dehydrated Skin vs Dry Skin
- Dry skin and dehydrated skin have different root causes but can share many of the same characteristics—including itchiness, tightness, and rough texture.
- Dry skin is a type of skin that produces less sebum (oil) than other skin types.
- Skin dryness can be worsened by factors such as weather, age, and excessively long, hot showers.
- Dehydrated skin, which is often mistaken for dry skin, is a condition where the skin lacks water in the uppermost layer.
- A consistent skincare routine that features gentle, hydrating skincare products can help restore comfortable-feeling skin for those with both dry and dehydrated skin.
Why Is My Skin So Dry?
Dry skin is one of the five primary skin types (with the others being oily, normal, combination, and sensitive skin). This skin type is characterized by skin that produces less sebum than normal or oily skin. Genetics are often to blame for dry skin, but it can also be worsened by various internal and external factors. This includes cold or dry climates, certain medical treatments, excessively hot showers, drying skincare products, and the natural aging process.
Skin dryness is very common, and most people will experience it at some point in their lives. You may notice your skin becoming drier with age, since the skin’s ability to produce sebum declines over time (especially after 40).
Signs of Dry Skin
Because the dry skin type consistently produces less sebum than other types, it may appear dull and feel dry and uncomfortable all over. Dry skin may also be prone to cracking. When not cared for properly, dry skin may even be susceptible to sensitivities like eczema and psoriasis, according to the Mayo Clinic.1 Other signs of dry skin may include:
- Rough texture
- A feeling of tightness
- More pronounced fine lines
- Scaling, peeling, or flaking
What Causes Dehydrated Skin?
Dehydrated skin is a temporary condition that is often mistaken for dry skin. In the case of dehydrated skin, it’s all about the amount of water in your skin. Healthy skin contains approximately 30% water, which is essential for maintaining the skin’s elasticity, strength, and plumpness.2 When your skin loses more water than it takes in, it can become dehydrated.
So, whereas dry skin (a skin type) is lacking oil, dehydrated skin (a skin condition) is lacking water. This skin concern is typically caused by damage to the skin’s protective barrier or various external factors, such as extremely cold, dry weather conditions or inadequate water in one’s diet.
How To Tell if Your Skin Is Dehydrated
Often, signs of dehydrated skin are similar to those of dry skin and can leave your complexion with a dull appearance and tight, rough feel. Because dehydrated skin is a temporary skin condition, rather than a skin type, it’s possible for dehydrated skin on your face to feel both oily and dry at the same time. You may also notice more pronounced fine lines and wrinkles, which is why dehydrated skin is sometimes also confused with premature skin aging.
With dehydrated skin, you might notice that your skin has a tired-looking appearance, with darker shadows and under-eye circles. You may also observe signs of dehydration that come and go depending on activities, the season, lifestyle changes, or even a cosmetic or skincare product.
Tips for Dehydrated Skin & Dry Skin
Although dry skin and dehydrated skin are different—each with their own unique needs—there are some steps you can take to address both concerns. Read on to discover our tips on how to get rid of dry skin, as well as how to treat dehydrated skin, using the below healthy skincare tips.
Support your skin barrier
A strong skin barrier is essential for achieving healthy-looking skin and treating dryness. Keeping your skin moist with plenty of nourishing moisturizers, ointments, and creams is one effective way to help to maintain your skin’s barrier function. Look for moisturizers and other skincare products that are formulated with ceramides to help maintain your skin barrier and give dry and dehydrated skin the support it needs. Since ceramides make up approximately 50% of the skin’s lipids that help form your natural skin barrier,3 they are an important part of any skincare routine. To learn more about ceramides, visit The Ceramides Difference.
Use a gentle, hydrating cleanser
Pay extra attention when choosing a facial cleanser or makeup remover. Ideally, your cleanser should be gentle, fragrance-free, and alcohol-free. It should be formulated to address the needs of your skin type without disrupting your skin’s natural barrier.
Dry skin tip: We recommend CeraVe Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser, which effectively removes dirt and makeup without stripping your skin’s moisture or leaving it feeling tight and dry. This cleanser allows those with dry skin to enjoy the benefits of both a cream cleanser that hydrates and a foaming formula that provides a refreshing skin feel—without having to choose between the two.
Limit showers and baths to 10 minutes or less
To help support skin that feels dry, try to limit shower time to 10 minutes or less and avoid bathing more than once per day.1 It may also be helpful to shower with warm (not hot) water in order to help reduce the drying effects of everyday bathing. Using a gentle, fragrance-free foaming body wash can also help—like CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash. Afterward, pat your skin dry and immediately apply moisturizer.
Baby skincare tip: If your baby’s skin tends to feel dry before or after bathtime, check out these three reasons why your baby’s skin might be dry.
Address any contributing lifestyle factors
To help keep skin feeling comfortable, choose clothing made from soft fabrics and add a silk or cotton layer when wearing wool or other rough fabrics. And when washing your clothes, choose a hypoallergenic detergent to help prevent irritation. You can even try using a humidifier to add more moisture to your environment.
Dehydrated skin tip: Experts recommend avoiding or limiting caffeine and alcohol—and increasing your intake of water and water-rich fruits and veggies—which can help prevent the body (and therefore the skin) from becoming dehydrated.
Choose hydrating skincare products
We recommend choosing hydrating cleansers, moisturizers, and eye creams that are specially formulated to address the needs of dry skin. For example, when choosing the best lotion for dry skin, look for beneficial ingredients like hyaluronic acid, which helps retain skin’s natural moisture, and niacinamide, which can help calm the skin. Moisturize as needed throughout the day to help seal in water, and always apply a face moisturizer with SPF (SPF 30 or higher) before heading outdoors—even on cloudy days.
Schedule an appointment with your dermatologist if you need additional help. They can recommend over-the-counter products, dry skin tips, and advice to reduce the occurrence of dry and dehydrated skin. This way, you can achieve skin that's soft, moisturized, and comfortable.
- “Dry Skin - Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 25 Jan. 2022.
- Popkin BM, D'Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. “Water, hydration, and health.” Nutr Rev. 2010 Aug;68(8):439-58. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x. PMID: 20646222; PMCID: PMC2908954.
- Borodzicz, S., Rudnicka, L., Mirowska-Guzel, D. et al. “The role of epidermal sphingolipids in dermatologic diseases.” Lipids Health Dis 15, 13 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12944-016-0178-7
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