Is your skin really dry or is it actually dehydrated? Let’s find out.

For the longest time, I used hydration as a synonym for a moisturizer. If you are anything like me, then you are probably also not sure what is the difference between hydration and moisturisers. It took me a while to figure this out but once I did, it was a game-changer for my skin. Ahead, I discuss dehydrated skin vs dry, moisturiser vs hydrator and which skin type requires what?

Step 1: Diagnosis and Learning

Dehydrated Skin vs. Dry Skin

What is dehydrated skin?

So, I will first talk about dehydration and what really is dehydrated skin? The term dehydration is often used in beauty articles and product description, and while you may think it as a synonym for dry skin, it’s actually not. Simply put, ‘de-hydration’ is lack or removal of water. Dehydrated skin doesn’t have enough water content to support its volume and therefore often looks dull. Think of it like this, have you ever seen sundried tomatoes or dehydrated fruits? There are two obvious things that happen there, first, the fruit/tomato becomes much smaller due to loss of water which gives it volume. This results in apparent dullness in the colour of the fruit and also change in the texture of the skin of the fruit. The second thing that happens is the skin of the fruit becomes all wrinkly and has numerous lines, the loss of volume causes the fruit to shrink, but the skin of the fruit can’t keep up with this and hence it gets wrinkly. That’s pretty much what happens to our skiing as well when it is dehydrated.

So how is dehydrated skin any different from dry skin?

Now, of course, the question is how is it different from dry skin? Dry skin is the result of your skin not producing enough sebum or oil which works as an emollient, seals in the moisture and prevents the loss of it to the environment. Dry skin is an issue which will persist year-round, though it may get aggravated during seasonal changes or in colder months. Most importantly, dry skin is actually a skin type and not merely a temporary condition. Dry skin often appears as flaky, especially near eyebrows, corners of the mouth and nose. 

Is your skin dry or dehydrated? Let’s find out, shall we!

Here’s a neat little dehydrated skin test that you can perform easily.  Pinch your cheek with gentle pressure and see if it wrinkles instead of retaining its shape. If it does wrinkle, then mon chéri, your skin is dehydrated and in serious need of hydration. Armed with the knowledge of dehydrated and dry skin, you can now easily answer the question of whether your skin is dry or dehydrated.

You may also want to look out for these 5 characteristics of dehydrated skin, in case the test doesn’t clear things up for you:

  • your skin feels or appears rough 
  • your skin feels tight
  • your skin looks dull in the mirror
  • the appearance of new wrinkles or the existing ones become more pronounced
  • the dark circles underneath your eyes appear more pronounced 

In a few cases, the skin may also become sensitive or red if severely dehydrated. I personally face this issue in winter when taking warm baths, the skin on my face and body becomes red, itchy and occasionally swollen. Hot water tends to strip away moisture from your skin and hair. Some other factors that cause dehydration are climate, not drinking enough water, poor diet and long hours in air conditioning.

However, if there is flakiness on your skin around the year, as mentioned earlier, then you have dry skin. No need to despair, there is plenty that can be done about both the skin concerns and I will discuss more on that in a minute. But before that, I want to quickly tell you about hydrators and moisturises – they are the messiah that you have been looking for to solve your skin problems (I know, I am a bit dramatic like that!). 

Step 2: Solution

So what is a Hydrator?

A hydrator is what helps your skin absorb moisture from the atmosphere. It draws moisture towards the skin, makes skin look plumper and shinier. Effectively, hydrators increase the water level of your cells. Hydrators are targeted towards treating dehydrated skin.

Oh okay, but then what is a Moisturizer?

Moisturizsers are supposed to lock in the moisture. Its job is to help prevent trans-epidermal water loss— aka moisture that evaporates from your skin—reinforcing your skin’s barrier function. Moisturisers are aimed to treat dry skin, which we discuss below. Most products combine the benefits of both hydrators and moisturisers. 


Drumroll please! Lo and behold we have arrived at the solution. Lucky for us, there are plenty of dehydrated skin products and dehydrated skin treatments available but before we dive into those, my tip for dehydrated skin is to drink a lot of water. Chances are, that will remedy half the situation. Another option is to improve your diet, with a lot of fresh fruits and veggies in the diet, nearly any skin concern can be addressed.

However, for a quick fix, you can find products containing hydrators such as propylene glycol, hyaluronic acid, or glycerin etc. Products containing any combination of these ingredients should work well to combat dehydration. The Neutrogena Hydro Boost range offers exactly this. It contains glycerine and hyaluronic acid which help in locking in the moisture and has received great reviews from our community. 

is- your- skin- really- dry- or- is- it- actually- dehydrated -lets-find=out

Another dearly loved hydrator is The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, this has been tried, tested and loved by the global skincare community or you can go for my personal favourite which also happens to be a favourite among Korean skincare fans – Belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb. It glides on to skin super smoothly and you can instantly feel the difference in the texture of your skin, the tightness and just overall look of your skin instantly improves. I personally feel like it gives a beautiful glow to my skin. 

is- your- skin- really- dry- or- is- it- actually- dehydrated -lets-find-out

For our dry skin beauties, the solution can be found in the application of lipid AKA fat based products that help in creating a barrier between skin and environment and prevent loss of moisture. Some ingredients to look for in an ideal product are ingredients like squalane and ceramides, rosehip oil etc. Some great options in moisturisers are Laneige Water Bank Moisture Cream EX, Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream and Belif True Cream Moisturizing Bomb that will be great options for a variety of dry types.

is- your- skin- really- dry- or- is- it- actually- dehydrated -lets-find-out

A great tip for people with dry skin is that they should stay away from foaming cleansers and instead use oil-based cleansers such as The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Rich Cleansing Oil.

is- your- skin- really- dry- or- is- it- actually- dehydrated -lets-find-out

If you are big on ceramides and Korean beauty (I for one, truly am!) then the  Dr Jart Ceramidin Cream is for you. Loved and hailed by beauty lovers across the globe, the cream boosts skin’s natural ceramide.

Looking for an oil-based option? Squalane is your answer. It is a plant-derived variant of squalene (this used to be derived from shark liver which was unethically hunted). This one of the few oils that can penetrate through the outer protective layers of skill and work at a deeper level. The reason it can penetrate the skin is that our body itself produces it, except with age, the production declines. Squalane is our body’s natural moisturizer. As you will by now know, our community loves the brand The Ordinary, and lucky for us, they have a very inexpensive option of squalane available.

Lastly, you may also want to try out Rosehip oil. Rosehip oil has been catching a lot of attention and for good reason. It has omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and also targets signs of premature photoaging (ageing due to exposure to UV rays). Again, a very affordable option is available from Juicy Chemistry.

is- your- skin- really- dry- or- is- it- actually- dehydrated -lets-find-out

So there you have it, a round-up of the best moisturizers and hydrating products, covering all types of needs and skin types. I would love to know if you have tried any of these or have some of your personal favourites that you would like to recommend.

if you have wither dry skin or dehydrated skin, Do Share your recommended routine or products with the global beauty community in the comments below!

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