Do you have a dry skin type, or is your skin just dehydrated?

Humid monsoon days may make you feel like it’s okay to skip moisturiser and step out bare-faced once in a while. And this holds true especially when skin is oily or shiny. But truth is, an oily-looking face, when coupled with inflammation and redness, could be the sign of dehydrated skin (which definitely needs moisturiser). We spoke to skin experts to get a low-down on what you need to do, and how you can tell exactly what you’re dealing with.

How is dehydrated skin different from dry skin?

“Dry skin is characterised by fewer oil-producing glands on the face and body, while the dehydrated skin is that which lacks water and moisture, not oil,” explains Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, consultant dermatologist, MedLinks. To put it simply, dry skin is a skin type whereas dehydration is a skin condition. “Dehydrated skin can happen to varying skin types: dry, oily skin, combination or even sensitive skin,” adds Dr Geetika Mittal Gupta, founder and medical director, ISAAC Luxe.

Dry skin, which lacks sebum or oil, is also prone to dehydration, since it doesn’t have an effective barrier on the surface to prevent water loss. On the other hand, oily skin becomes oilier and more predisposed to acne if it’s dehydrated. Why? Because when the skin lacks water, it makes up for it by creating the only moisture it can—oil.

Spot the difference: dry skin versus dehydrated skin

Dry skin feels flaky and itchy, whereas dehydrated skin often looks dull and inflamed. It’s critical to know if your skin is dehydrated or dry, as your choice of moisturisers would depend greatly on that distinction. Dry skin means less than average oil production in the skin cells, so you need skincare formulations that are richer and oil-based. Dehydrated skin, on the other hand, just points to a lack of water in skin cells, so a lighter moisturiser will also work. In fact, if your skin is oily and dehydrated, you should swap your regular moisturiser with a serum that has finer particles, so its easier for the formula to penetrate your skin without clogging pores.

Dr Gupta suggests a simple way to know if you have dry skin: wash your face and let your skin be for 10 seconds. If your skin feels stretchy, you probably have dry skin. Meanwhile, Dr Chaturvedi shares a simple diagnostic test to check for dehydrated skin. “Just pinch your cheek. If it’s wrinkling with gentle pressure instead of holding its shape, your skin cells are in need of water. Dehydrated skin feels tight, looks dull, and has exaggerated wrinkles and dark circles beneath the eyes. Redness and inflammation are common signs of dehydration as well,” he says.

What causes dehydration?

Temperature and humidity directly impact the water levels in your body, which in turn affects the way your skin feels and behaves. Experts recommend that one should drink at least three to five litres of water every day. One obvious cause is inadequate consumption of water; however, it is not the only reason. “Excessive intake of coffee, alcohol, smoking and frequent use of drying, alcohol-based makeup removers can also cause dehydrated skin, even if someone consumes a lot of water,” cautions Dr Chaturvedi. One of the easiest and healthiest hacks to quickly hydrate is to drink coconut water. It contains large amounts of potassium and easily digested carbohydrates in the form of bio-available electrolytes. According to Dr Gupta, frequent hot showers, improper skin routine and being in an air-conditioned environment for long hours can be some other causes of dehydration. “If you can’t limit your exposure to central cooling, invest in a humidifier,” she suggests.

How can we treat dehydrated skin?

Dehydrated skin is actually one of the major causes of ageing, which is why experts advise that you don’t be lax about it. However, the good news is that dehydrated skin can be quickly corrected by adequate hydration inside out. Oral antioxidants and fruits rich in electrolytes, such as cherries, strawberries, bananas, mangoes and watermelons, are also quite helpful in preventing dehydration of skin. Besides taking care of hydration internally, you can give a boost of moisture to your skin by targeted topical skincare. “Choose humectants ie ingredients that attract moisture to your skin (like honey, glycerin) or emollients like shea butter that tackle dry skin. Opt for hyaluronic acid creams and serums,” recommends Dr Gupta. “Vitamin C and coenzyme Q are other ingredients to watch out for, to enhance the water holding capacity of your skin,” she adds. And a simple floral facial mist can also serve as a quick pick-me-up for dehydrated skin, whether you have a dry or oily skin type.

This article first appeared in Vogue


  • Aparrna Gupta

    Transitioning from crafting stories for The Asian Age and Bombay Times to setting beauty trends in Verve, Aparrna Gupta’s journey has always revolved around resonant storytelling. Her prowess in content creation is unparalleled, with articles featured in renowned publications like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel India, Lifestyle Asia, Elle, and Femina. She also excels in content ideation, trend identification, mood board creation, and product styling. Her expertise has proven invaluable to homegrown brands, enabling them to authentically connect with their audience.

    View all posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *