How to Tell If Your Skin Is Dry or Dehydrated | Expert Tips


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Have you ever found yourself staring into the mirror wondering how you could possibly be breaking out while having dry skin on your face? If so, dehydrated skin might be what’s ailing your complexion — even if you might normally self-identify as someone with oily skin. 

In fact, everyone’s complexions are susceptible to dehydration (which is different from dry skin), regardless of skin type, New York City-based dermatologist Y. Claire Chang shared on the hydration episode of Allure‘s The Science of Beauty podcast. “Those with oily skin can still have dehydrated skin, which means it can have high sebum levels, but low water content,” she explained. Plus, acne treatments can be particularly drying or even irritating, so skin hydration is even more important for those dealing with breakouts and oiliness, Chang added. 

Identifying Dehydrated Skin Versus Dry Skin 

You can typically tell if your skin is dehydrated if you pinch one of your cheeks and it wrinkles with gentle pressure instead of holding its shape, Ross C. Radusky, a board-certified dermatologist at SoHo Skin & Laser Dermatology, tells Allure. Dehydrated skin will also feel tight and appear duller than usual, he adds. You may also notice more exaggerated wrinkles or ones in places you don’t remember having them, along with deeper dark circles. 

Dry skin, on the other hand, is characterized by lack of oil, Radusky says. Skin peeling and itchy, flaky skin typically happen as a result. Basically, general discomfort is a major sign of dryness. “The worst areas are typically near the eyebrows and around the corners of the nose and mouth,” Radusky adds.

Most of us understand the negative impacts of dehydration on our overall health, but not enough of us are aware of its potential to wreak such visible havoc on our complexions. In order to understand the difference between dryness and dehydration, we consulted experts on how to best address dehydration for happier, healthier, and more hydrated skin. 

How to Treat Dehydration and Dryness 

Both dry and dehydrated skin have some treatments in common — however, you may be neglecting some of the more obvious ones if your complexion is on the oily side. If you’re not positive whether you’re dealing with dry or dehydrated skin, the good news is that the topical treatments for both are essentially the same. These six steps should help you see improvement in how your skin looks and feels either way. 

Moisturize, then moisturize some more

Dry and dehydrated skin can be soothed in a number of ways, but making sure you’re finishing off your day and nighttime skin-care routines with a moisturizer rich in emollients, humectants, and ceramides is the most obvious. For those unfamiliar with the latter ingredient, ceramides are lipids (aka fat molecules) that “help the skin retain moisture and allow [for] proper function,” New York City-based dermatologist Sejal Shah previously told Allure. When your skin lacks them, dryness and irritation occur. But a great moisturizer will replenish your skin’s ceramide levels and hydrate it in the process.

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