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How To Tell If Your Skin Is Dry — Or Just Dehydrated

There's a pretty big difference.

Temperatures are dropping, and your skin feels flaky, tight, and dry — or is it dehydrated? The proper diagnosis is key to treat skin with the right products and achieve a smooth, comfortable, and radiant balance.

As if chapped lips, maskne and cracked hands aren't annoying enough to deal with this time of year, most of us also have to deal with parched, flaky, lacklustre skin. The first step to getting your glow back? Learning the difference between dryness (which is a skin type) and dehydration (a skin condition) - because yes, there is a difference. 

Despite both dry and dehydrated skin feeling the same, there's a fine line between the two that is crucial to distinguish in order to better treat your complexion during the winter months. Most of the time, we assume that skin dryness is a direct result of dehydration or a lack of water. But in actual fact, we have all been totally off in how we've been thinking about (and treating) dry and dehydrated skin, because, as skin-care expert Susan Fox explained to us, the two are actually not synonymous.

Granted, it might sound like we're splitting hairs here, but understanding how these two skin concerns differ could be the one thing standing in between you and not just a good skin day, but a good skin life—yes, there's that much at stake here.

So to help winter-proof your skin this season, we sought guidance from Susan Fox, owner of Eden Beauty Group and overall skincare guru. 

Read on for a lesson on how to properly diagnose, treat, and prevent skin dryness and dehydration to keep your complexion at its most radiant.

what is dry skin?

Unlike dehydrated skin (which we'll get to in a minute) dry skin lacks oil. This isn't a temporary condition, but rather widely considered a skin type that tends to be more permanent. 

"Dry skin is an actual skin type that you are born with," explains Fox "It means that your skin produces less sebum (oil) than others. Less sebum means fewer lipids which are the skin's natural fats. Lipids help to form the skin's natural barrier that maintains moisture in the skin so the less lipid and sebum there are results in dryer skin." 


"Dry skin is generally aggravated by cold weather and incorrect product use," says Fox.

"Truly dry skin has a compromised barrier function which means it can be prone to sensitivity, feels tight and uncomfortable and can be flakey, itchy and in extreme cases very irritated and red."


You can't necessarily 'fix' dry skin, but you can improve its appearance. First, you'll want to replace the oils that dry skin fails to make itself, so bolster your skincare regimen with a rich, nourishing moisturiser. 

"Obviously a very good moisturiser is essential," recommends Fox.

"One that contains a humectant is ideal. A humectant is an ingredient that draws moisture to itself and retains it. An ideal example is a hyaluronic acid which can hold up to 200 times its own weight in water.

"The vitalising range from Casmara is excellent for dry skin. It contains Hyaluronic acid, avocado oil (rich in lipids and vitamins). It also contains Q10, great for cell renewal and Xpressin from papaya extract which helps to renew and repair the barrier of the skin. The richer the texture of your moisturiser the better for dry skin." 

Supplements can help too. "I'm a firm believer in skin supplements as they are treating the condition systemically and treat the skin of the entire body," says Fox. "Skin Omegas are a brilliant addition to your skin routine as they help to boost your barrier function and seal moisture in.

"I love the Advanced Nutrition range as they are made of the highest quality ingredients and contain the largest quantity of active ingredients. Their fish oils are also sourced from sustainable sources and have all the heavy metals removed. They describe their omegas as internal moisturisers which says it all!"

Revitalizing Nourishing Cream, €48, Casmara available at Eden Beauty Group

Skin Omegas, €72, Advanced Nutrition Programme

What is dehydrated skin?

On the other side of the coin lies dehydrated skin. 

"Dehydrated skin is a condition which means your skin is lacking in water, the good news is that it is a temporary condition and can be altered," explains Fox.

"Dehydration is caused by a number of external factors, overheated or air-conditioned offices, weather conditions, alcohol, diet and smoking. As dehydration is a lack of water in the skin any skin type including oily skin can be affected."

How Can i tell if my skin is dehydrated?

Put simply, expect your face to feel tight and your complexion to appear as though someone turned the lights off inside.

"Dehydrated skin is dull in appearance," says Fox "If you wake up in the morning and have the lines on your face from the pillow this is a sure sign your skin is lacking in hydration as your skin should "bounce back" if it is hydrated. It can feel tight and makeup will not sit well or cover evenly.

"In extreme cases, it can be flakey and irritated. It will also be more prone to fine lines and wrinkles."


Of course, we all need to make sure we drink two to three litres of water every day to maintain skin's moisture balance, but food can help too. 

"Dehydrated skin is a temporary condition so can be altered relatively easily with the right environment and some dietary and skincare changes," explains Fox.

"The first step is the one we all know but few do....drink more water. If you work in a centrally heated/air-conditioned office put a bowl of water on your desk to help moisten the air or use a facial mister as often as you need it throughout the day."

And obviously, the right dose of skincare products can help too. 

"Add a serum to your skincare routine as they are more active and richer than moisturisers. I love the Hydra Range from Casmara and their firming plus serum is ideal for dehydrated skin. It is 100% natural, 99% organic, vegan and contains a seawater plasma which is extremely rich in nutrients and adds moisture to your skin.

"It also contains Hydrasine which is derived from seaweed and is another humectant which is even more effective than hyaluronic acid."

Hydra Serum, €40, Casmara available at Eden Beauty Group

Thermal Water, €12.95, Uriage

So, What are the obvious differences between dry and dehydrated skin? 

Still a bit confused? Us too, but luckily Fox was able to simplify the matter.

"Dry skin is genetic and permanent while dehydrated skin is transitory. Dry skin only affects people with a dry skin type while dehydration can affect any skin type," explains Fox.

"Dehydrated skin is easily treated while Dry skin is systemic and so takes time and consistency to maintain and improve."

Main image by  @chey_maya on Instagram

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