Dehydrated Skin vs Dry Skin: Which One Do You Really Have?

Dry Skin vs Dehydrated Skin: Which One Do You Really Have?

For years, our skin has type has been divided into two skin types: oily and dry. Then came the term combination skin where you have oily patches on your skin (typically on the T-zone) and drier areas of the skin like the cheeks or chin. There’s also that category of normal skin, although I’m not a big fan of the term “normal” skin because really, how do you quantify “normal”? Not oily AND not dry? Is there anyone with such skin on the entire face? No, it’s not a rhetorical question; I really want to know!

But here’s the thing. Our skin may not even be dry. It could be dehydrated. My skin can be oily yet dehydrated. Again, dehydrated. Not dry.

Tine, what the heck are you talking about?

Here’s a quick breakdown of the differences between the two.

Dry skin

  • Dry skin is a skin type. It lacks oil.
  • Skin is persistently tight, sometimes uncomfortable.
  • Skin feels tight after a shower.
  • Flaky in spots without the use of moisturisers.
  • Makeup is patchy.
  • Feels dry when you wake up in the morning, especially if you haven’t used a rich night cream before bed.

Dehydrated skin

  • Dehydration skin is a skin condition. It lacks water.
  • Pops up every now and then. The difference can be felt when your skin’s been cruising along oily to combination and then one day you wake up with skin that’s tighter than usual and/or developed dry patches here and there.
  • Skin looks lacklustre and dull, but looks good in humid weather.
  • Sometimes flakes and peels when applying makeup.

Now I don’t have dry skin so I can’t tell you how having dry skin feels. But I have dehydrated skin so I can tell you from experience what works for me and what doesn’t.

I have combination skin. My skin on my cheeks is typically “normal” (there’s that word again!); it’s not oily, but it doesn’t feel tight either. I have an oily T-zone. Every now and then my skin gets dehydrated and I can feel the dehydration on my cheeks to my chin. I can’t use super emollient creams to combat dehydration because it would make my skin break out like crazy (speaking of experience here. Sigh). To combat the dehydration, I increase the use of hydration products on my skin by using hyaluronic acid serums and facial sheet masks. My skin needs more water and not, for example, more shea butter.

The change to dehydrated skin can also be brought on by AHAs and BHAs so if you’re going a wee bit gung-ho on the chemical exfoliation front, pull the reins back a little, stop using them for a while and slowly reintroduce them to your skincare routine.

Feel your skin and check if it really is dry or simply dehydrated. You can be both too. If you’re not sure, head over to any beauty counter for a skin consultation. I recommend Dermalogica; they have a good skin mapping system. Skin mapping is complimentary and there’s no obligation to buy anything. There will be beauty salespeople who tell you your skin is dry and you need heaps of rich creams to tackle it when, in fact, your skin isn’t dry, it’s dehydrated. Thus, it’s important to know your skin well.

Here are a few hyaluronic acid serums that I’d recommend:

I hope this answers some questions on dry skin vs dehydrated skin. Like I said, it’s easy to confuse the two; heck, I thought I had skin changes from combo to dry every season!

Do you have dry skin? Do you have dehydrated skin? What do you do to combat either one or even both?

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19 comments… add one
  1. Asha

    :0 Whoa! That just cleared something for me! I lived in humid weather for the majority of my life (island living is the best!) so my skin was damn near perfect but the first time I moved to a place with cold, dry weather my skin started to have major issues even with copious amounts of moisturizer. The peeling, oh the peeling! Fortunately cocoa butter saved me then and since.

    How do you treat dehydrated skin vs. dry skin? And then of course, there’s the multiple problems like combination-dry, sensitive-dehydrated, gah!

    1. Tine

      For dehydrated skin, you need to amp up the water level of your skin. For me, I use lots of hyaluronic acid serums and facial sheet masks. Even though I’ll cut down on AHAs, I don’t stop using it altogether because I still need to slough away that dead skin.
      I don’t have dry skin so I can’t really tell you how to treat it (it’s a type, not a condition, so you can’t actually “treat” it per se). But according to my friend who has dry skin, facial oils are best for dry skin.

      1. Asha

        Ace! Thanks for the tip, Tine, looks like I too have dehydrated skin then. Learn something new everyday! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Tracy

    Very informative post. I went for a facial awhile back and was told that my skin was in pretty good shape. I always thought my skin was dry but turns out it was the products I was using. I cut out a bunch of ingredients and my skin was never better. I am a big fan of Hydraluron and use it every morning.
    Tracy recently posted..21 Questionsร‚ย with MUA Stephanie HughesMy Profile

    1. Tine

      Good for you Tracy! I love it when facialists tell us our skin is in good shape. I so very rarely hear them say that! ๐Ÿ˜›

  3. Cocoa

    I experience what you describe as the dry skin. Experience tells me that dry skin respond very well to light dry oils, serums, and creamy products.

    On the other hand, products that you have listed always feel like temporary solutions for the dry skin. They are enjoyable but lasts only an hour or two at most.

    Dry skin cracks easily and develops wrinkles. It also gets irritated quickly.

    Every type of skin has its woes! ;P
    Cocoa recently posted..Share Your World โ€“ 2015 Week #31 โ€“ SG50 Golden Jubilee Long Weekend in Singapore | cocoaeveningsMy Profile

    1. Tine

      Sigh tell me about it. Oily and dehydrated skin? It’s like someone’s playing a trick on our skin. Is it oily? But if it is, then why is it also dry? Can it be oily AND dry? Gah it does my head in! ๐Ÿ˜›

  4. Keen On Beauty

    Currently my skin is oily, but in winter it is combination prone to dehydration. And you are so right about hyaluronic acid, it is one of the best solutions to solve the problem. I should give Hydrator by Dr Lewinns a go, curious about more products by this brand. Thanks for your recommendations ๐Ÿ™‚ I like to use its’ “Instant Beauty Radiance Booster” as a makeup base in winter, works really well on dehydrated skin.
    Keen On Beauty recently posted..โ€œEyes Are The Windowโ€ (โ€œMindโ€) by StilaMy Profile

    1. Tine

      The Dr Lewinns serum is hard to find these days. I’ve been to many pharmacies and for some reason, they no longer stock it. But when I checked with the PR for the brand, I was told that it isn’t discontinued! I recommend checking out Paula’s Choice’s Resist Hyaluronic Acid Boost or even the Hyaluron by Indeed Labs. The first one’s better but the second one isn’t bad either.

  5. Kate

    Hello wellow! I have dehydrated, combination skin, dry cheeks and forehead, oily nose and chin. I live in singapore and with the high humidity we have here, I learnt the important lesson of not overloading products onto skin, always less is more.

    I use a hydrating serum day and night to target my dehydrated skin, coupled with a face lotion and sunscreen in the day, a face oil in place of moisturizer at night. Weekly or fortnight treatments includes face exfoliation and masks when I feel like it.

    Using hydrating serum and face oil helps to rebalance my skin’s sebum production, it used to be an oil slick but now I don’t even have to blot my skin for the entire day. My skin has never looked better!

    When I go overseas in colder seasons, that’s when I feel my skin is dry and tight all the time. I use a face cream and a face oil day and night to make sure it seals in all the goodness for my skin.

    I finished a few bottles of kiehl’s MRC, after reading about that on Paris B’s blog. Been happy with that but it gets boring, so with her reviews on new products again, I grabbed the human nature overnight elixir. It does not smell like the best product in the world, but it does give the best glow the next day and it continues till today ever since I started using it.

    1. Tine

      The MRC is such a fab oil. Paris B recommended it to me too and I used her “recipe” of mixing it with Estee Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair. Perfect combo!

      Oh yeah I hear ya on using less in humid climates. My usual skincare routine here will not work when I’m in Malaysia. Even though my skin isn’t typically heavy-laden with lotions and potions, the high humidity would cause my skin to break out even when my skincare items are light. Less is more, definitely.

  6. Amy

    Oooh thank you! This is so useful! I’ve just realised that I probably have dry skin normally but I also get dehydrated skin quite often too! I will definitely be trying out some of those recommended products for when my skin is dehydrated ๐Ÿ™‚
    Amy recently posted..Review: MAC Speak LouderMy Profile

    1. Tine

      Haha you’re welcome Amy! Hyaluronic acid serum. Stat. ๐Ÿ˜›

  7. Swati Murti

    Hi Tine! so great to see this topic being discussed here. I had already done a similar post long time back. I do not want to spam your comments so please feel free to delete this one but do go through my post and share your opinion about it ๐Ÿ™‚
    would love to know what you think about it.
    Swati Murti recently posted..DIY Oats and Almonds Cleanser for Sensitive and Dry SkinMy Profile

    1. Tine

      Nah not spammy at all, Swati. I’m glad you shared it. I just read it and it’s really good! ๐Ÿ˜€

  8. Niva

    Great post! I have had dry skin nearly my whole life.. so I used rich products to combat it and then it would turn oily! It has gone from dry to oily twice now and at the moment it is VERY oily. So much so that my forehead and temples feel slimy by lunchtime (ewwwwwwwwwwww) but I was told that it could be dehydrated as I was using very light moisturisers and it wasn’t drying out. I’ve starting using the Avene Hydrance Optimale – Light Moisturising Cream both for day and night but I’m not sure if I should be using a different one for night. I do have Hydraluron at home so might try using that again but I am hoping that my skin will stop being so slimy ๐Ÿ™ Could it also have something to do with the cleanser I’m using? I recently changed to Neutrogena deep pore cleansing cleanser. I might need to try out the skin mapping at Dermalogica though! Thanks for the tip!

    1. Tine

      Personally, I’m not a fan of the Neutrogena Deep Pore Cleanser. I find too harsh and drying on my skin. Have you tried Bioderma’s Sebium range? Their moisturiser, the Anti-Matte (I think?) is good. I’ve used a couple of tubes of that and it was great for my skin. I also love Uriage’s Aqua Precis Refreshing Moisturising Cream Gel. Light, smells great and not at all oily.

      Yeah do check out Dermalogica’s face mapping feature. It’s free and they can recommend products to you which you don’t have to buy if you don’t want to. Their Oil Control Lotion is fab though.

      1. Niva

        I went nuts in the 40% off Priceline skincare sale and now am not even using half of the things I bought! ๐Ÿ™ I’ve stopped with the Neutrogena now too. I have got the Anti-Matte moisturiser! It was really good but I wasn’t addressing the issue of dehydrated skin so it didn’t help in the long run. I have the Uriage one too (see I told you I went cray!) I actually did the face map last week and snapped up the last trial pack for $20! I was rapt! I feel like my skin is a LOT better now and less angry! I love it so much that I’ve already bought the full sizes of everything on a website for 25% off! (They are an authorised stockist – I checked!). Thanks for all the advice Tine! I am now nearly liking my skin again! ๐Ÿ˜€

        1. Tine

          Haha my pleasure Niva, and I’m glad you’re liking your skin again!

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