Chances are that even if your skin is behaving right now, you’ve experienced dehydration in the past. And most likely, will do again in the future. That’s why we’ve created this ultimate dehydrated skin guide.
We’ll cover everything you need to know about this all-too-common skin condition, plus give you practical tips to avoid dehydration going forward, from swerving common causes to building your most hydrating skincare routine yet.
Is my skin dry or dehydrated?
We get asked this almost daily, and we totally understand why there’s confusion. The first thing to know is that dehydrated skin is different to dry skin. Dry skin is a skin type – it’s the skin that you’re born with or develops over the years. Dehydrated skin is a skin condition or temporary state that any skin type can experience (and fix).
Dry skin produces less oil than normal skin types. Your skin’s natural oil, or sebum, helps to keep pores and the outer layers of the skin conditioned and protected. Without it, skin appears dry and flaky. Those with dry skin are also more likely to suffer from skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis. You can read all about how to soothe dry skin here.
But it’s dehydrated skin you’re here to learn about – so let’s get to it. While dry skin is lacking in oil, dehydrated skin is lacking in moisture. Rather than dry or flaky, dehydrated skin will look and feel tight, dull and papery. Dehydrated skin can also manifest as premature signs of ageing, such as less elasticity.
You can even do a dehydration skin test, also known as the turgor test, if you're unsure. Pinch the skin on the back of your hand or on your cheek and see how quickly it bounces back when you let go; if it's a little slower than usual, it shows a lack of elasticity and could mean you're dehydrated.
Any person can get dehydrated skin, no matter their skin type. You can have dry and dehydrated skin, and also oily and dehydrated skin. The great thing is, it is temporary. And we can definitely help.
How to treat dry vs dehydrated skin
Both dry and dehydrated skin will benefit from both hydration and moisturisation. But whether you have dry or dehydrated skin will determine which specific products you should use. Both require slightly different approaches.
Remember dry skin is lacking in oil, so the key to addressing it is moisturisation. To treat dry skin you should opt for a moisturiser that contains rich, fatty oils. These will make up for the lack of natural sebum. For younger dry skin types, we recommend our Love & Haight Moisturiser. For more mature and dry skin types look to a really rich cream like Salvation Jane.
Dehydrated skin meanwhile needs a two-pronged attack. Firstly, that means hydrating from the inside out with plenty of water, fruit and vegetables – and we hate to be a bummer but laying off alcohol and coffee for a little while might help too. Then comes the targeted treatments to get your skin back to its former, plump and dewy glory.
The skin needs hydration (water), but it also needs moisturisation (oil) afterwards in order to create a barrier, keeping all that water locked into the skin, and stopping it from escaping. In order to get moisture deep onto the skin where it's most needed, you’ll need a concentrated treatment. More on this later.
The causes of dehydrated skin
There are so many possible reasons for our skin to become dehydrated. Some of the most common reasons include…
Air conditioning and central heating
Though central heating and air-con make things a lot more comfortable in cold or hot weather, they could be responsible for depleting your precious moisture levels. Think of how much water you need to stay hydrated while flying? Constant exposure to A/C and heating will do just the same to your skin, so keep on sipping!
Known to be damaging to skin, it’s UVA that is the main culprit here. Spending too much time in the sun will ultimately cause your skin to dehydrate from the inside out.
Harsh skincare products
If you’re using products that are too harsh or just not the right fit for your skin’s needs, they could be stripping it of its natural moisture levels and compromising its barrier function – the same seal that holds all the hydration inside.
How dehydration shows up in different skin types
If your skin is normally well balanced, it’s easier to tell when something throws it off course. So if you notice that your skin suddenly feels or looks tight and papery, or shows fine lines it’s a good indication that it’s dehydrated. You may also feel that the skin looks more sunken, with darker eye circles.
On drier skin types you’ll find some signs of dryness and dehydration overlap, like a dull appearance. But, because dry skin tends to be quite thin, those tell-tale dehydrated horizontal lines will show up more easily and be more visible than on oilier types.
If your skin is on the oily side, dehydration can lead to a confusing dry/oily look and feel. This is because when your skin senses it is lacking water, it produces more oil to compensate for the lack of moisture in an attempt to protect itself.
So if your skin starts to feel tight and flaky, or you see more fine lines and extra oil on the surface of your skin, it’s likely that your skin is dehydrated.
If your skin feels more sensitive than normal, or you get sudden breakouts, this could all point to dehydration. The more dehydrated the skin, the less protected it is, making it hypersensitive, redder and more irritated than usual.
The right skin routine for dehydrated skin
First up, double cleanse
If you’ve ever had a free skin consultation with us, you’ll know the Pai team are adamant about getting your cleanse right. Often our customers find that once they nail that, the rest of the skin puzzle seems to come together. While the idea of a double cleanse might seem counterintuitive, it is really important to remove every bit of daily dirt. That way the rest of the products you use afterwards will sink in much better and can actually get to work with the task of hydrating.
We recommend removing any make-up or SPF first using our Light Work Rosehip Cleansing Oil. Then following up with a luxurious second cleanse using the Middlemist Seven cream cleanser and cloth. On days that you’re not wearing make-up or SPF, you might like to just use the cream cleanser.
Choose a concentrated treatment
Serums are clever because they’re made up of tiny molecules, much smaller than those in creams or lotions. This means that they are able to deliver the ingredients inside much deeper into the skin. And get to work much faster and more efficiently.
In the case of our hydrating serum, the ingredient delivering into the skin is Hyaluronic Acid. A genius active, it can hold up to 1000x its weight in water, leaving it inside the skin almost like a reservoir. Then your skin can replenish from it throughout the day as it needs to.
We recommend sleeping in our Back To Life Hydration Serum two to three times each week, preferably on consecutive nights.
When asked how best to take care of dehydrated skin, we always recommend this moisturiser. Love & Haight manages to be both light and buttery all at once. Just the thing to quench thirsty skin, and importantly to help protect the skin’s barrier from further moisture loss. Remember it’s all about replenishing and defending.
Treat skin to a face oil
Not only is our Rosehip Bioregenerate oil a beautifully relaxing nighttime ritual. But it actually does two other really important jobs for dehydrated skin. First of all, it is packed with regenerative Omegas 3, 6, 7 & 9 and sterols – to repair the damage and irritation that dehydration has caused. But also carotenoids, which – being antioxidants – fight off further damage.
The second benefit of using a high quality oil for dehydrated skin is that it actually acts as a shield, to help prevent any more moisture loss from the skin.
Find a face mask that works
We love face masks, and all the relaxation that comes with them. But choosing one that has seriously helpful active ingredients to hydrate skin and make it look instantly better, is all-important.
Our newest innovation Resurrection Girl is an ultra-hydrating, rich, silky, ocean-blue gel mask powered by Resurrection Plant, nature’s best-kept secret for intense hydration. We recommend applying it 1-2 times a week, followed by your hydration serum then moisturiser. It’s been proven in our consumer trials to leave skin feeling hydrated, smoother and less dry in just ten minutes.
Need more help? Book in for a free skincare consultation today for tailored advice