Everything You Need to Know About Dry vs. Dehydrated Skin

Rachel Krause


If you’ve ever wondered how and why your typically balanced or combination skin has suddenly turned a corner into way oily territory, or has gone the other way into a total Sahara situation, we may just have the answer for you—and, with that, a solution. Dehydrated skin may sound like just another way to say dry skin, but stay with us here. Dehydration can happen to any and all skin types, and yes, it could be the cause of your sudden change in oil production.

Here’s the lowdown on dry vs. dehydrated skin: dry skin is a skin type, often a result of genetics, whereas dehydrated skin is a temporary condition that can occur on any skin type. It’s exacerbated by external causes like too-harsh skin care products, poor dietary choices, and cold weather. Dry skin is skin that naturally fails to produce enough oil to properly hydrate itself, so it gets that itchy, flaky feeling that isn’t necessarily resigned to the face alone. If you have dry skin, you’ll likely see it—and feel it—on other areas of your body, too.

Unlike dry skin, dehydrated skin doesn’t always look or feel traditionally “dry,” as it still produces oil—in fact, it produces more oil to overcompensate for its temporary dryness, so what you think of as overly oily skin could actually be skin that needs more moisture. Dehydrated skin, generally unlike dry skin, can lead to breakouts and clogged pores, but applying oil control or acne-fighting treatments dehydrates the skin further, creating a vicious cycle that can wreak havoc on your complexion.

It can be hard to differentiate between the two to tell which one is affecting you, but let’s put it this way—if you have dry skin, it’s likely been a lifelong affliction, but a dehydrated skin condition can happen to anyone, even those who tend toward oily or combination skin types. As such, they should be treated differently. Dry skin naturally lacks protective oils, so creamy, gentle cleansers and oil-based treatments are key for infusing moisture that the skin won’t produce on its own.

Dehydrated skin, on the other hand, is capable of producing those necessary oils, so what it really needs is help maintaining them. Locking in moisture is the name of the game, so it’s wise to not only take a gentle, hydrating approach to skin care (with plenty of moisturizing, but not heavy, ingredients), but to keep your body hydrated by drinking plenty of water, too. A diet change could be in order as well—if you’re not eating well with plenty of fruits and vegetables, or you’re consuming a lot of alcohol or soda, it’ll definitely show on your skin. Use the right products, clean up your act, and your skin will be back to normal in no time.

Read more from Daily Makeover: 7 Things People with Dry Skin Should Never Do