🎓 Dry vs Dehydrated Skin


When you look down at your skin and it seems flaky, rough, and tight, your first thought might be that you have dry skin and need to apply a moisturizer or drink a gallon of water. However, what we conventionally call dry skin is usually the result of dehydration rather than the clinical definition of dry skin. While they may seem like the same thing, the causes and treatments of the two conditions vary significantly, so identifying which type you have is critical for alleviating the symptoms of scaliness, tightness, sensitivity, and redness. Let’s look at the differences between the two and ways of identifying them so you can rest assured you are using the right products or addressing any underlying conditions in order to alleviate these irritating symptoms.


Dry Skin

Dry skin is generally an underlying condition, known as the dry ‘skin type’, where your pores are small and refined, which means your skin is less adept at producing sebum, or oil. Dry skin can be hereditary or a mixture of environmental and health factors. What is interesting about dry skin, is that it most often contains the same water content as those with combination, normal, or oily skin. If you have dry skin, adding more water can actually be counterproductive to fixing the symptoms. Overall, if you have dry skin, you should be focusing on increasing your sebum content and reducing contact with potential inflammatory ingredients, as those with dry skin are usually very sensitive to potential allergens and harsh substances.

Here is how to test if you have dry skin

  1. Notice How Your Skin Feels If you have dry skin, on given day of the week, your skin feels tight, flaky, or cracked. These symptoms will get worse during the winter months, so if you have a history of these symptoms getting much worse during December through March, it is likely you have dry skin.
  2. Take a Look at Your Pores If your pores are small, tight, and have tiny, triangular, fine lines, you most likely have dry skin.
  3. Post-Cleansing See if after cleansing, if your skin feels tight and almost waxy.
  4. Moisturizing Needs If you have dry skin, you will feel the need for a moisturizer almost immediately afterwaking up or washing your face.

What Can You Do If You Have Dry Skin

If you do have chronic dry skin, or the dry skin type, here are a few things you can do to help alleviate the symptoms:

Showering: Try showering with warm, not hot water. The hot water will further dry out your skin and cause irritation. Keep your shower time to less than 10 minutes and even try showering every other day to further reduce the possibility of damaging the surface of the skin.

Toweling: Try patting rather than rubbing when using a towel after showering or cleansing.

Moisturizing: Try using a moisturizing soap in the shower, and apply a moisturizer aimed to increase oil production or retention immediately after showering. In addition, try using a hydrosol spray first before moisturizing. Look for a petroleum-based product for extremely dry skin. Because people with dry skin are also prone to allergic reactions, look for a moisturizer derived from natural ingredients that help oil production such as argan oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil.

Humidifier: Think about keeping a humidifier in your room at night to keep the surface of your skin from drying out overnight.

Use Natural Detergent: Using detergent with synthetic ingredients or perfumes can further exacerbate the effects of dry skin.Consume Helpful Fats: Eating healthy fats such as avocados, fish, coconut, nuts, chia seeds, dark chocolate, olive oil, whole eggs, and cheese can help restore your sebum content.

Dehydrated Skin

Dehydrated skin can occur with people of all skin types. It differs from dry skin in that the surface epidermis is lacking water due to harsh weather, lifestyle behaviors, poor skin care products, and aging. Dehydrated skin for people with skin types other than dry skin can be both dry and oily at the same time, leading to confusion as to what treatment to apply. Instead of focusing on the oil production, you should focus your skincare routine on restoring water content to your skin.

If your skin is not chronically dry (think of your entire history of skin health, not just the period of time the symptoms have been occuring), look out for these symptoms to test if you have dehydrated skin:

  • Itchiness
  • Redness
  • Sensitive
  • Prone to breakouts
  • Oily and dry at the same time
  • Skin dullness
  • Dark bags under eyes
  • Increased appearance of fine lines and wrinkles

If your skin (or your body in general) gets to a severe level of dehydration, you can also experience dizziness, dry mouth, light-headedness, overall weakness, and dark urine that is less frequent.

What Can You Do if You Have Dehydrated Skin?

If your skin type is not dry, but you are still experiencing the symptoms above, here are a few things you can do to help your skin return to its natural state:

Hydration: The most important thing you can do to increase hydration in the skin is to increase it throughout your body. Your skin being dehydrated is usually a sign of a larger issue throughout the body, so besides drinking enough water (between ½ to ¾ gallons of water per day), try using electrolyte tablets and eating foods high in electrolytes such as yogurt, butternut squash, greens, cheese, and coconut water. Eating broth-based soups can help increase hydration as well.

Moisturizing: Use moisturizers that contain water-binding ingredients and use non-soap-based cleansers that have moisture penetrating properties such as aloe vera. Avoid harsh or skin-sensitizing cleansers, and opt for a lotion that contains a humectant, such as Sodium PCA, Glycerol, Squalene, and Hyaluronic Acid.

Vitamins: Increase your Vitamin B content, either by supplementing (remember to ask your doctor first before taking supplements) or by eating marmite or vegemite. You can also eat sardines, salmon, mackerel, milk, and red meat to increase your Vitamin B content.

Lifestyle Changes: Drinking less caffeine and alcohol, as well as ceasing smoking can dramatically help dehydrated skin. Making sure you get the right amount of sleep (between 7-8 hours per night) and exercising regularly, while making sure to replenish fluids immediately after working out, can also significantly help.

Too Much Salt?: If your diet consists of consuming a lot of sodium, it can lead to both an overproduction of oil, as well as dry and cracked skin. If your face feels bloated and puffy and you have bags under your eyes, this could be a sign that you are intaking too much salt. Try using other flavor additions like herb blends, lemon juice, pepper, or vinegar to substitute for salt in your diet. In addition, try to eat less packaged and processed food, and instead eat whole foods, which will help with your vitamin intake as well.

There is no quick fix, or one product, that will help with dehydrated skin, as it is generally a larger issue than just addressing the skin symptoms you see. If you have both dry and dehydrated skin, try implementing a mixture of these techniques to both increase sebum and address an underlying dehydration issue.

Review: Aesop Geranium Leaf Hydrating Body Treatment

Wow, I always just considered that I had dry skin but now I have learned I am dehydrated.


I actually saw a video about this on Youtube not too long ago. It was very surprising because I would’ve assumed each could just be another name for the other. After watching and and reading all of this though, my skin is definitely dehydrated rather than dry. The whole “feeling oily and dry at the same time” is such a strange thing, but it’s so true! It’s a very odd thing to have going on lol.Even though my skin isn’t dry, I should probably try to not take such hot showers. And by hot, I pretty much mean scalding hahaha. Reading that about affecting dry skin made me think of this comic.



I have combination skin, very oily during summer months. I tend to have dry skin on my arms and legs and more oily around my shoulders and back. It gets very frustrating trying to deal with several issues at the same time. Some very helpful tips here to help with the dry skin part.


I’d always known about the pinch test. I tend to have more dry skin. I think I only dehydrate when I’m out in the heat for too long. Thanks for all that great info.


Since I’m always working directly with people, sometimes I forget to drink or can’t actually do it. I did notice, when I was functioning as a caregiver that I seemed to be drying out due to the extremely high room temp,
so I’m hoping things will even out. Considering how oily my skin was when I was in my teens and twenties, dryness wasn’t even a consideration.


This was definitely a good reminder to me the importance of not only moisturizing my skin, but also drinking enough water.
I find I am better about that some days than others.
Its funny how easy it is to spend money on the latest skin care products, but something as simple as adding more water to my diet can be so difficult…


I never thought I had dry skin. Except for the year and a half I lived in Wyoming.
But my skin dryness was due to the harsh environment, and high winds!
I occasionally have dry patches or dryness due to environmental factors.

For the most part I believe my skin is combination.


I have oily skin and never dry out, however I have been dehydrated before.
Thanks for all the good info.


Thanks for the reminder on the differences between the two!
They are often used interchangeably!


I think this was an awesome post. I feel like my skin is for sure both and on different areas of my body. My hands and legs are consistently dry and I have an abundance of keratin that ends up clogging my arm and leg pores that make my skin look like it is bumpy and even worse than it does because, of the dryness. I have to constantly keep my skin moisturized and it helps to reduce the appearance of the bumps so it is for sure a hard thing too deal with but, I for sure love to have moisturized skin always and I like to use the best moisturizers and moisturizing body washes to help combat this issue!


my body is just dry, my hands are dehydrated, and my face is combination. i really enjoyed reading this though it is valuable information to me due to my grandmother having issues with her skin and scalp. thank you for sharing.


How is she doing?
What are you trying next?
What kind of cleanser is she currently using?


I love this article and never knew there was a difference in dry vs dehydrated. I’ve known about the pinch test though. Did anyone else ever try it after a night of drinking out with the gals? lol


i bought her shea moisture 100% virgin coconut oil daily hydration 2 in 1 bubble bath and body wash body wash,
professional body lotion, for her extremely dry skin and,maui moisture smooth + repair hair butter conditioner,

tio nacho mexican herbal hair strengthening shampoo for her dry scalp. she hasn’t tried them out yet. but i am hoping that they work for her. i went into walgreens with the suggestions in my mind that everyone was kind enough to leave on the discussion board on here, and those were the closest to the suggestions i could find. if they do not work i am going to try the tea tree oil products.


Wow, skin can actually be dry and oily at the same time. That has to be a difficult condition. Very valuable information, thank you.


I have combination to oily skin, starting on the mature side (early 40’s). Which makes a refined skin care program challenging at times. To plump and increase suppleness without causing additional oiliness or breakouts. I’ve found that a combination of products and healthy living can achieve this. A non-stripping oil based cleanser. An Aloe based toner. A Hylauronic serum and an evening light moisturizer lotion with retinol and anti-oxidants. Also started taking probiotics, biotin, and Collagen.


I used to never use moisturizer because my skin is extremely oily.
They were never beneficial. I discover I was wrong. I was using the wrong kind of moisturizer, I needed a water based not oil based.
Along with drinking plenty of water it has helped me with my dehydrated skin.


I just realized I have dehydrated skin too! Sometimes I eat lots of salt and frequently I don’t drink enough water so I’m not exactly surprised. My skin really depends on what I had to drink and eat the day before and what the weather is like.


I will definitely share this with my sister.
She lives in Denver and always has problems with dry skin.
And as she gets older and her thin gets thinner she seems to be having more and more problems.
Hopefully these suggestions will be helpful to her.