Dehydrated Skin vs. Dry Skin: How to Tell the Difference

Dermalogica shares tips on identifying dry or dehydrated skin // Photo Credit: AntonioGuillem/iStock/Getty Images Plus

There's a big difference between dry and dehydrated skin, yet both tend to feel the same—just plain dry. However, when your skin feels dry you may actually just be dehydrated and in need of water. Dryness refers to a skin type, while dehydration refers to a skin condition.

If you have a dry skin type, it means you’re lacking oil. You were born this way, and you’re dry everywhere else on your body, including hands, scalp, and legs. When you put on moisturizers and lotions, chances are they soak up fairly quickly. If you have a dehydrated skin condition, your skin is lacking water. This can be caused by a number of factors including makeup, diet, incorrect product use, or even weather.

Here’s where it gets tricky: when skin is dehydrated, it creates more oil to make up for the missing water. This can cause breakouts, irritation, and dry patches. In fact, skin can even feel oily and dry at the same time.


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To explain whether skin is dehydrated or dry, Dermalogica has created the helpful infographic below. When you're treating clients this winter, be sure to assess the skin situation properly to determine if their skin is truly dry or if it's simply dehydrated, and know which ingredients and products to recommend and use for each condition.


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