Dry Skin Versus Dehydrated Skin
“Dry skin” and “dehydrated skin” can be confusing terms. Put simply, dry skin is the lack of oily material on the surface of the skin, and dehydrated skin is the lack of water in the outer layers of the skin.
Oil-producing glands are all over our bodies and open to hair follicles. Wherever there is hair, there are oil-producing glands. These glands are called sebaceous glands, and the oily materials they make are called sebum. Hairs and sebaceous glands share the same ducts to the surface of the skin, sometimes called pores—the same pores you see on your face.
The oily surface of the skin is the first defense mechanism of our bodies. It keeps water from evaporating; it is acidic and thus kills many pathogenic bacteria. Also, the sebum keeps the skin fresh and healthy.
The lack of sebum production is mostly genetic and is part of our skin type. Some medications and health issues interfere with oil secretion from the skin and make your skin dry. Dry skin, if it is not genetic, could be a sign of a problem that needs medical attention.
Small pores are also a sign of dry skin. When there is not enough oil secretion, the pores become smaller and harder to see.
A lack of sebum exposes the skin layers to all kinds of environmental damages. Dry skin feels rough, flaky, and dull.
The lack of water in the superficial layers of the skin is called skin dehydration. This skin condition is mostly environmentally related and sometimes the result of health issues. Cold weather, hot showers, harsh chemical products (like detergents), sun damage, and anything else that deteriorates the protective skin barrier can expose the skin to losing water and becoming dehydrated.
Dry skin and the lack of an oily protective barrier is a potential cause of skin dehydration. Skin dehydration happens at the very superficial layers. These layers of the skin are composed of dead or dying skin cells and don’t have direct access to the blood supply to be nourished by blood circulation.
If there is generalized body dehydration, like not drinking enough water, taking medications for hypertension, diabetes, and so on can cause the skin to be dehydrated. Dry and cold weather, wind, aging, and air conditioners are among other causes of dehydrated skin.
Alcohol and caffeine consumption increases body water evaporation and causes generalized body dehydration and, consequently, skin dehydration. If you consume any caffeinated or alcoholic drinks, make sure to drink more water to compensate for your body water loss.
A sign of dehydrated skin is to pinch the skin, and if it doesn’t immediately go back to the normal condition, it is most likely that the skin is dehydrated.
Water is an essential element of the natural exfoliation process of the skin. If there is not enough water available, the natural exfoliation process slows down and dead skin cells pile up. The accumulation of dead skin cells gives the skin a dull, lifeless, and rough look and exaggerates the look of wrinkles, as the skin looks old and aged. That is why exfoliation is an important part of a dehydrated skin treatment regimen.
There are three steps to treating dehydrated skin:
- First, apply occlusive skincare products to cover the skin to stop the water evaporation from the surface of the skin.
- Second, use skincare products that hydrate the inside and outside of the skin.
- Third, drink enough water to prevent generalized body dehydration.
Another solution for dehydrated skin is hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a natural skin molecule that has an extremely high affinity for water. It can hold water up to 1,000 times its weight. Unfortunately, the molecule of hyaluronic acid is very big and hardly can pass through intact skin barrier layers.
However, some skin care products contain fragmented hyaluronic acid molecules in the form of serums, which are skincare products composed of very small molecules with special chemical structures that can easily pass through the skin barrier layers and penetrate deeper into the skin. Hyaluronic acid, even though it is not passing through the skin barrier layers, can stay on the surface of the skin, absorb water from the air, and keep the skin hydrated.