The winter’s finally behind us, so your dry skin should be too, right? Not so fast. Because your skin may not be what you think it is. Dehydrated skin is often confused for dry skin, but the two are actually quite different.
Dry skin is characterized as having fewer oil-producing glands on the body and face. Dehydrated skin, by contrast, refers to a lack of water, not oil. So your skin can be both oily and dehydrated.
Essentially, dryness refers to a skin type, while dehydration refers to a skin condition. Dry skin lacks oil because it’s producing less sebum than normal skin. That shortfall leaves the skin without the necessary lipids to retain moisture and build a strong barrier to protect the skin from outside agitators. Dehydrated skin simply doesn’t have enough water. It can be caused by a number of factors, including diet, caffeine consumption, weather, and environment.
How you can tell the difference
Not sure which kind you may have? Dehydrated skin tends to feel tight and look dull in the mirror. You may notice wrinkles in places you don’t remember having them, or your wrinkles may seem more exaggerated. The dark circles under your eyes may be more pronounced, too.
By contrast, dry skin is generally more uncomfortable. It can feel itchy all the time and flake easily. The spots on the face that are most prone to dry skin are near the eyebrows and around the corners of the nose and mouth. On the body, the neck, inside of the arms, and the thighs are common trouble spots.
What you can do about it
Dry skin is an inherent skin condition that you’ll most likely be dealing with for much of your life, whereas dehydration is more of a temporary state that can be remedied relatively quickly by drinking fluids. That said, there are a number of things you can do to hold off your dry skin, or, at least, minimize your symptoms.
Start by getting into the habit of exfoliating at least once a week, if you aren’t already. When dead skin cells build up, they can diminish the effectiveness of moisturizers. By removing them on a regular basis, it will enable your moisturizer to be better absorbed.
At night, use a heavier, oil-free, non-comedogenic moisturizer. The outdoors can wreak havoc on dry skin—even in the summer—but the indoors can be just as bad. Long stretches of exposure to cool, dry air causes us to naturally lose moisture while we sleep. A heavier moisturizer can counteract that.
And, don’t ignore your diet. Increasing your antioxidant intake has been shown to offset dry skin to an appreciable degree.
If you’re still not able to find much relief, consult your dermatologist. They’ll be able to tailor a more effective treatment to your particular needs.