What is Dehydrated Skin & How to Choose the Best Products

What is Dehydrated Skin & How to Choose the Best Products

"Dehydrated skin" is something we’re asked about frequently. It seems there’s a lot of confusion about what this skin concern is about. A major part of the confusion is that the term "dehydrated skin" is often used interchangeably with "dry skin" or "combination skin" but they are not the same! Dehydrated skin is not dry skin or combination skin.

Once you understand how dehydrated skin differs from dry skin or combination skin, it will be much easier to find the best products and put together an appropriate skincare routine so you can see the smooth, glowing, plumped skin you want!

The Difference Between Dry Skin and Dehydrated Skin

Having classically dry skin is easy to recognise. Dry skin frequently feels tight and dry, with no oil anywhere to be seen. This situation rarely fluctuates; skin feels dry all year long. The dryness might get worse depending on the climate, season, or activity, but regardless of those things, without great skincare products, the uncomfortable dry, tight feeling will persist.

Combination skin is when you have areas that are oily, usually in the T-zone (nose, chin, and center of the forehead) while skin on the sides of the face or cheek area is dry.

On the other hand, dehydrated skin can look and feel like dry skin all over your face but there’s a major difference: Dehydrated skin tends to come and go, it does not persist.

Another hallmark of dehydrated skin is that it’s often accompanied by a more than normal or even excessive amount of oil on skin’s surface. Despite this excess oil flowing through the pores all over the face, skin still feels tight or dry everywhere on your face, and these signs are often accompanied by flaking. Very frustrating, but you knew that, right?

Simply described, if you feel your skin is dry underneath under an oily layer on top, most likely you have dehydrated skin. Surprising fact: For many people, the skincare products they’re using might be to blame!

What Causes Dehydrated Skin?

Although dehydrated skin can be caused by different factors, more often than not it's the result of using skincare products that contain harsh or skin-sensitising ingredients. It can also develop from using the wrong products for your skin, which leads to an imbalance. In essence, dehydration can be viewed as your skin complaining that it doesn’t like something you’re doing to it.

Skin-aggravating ingredients like SD or denatured alcohol, menthol, peppermint, or fragrances (synthetic or natural) can dry out the surface of skin and leave it feeling dehydrated. It will also stimulate excess oil production at the base of the pore, so skin ends up being oilier and more likely to get clogged pores.

The same can happen when you use abrasive scrubs or stiff-bristled cleansing brushes. All of these are the consequence of damaging skin’s surface—an undisturbed skin surface is exceedingly important to healthy-looking skin.

Using the wrong combination of products or using certain products too frequently can make a mess of things. For example, even though an AHA or BHA exfoliant, high-strength vitamin C product, and a high concentration of retinol can have amazing benefits, for this skin type, using them every day can result in a dehydrated look and feel with excess oil sitting on top of it.

This is a highly individual response, so it's important to pay close attention to how your skin responds to more potent, effective products such as these. Based on how your skin responds, adjust usage to get ideal results. For these types of products, once- or twice-daily use isn’t mandatory to see improvement. It’s a balancing act and your goal is to not tip the scale in favour of aggravating skin.

How to Take Care of Dehydrated Skin

The most important thing you can do to take care of dehydrated skin is to assess your skincare routine, and stop using harsh, sensitising products. That means you must:

  • Use gentle, yet effective, cleansers that don't leave skin feeling tight, dry, or greasy.
  • Never use harsh scrubs and/or rough cleansing brushes.
  • Use replenishing toners instead of skin-stripping, alcohol- or witch hazel-based versions; toners should give back, not take away from skin.
  • Avoid fragrance in any skincare products you use (whether natural, as in essential oils or synthetic, both are problem for all skin types).
  • When applying targeted solutions or boosters, apply them on alternate days or every other day to judge how your skin does. It doesn’t take using specialty products like these every day to gain benefit.
  • Only use toners, boosters, serums, and moisturisers that are loaded with antioxidants, skin-replenishing ingredients, and skin-restoring ingredients. These give your skin what it desperately needs to appear young, healthy, radiant, soft, and smooth.

Our RESIST Skincare products for normal to oily skin or our SKIN BALANCING products for normal to combination skin are a perfect way to get started taking the best care of your dehydrated skin. And if you’re also dealing with flaky, rough patches, a few drops of our Moisture Renewal Oil Booster can have skin looking like new, overnight!

Knowing Your Skin Type is Key

Once you stop using problem products (even one is too much) and start being gentle to your skin, wonderful things will begin to happen. And when you start using skincare products filled with nourishing, soothing, skin-renewing ingredients, you will be able to understand what your true skin type is and follow a routine that effectively takes care of all your concerns. Best of all, no more confusing, frustrating ordeals with dehydrated, flaky skin!

References for this information:

Journal of Chemical Physics, December 2014, issue 22
Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, February 2014, issue 3, pages 158-163
Chemical Immunology and Allergy, 2012, volume 96, pages 77-80
Annals of Pharmaceutical France, May 2011, issue 3, pages, 135-141
International Journal of Cosmetic Science, February 2000, issue 1, pages 21-52
International Journal of Cosmetic Science, April 2003, issue 1-2, pages 63-95


About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!