Dry Skin vs. Dehydrated Skin – Know the difference

Most of us plan our beauty regimens without understanding this very fundamental difference between these two common skin deficiencies: dehydration and dryness. Knowing which prevailing condition your skin is ailing from is imperative for choosing the right skincare products and doing right by your skin.

 Think of your skincare products the way you would of your wardrobe: you should change your products and how you use them seasonally as you would switch out lawn for cambric from your wardrobe. And knowing whether your skin is dry or dehydrated should factor into the decisions you make vis-a-vis skincare.

70% of all your skin is made up of water with around 25% of that amount being situated in the top layer of your skin, the epidermis. Ordinarily, it is the hydro-lipid barrier (made up of oil and moisture from the atmosphere) that acts as a shield for your skin, but if this defense is compromised for any reason (causes can be rubbing your face dry, scrubbing with abrasives, using harsh chemicals even the environment, your diet, lifestyle, intrinsic aging, etc.), then there is nothing standing between your epidermis and the moisture being stripped away from it. And because the epidermis only allows in very limited amounts of moisture through, it’s very important to be using the right skincare products that provide the right amounts of moisture and allow it to permeate through to all layers of the skin.



The lipid content in the epidermis, which is comprised of cholesterol, fatty acids and ceramides is what prevents our skin from losing water. When this content is inadequate is when your skin can be characterised as dry or alipidic, meaning that the skin is not producing enough of its own oils. Skin of this type has small pores, appears rough and flaky with pronounced fine lines and is more susceptible to wrinkles.

The hydro-lipid barrier functions less effectively also in this case, leaving your skin unprotected and at the mercy of the elements, increasing sensitivity, redness and blotchy patches, damaging of free radicals and premature aging. Collagen production is reduced with a reduction in the estrogen hormone which usually lowers substantially after menopause. This too makes for drier skin.


Dry skin is usually characterised by the following:

  • Increased sensitivity
  • Skin feels taut, not elastic
  • Skin looks dull
  • Products do not absorb easily
  • Skin is not plump
  • small pores





    Dehydrated skin is a skin condition where the skin lacks water content yet still produces oil. Dehydrated skin can feel rough and flaky and tight. It is also most often characterised by the formation of fine lines on the surface of the skin due to cells being deflated and lacking adequate water content. This condition is common among those with oily and acne-prone skin and is mostly a consequence of the use of harsh chemicals that rob the epidermis and surrounding layers of water.


    Dehydrated skin is usually characterised by the following:
    • pores can be either enlarged or contracted
    • skin can appear greasy and have breakouts yet feel taut
    • quickly absorbs moisturisers and other topical products
    • makeup will appear patchy and fade away as the skin is
      absorbing any water it can find, even from your makeup




      The protective outermost barrier for the various layers that comprise our skin are essentially a mix of lipids, oils and sweat: mostly water based substances. Dry or dehydrated skin occurs and especially becomes troublesome when this outermost barrier’s performance is compromised.

      Dry skin is a classified skin type and is mostly genetic but contributing factors can also be hormonal disruptions and an underactive thyroid. Less protective oil in the skin cells leaves you feeling dry, scaly and sensitive. Dehydrated skin is a skin condition; it is temporary and hence is more readily curable than dry skin.

      Dehydrated skin is a moody skin condition where the skin can feel rough, patchy, oversensitive, inflamed and tight yet still oily. The body produces an excess of oil (unlike dry skin where it does not produce enough oil) to compensate for the lack of water content in the skin that has led to it being dehydrated in the first place.

      Skin is the largest and the last of the organs to obtain any of the nutrients that we ingest including water, so it’s a must to keep an adequate amount of skincare products in your routine that provide the additional and necessary hydration to dehydrated skin.



      •  Avoid anything that lathers. Creating lather is usually the job of sulfates that are bad for your health and further dry out your skin.
      • Completely cut out any mineral oils and petroleum derived ingredients from your skincare products that eat at your protective hydro-lipid barrier. All Conatural products are absolutely petroleum free.
      • Omega oils found in either flax seed (alsi) or fish oil supplements will help retain moisture and aid in the production of the good kind of oil, making it a great cure for both dry and dehydrated skins.
      • Dry skin is best protected by moisturisers that do the job of the lipids that are lacking in the epidermis. Look for ingredients such as Shea butter, ceramides and beeswax in your moisturising creams (try Conatural's Ultra Body Butter packed with Shea butter).
      • It’s important to exfoliate to maintain an even and healthy protective barrier between your skin and the environment, just make sure you exfoliate mildly and gently.
      • Use MILD, natural and organic cleansers that are specifically sulfate-free (try our organic Honey and Oatmeal Cleansing Bar).
      • Never leave the skin bare for more than 60 seconds after washing. Immediately apply alcohol-free toner, serum and moisturizer.


      Pinch the skin on the back of your hand and pull it upwards. Your skin should snap back rapidly. If your skin maintains it’s pinched shape for a few seconds and drops slowly, you may be dehydrated.



      • Use moisturizers with humectants like glycerin that attract water from the environment into the skin to keep it supple and even.
      • Never leave the skin bare for more than 60 seconds after washing. It’s important to reinstate its protective barriers to prevent moisture loss. Immediately apply alcohol-free toner, serum and moisturizer.
      • Use exfoliants judiciously, don’t use scrubs and peels too often and ones that are too aggressive, chemical heavy or abrasive. Overuse and excess can aggravate dehydration and cause inflammation and redness (try our Dead Sea Mud Mask and Dead Sea Body Scrub).

      • Use only sulfate-free products that do not prevent further dehydration.
      • Diet and lifestyle are key determinants since the main goal in treating dehydrated skin is to increase moisture intake and to retain it. Make sure you drink at least 15 glasses of water every day. Foods high in water content such as watermelon and cucumbers should be an integral part of a diet treating dehydrated skin.
      • Lifestyle: Moisturising after a warm shower or bath to lock in moisture is a good thing to try. Avoid showering with hot or warm water too often and always moisturise immediately afterwards. Humidifiers work wonders in making sure your environment isn’t stripping you of precious moisture.
      • Since dehydrated skin cells need the most help retaining moisture, products which work all day long to add and retain hydration in the skin will work wonders.