I recently enjoyed a delightful facial before which I partook in a one-on-one skin consultation, where I brazenly admitted to having oily and dry skin.

The facialist who had been assigned the job of tackling my problem skin took one glance at my face before rejecting my claims.

It turns out that I, in actual fact, do not have dry skin. I have dehydrated skin.

It’s needless to say that I was left a little bewildered, wondering what the difference between dry and dehydrated actually is. It turns out that one is a skin condition, the other a skin type.


If, like me, you had no idea there was a difference, keep reading and all will become clear.

What’s the difference between dry and dehydrated skin?

“Dry skin and dehydrated skin share many of the same characteristics, such as tightness, roughness, flaking, scaling, redness and sensitivity, but they are different skin concerns and need to be treated differently,” explains Andrea Pfeffer, founder of London’s Pfeffer Sal skincare clinic.

To distinguish which you think you might have, perform a mini skin analysis.

Gently slide your hand up the side of your cheek. Does your skin feel flaky, dry and rough?  Is your skin tight after cleansing? Is the skin often inflamed and can even crack in cold weather? These are signs of dry skin.

Now look in the mirror, are there fine lines present on the forehead and eyes? Does skin look dull and lacklustre? Does your foundation patch throughout the day? These are signs of dehydrated skin.  

What is dehydrated skin?

Dehydrated skin occurs when there’s a lack of water in the stratum corneum, which is the top layer of the skin.

An efficient stratum corneum should contain 10 to 15 per cent water. When that drops below 10 per cent, skin becomes dehydrated.

A common misconception is that you must have dry skin in order to experience dehydrated skin, but that’s not the case.

Dehydration is a skin condition that anybody can experience (even those with oily skin) because it’s caused by a lack of water within the skin, whereas dry skin is a lack of oil.

All skin types are susceptible to becoming dehydrated, as Pfeffer explains, “There are so many things that can cause dehydrated skin. Our faces get stripped of moisture by air conditioning, the weather, lack of sleep, not drinking enough water, caffeine, too-hot showers and skipping your gentle skincare routine.”

Common symptoms of dehydrated skin include redness, congestion and inflammation.

How do I treat it?

Hydration, hydration, hydration. When you feel parched on a hot day, that’s exactly the same way skin feels when it’s dehydrated.

The key ingredient in nourishing dehydrated skin is hyaluronic acid, which occurs naturally throughout the body and which holds one thousand times its weight in water.

Pfeffer recommends exfoliating weekly (“as dead skin builds up, it can diminish the absorption of moisturisers and serums”) and incorporating antioxidants (“they protect against cell damage which can lead to epidermal water loss – the process of water escaping through the upper layer of skin.”)

As well as skincare, a dehydrated face can be corrected relatively quickly by drinking water, and it doesn’t go amiss to have a face mist at hand to replenish a thirsty complexion (enter, Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Hydrating Face Mist). 

The key ingredients to help treat dehydrated skin are glycerine, aloe, honey, lactic acid, citric acid, ceramides and that all important hyaluronic acid.

What is dry skin?

With dry skin, a lack of water isn’t the problem. Dry skin is actually a skin type, just the same as oily or combination, and it describes skin which produces less sebum (or oil) than others.

“You can recognise dry skin as it feels tight and rough to touch. It may also feel itchy with seasonal shifts or be exacerbated by exposure to central heating or air conditioning. Other lifestyle factors that increase dryness include chlorine rich swimming pools, steam rooms or saunas,” Pfeffer explains.

Dry skin tends to be uncomfortable, flaky and itchy and will often lack the appearance of pores and oil.

Pfeffer continues, “If you have dry skin, you often also have a weak lipid barrier and are more at risk of losing moisture through the epidermis.”

How do I treat it?

Refrain from using products which will strip your stratum corneum and disrupt your skin’s PH balance (put the acids down.)

Pfeffer recommends incorporating B vitamins into your routine, “Vitamin B in its many forms hydrates, rebuilds the skin barrier, and soothes the skin so it’s a must-have for dry skin” and sleeping in nourishing overnight masks (Drunk Elephant’s F-Balm Electrolyte Waterfacial is the ultimate thirst quencher for dry skin.)

Avoiding long, hot showers and investing in a humidifer for your bedroom to add moisture to the air, are both tricks to help relieve dry skin.

Key ingredients to incorporate into your routine are nut and seed oils (including coconut and almond), shea butter, lanolin and ceramides (these strengthen the skin’s barrier to help prevent moisture loss.)

Scroll through the gallery above for the best products to help both dry and dehydrated skin. 



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