Is My Skin Dry or Dehydrated And How Can I Tell?

By Minji

  • Dry skin is a skin type you are born with and relates to oil
  • Dehydration on the other hand is not a skin type, but something that can happen to your skin if your skin lacks water
  • It's critical to spot the subtle signs of dehydrated skin - learn how!

Knowing the importance of well-hydrated skin and moisturizing (I call it the holy grail!), I’m constantly wondering whether my skin might be dehydrated.  It’s not that my skin feels itchy or tight, but as a woman obsessed with skincare, I’m looking out for micro-signs too.  I want to make sure I understand even the most subtle signs of dehydrated skin and can get ahead of it.

First things first, I know it can be confusing, so let’s tackle the issue of dry versus dehydrated skin.  Dry skin is a skin type you are born with (although it can change as you go through life).  The simplest way to think about it is that your skin doesn’t produce enough oils naturally so your skin feels dry. 

Symptoms can be itchiness, tightness, flaking and you might even experience issues like eczema. The best way to take care of dry skin is to use rich moisturizers and face oils to add oil to your skin. Unless your skin type is dry, this might never be an issue for you.

Dehydration on the other hand is not a skin type, but something that can happen to your skin if your skin lacks water.  Similar to a breakout, it’s not something you were born with, but due to factors in your skincare routine, environment or lifestyle in general, you can suffer from this condition at times. 

It also has less to do with oil and is more related to water – it means your skin lacks water.  It could be the result of you not drinking enough water, maybe even drinking too many beverages that steal away your water like wine or coffee, or not moisturizing properly.  Unlike dry skin, dehydrated skin can happen to anyone.

Some people think the only way to treat dehydrated skin is through more water, but it can also be meaningful to incorporate in some oil-based products, so that once the water is added to your skin, you lock it in through richer products that can add to the protective barrier on your skin. The complicated thing about this is that when skin becomes dehydrated, it creates more oil to compensate for the lack of water often resulting in breakouts. 

Have you ever experienced skin feeling oily and dry at the same time?  If so, this could be the reason.  Like all skincare issues, it’s important to get ahead of problems and any vicious cycles, so focus on preventing dehydration before it causes complications. 

The obvious signs of skin dehydration can be similar to the signs of dry skin – itchiness, tightness, etc. However, there are more subtle signs to look out for.  When you look closely into the mirror, does your skin look dull or sunken?  Do the fine lines in your face stand out more than usual? Once in a while I’ll notice this, for me, especially in my eye skin area and I’ll reexamine my skincare habits. 

Well-hydrated skin, like any other skincare issue, starts from the inside out, so I’ll first make sure to check my water consumption, eating habits and other environmental factors. Have I been drinking 8-9 cups of water a day?  Have I been drinking too much coffee and not eating well?  Should I be using a humidifier?

Then I’ll take some time to examine my specific skincare steps.  Really here, the key is to make sure you’re adding enough water to your skin, then locking it in properly.  So make sure you apply your products to an already moist face - even hyaluronic acid can’t work it’s magic if there’s no water on your face to hang onto! 

After a shower or washing your face, make sure you apply your skincare products in less than a minute so you’re locking in the moisture.  Also, always pat dry with a towel lightly instead of drying off all that good hydration.  On the “locking-in” part, as discussed above, consider using richer moisturizers or a face oil

Lastly, whenever you need an extra boost of hydration, nothing woks better than a maskitation session. Our Soffli Detox + Hydrate Facial Sheet Masks were specially formulated to not dry out the entire time you have it on to deliver a surge of hydration to your face. If you notice slight foaming or stickiness, know that this is normal and due to the high concentration of hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, both amazing skincare ingredients known to brighten, hydrate and moisturize your skin.        

Dr. Yoon adds, "although often overlooked, in the dry winter months, using a humidifier can be critical to dehydrated skin. Adding moisture to your environment through a humidifier prevents excess moisture from your skin evaporating into the air. In addition, humidifiers keep mucous membranes from drying out during sleep, so it has the double benefit of helping to prevent against colds and even Coronavirus infections."

I know this sounds a bit obsessive, but every morning before I start my skincare steps, I’ll peer closely into the mirror looking for even the smallest signs of dehydrated skin and adjust my skincare routine or other habits accordingly.  Try taking a look yourself – your skin might desperately be asking for another sip of good old water!