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Is My Skin Dry Or Dehydrated?

Updated: Mar 29, 2022

Most people think that “dehydrated skin” and “dry skin” mean the same thing. It is important to know that even though these words are often used synonymously, they actually refer to two completely different things when it comes to skincare


Dehydrated skin is a treatable skin condition, whereas dry skin actually refers to a skin type, which you are born with. I like to use a different term to describe a dry skin. A dry skin can be called “alipidic”, and this is much easier to understand than “dry”, since dry can be confused with dehydration in those who don’t know the difference. Alipidic means “lacking lipids”, whereas dehydration means “lacking water”.


Lets get into more detail…


So, what exactly is dehydrated skin?


Skin dehydration is a condition where the skin lacks water, not oil. All skin types can become dehydrated at some point – even oily and combination skin types can suffer from dehydration. A dehydrated skin can be both oily and dehydrated. Due to a lack of water, there is an imbalance between the water and oil content of the skin, which makes the skin appear oilier than it actually is.


This can actually cause clients to think that they have an oily skin, when in reality, their skin just needs water. Replenishing the water levels in the skin will help balance out all the oils, preventing breakouts and congestion and that unwanted oily, shiny appearance.


Dehydration is caused by external factors, including the following:

- Climate changes (e.g. seasonal changes, wind, temperature)

- Environmental factors (e.g. sun exposure, pollution)

- Dietary factors (e.g. high caffeine or alcohol consumption)

- Lifestyle factors (e.g. stress, lack of sleep)

- Incorrect skin product usage (e.g. harsh products that damage the skin barrier).


A dehydrated skin usually feels tight, dry and sensitive and can be itchy.


A dehydrated skin can have the following visible signs:

- Dull complexion

- Uneven skin tone

- More noticeable fine lines

- Exaggerated dark circles under the eyes

- Flat, sunken appearance due to cell deflation

- Congestion and build-up of dead skin cells

- Comedones (blackheads and whiteheads)

- Slight inflammation and redness


Here is a simple test you can do to see if your skin is dehydrated:

Take a small portion of skin and pinch it lightly between your fingers. When you release and the skin remains wrinkled before returning to its original shape, you know that the skin is dehydrated and needs water.


Skin dehydration is easily treatable with lifestyle changes and a good skin care routine. Treatment of dehydrated skin should be treated from the inside out. A good place to start is on the inside – when your body is hydrated from the inside, the skin on the outside will also improve.


Avoid drinking too much caffeine and alcoholic beverages, as these can both lead to dehydration. Smoking will also exacerbate the problem and is to be avoided if you want to have a healthy skin. Regular exercise is important for lymphatic drainage and healthy blood flow, and getting in enough sleep is vital for healthy cell functioning.


Drinking plenty of water and eating water-rich foods like cucumber, celery, lettuce, watermelon and avocado will help replenish hydration and maintain the skin’s moisture levels. However, just drinking enough water will not solve the problem – your skin is one of the last organs to receive the water you drink; that’s where topical products come in, which is discussed below.

We must be careful to avoid using the wrong skincare products. Harsh products that are of an alkaline or neutral pH will disturb the skin’s natural acidic pH and can lead to dehydration and sensitivity. These products damage the skin barrier, preventing the skin from retaining moisture within the skin layers.


Also, avoid using abrasive products, and rubbing or scrubbing the skin with sponges or mittens, as this will also damage the skin barrier. Instead, opt for an enzymatic exfoliator that uses enzymes to break down dead skin cells and clean out the orifices (pores). This does not require any scrubbing or rubbing and will give you that smooth, refined texture that you desire without damaging or sensitizing the skin. Lamelle’s Correctives Cathepzyme 1 & 2 are enzymatic exfoliators that will exfoliate your skin the natural way, without disrupting the skin barrier. Regular exfoliation will also enable better absorption of your moisturisers and serums.


Look for serums and moisturisers that will restore skin pH and that contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid. Even though your skin can naturally produce its own hyaluronic acid, a serum or moisturiser containing this ingredient will give a dehydrated skin that extra boost that it needs. Hyaluronic acid applied to the skin in a serum form can bind 1000 times its own weight in water, and will instantly plump up dehydrated cells, diminishing fine lines and giving your skin a healthy appearance. Lamelle’s HA+ Serum contains four types of hyaluronic acid, ensuring deep penetration into the skin. It also prevents hyaluronic acid breakdown and stimulates your skin to make its own hyaluronic acid.


You can also apply a hydrating mask once to twice per week during winter months to ensure that your skin stays hydrated during this dry, cold season. Lamelle’s Growth Factor Mask contains growth factors (natural substances made by the skin that support cell repair), as well as hydrating and soothing ingredients that will prevent and treat dehydration.


Now, let’s have a look at an alipidic (dry) skin.

Alipidic skin is a skin type that you are born with, not a condition that comes and goes. This means that it is a more permanent problem that is more difficult to treat than a condition like dehydration. When you have an alipidic skin type, it is the skin on your whole body that is affected, not just the face.


An alipidic skin lacks sebum, which is the natural oils in your skin which are produced by the sebaceous gland within the hair follicle. If you have an alipidic skin type, your sebaceous glands do not produce enough lipids to maintain a healthy skin barrier that protects the skin and prevents the loss of moisture from the skin.


A skin that lacks lipids can be caused by underlying conditions as well, e.g. hypothyroidism and diabetes. It can also be associated with conditions like eczema and psoriasis which are medical conditions that should be treated by a dermatologist.


An alipidic skin can have the following visible signs:

- Dry, rough, cracked, scaly and leathery appearance

- Visible, small white flakes of skin

- Irritation and inflammation

- Poor elasticity with visible fine lines and wrinkles


An alipidic skin usually feels uncomfortable, irritated and can be itchy. You will constantly feel the need to apply more and more moisturiser, and no matter how much you apply, your skin will still end up feeling dry.


Your skin will need help in order for it to be healthy and function properly. Although your skin type can’t necessarily be “fixed” or changed, you can definitely improve its appearance.


Leaving an alipidic skin untreated can be detrimental. As we all know, oil lies on top of water; so if your skin’s lipid bilayer isn’t intact, all the water in the deeper skin layers will be lost much quicker than it should be. Now you not only lack lipids, but the skin will become dehydrated as well – double problems! Your lipid bilayer is also very important for protecting the skin from harmful environmental factors and micro-organisms. Without the protection of the skin barrier, the skin will lose moisture and will become sensitive and inflamed.


Usage of the right skincare products is very important in treating an alipidic skin. Foaming, soapy cleansers are to be avoided, as this will only damage an already impaired skin barrier even more. Instead, use a creamy, soap-free cleanser that will replace moisture in the skin as you cleanse, and that has anti-inflammatory ingredients that will soothe irritation


Naturally, our skin barrier is hydrolipidic film (oil and water) that consist of ceramides, triglycerides and free fatty acids. An alipidic skin needs ingredients that will nourish the skin and replace the lost lipids needed for a healthy barrier. A moisturiser that is rich in ceramides and essential fatty acids is ideal, as this will help repair the skin barrier, as well as combat sensitivity and dryness.


One of my favourite ingredients for treating sensitive, dry skin is Ceramide-P (the main ingredient in Lamelle’s Serra Range). Ceramide-P is a specially designed lipid-restoring ingredient that is 100% identical to your body’s own ceramides. This ingredient will replace the lost lipids in the skin barrier, as well as stimulate your body to produce its own natural lipids.


Other ingredients that you should look for in your products are shea butter and urea. Both of these are found in Lamelle’s Lipid Recovery Mask, which is a great mask for treating an alipidic skin.

Though treating topically with the right products will have excellent results, this skin type can also be improved internally with a healthy diet. A diet that is rich in foods containing Omega-3 essential fatty acids may help improve an alipidic skin. Since an alipidic skin lacks lipids, not water, drinking more water will not necessarily address the concern, but water is still necessary for optimal skin health.


I hope the above information has educated you and given you much-needed clarity on the difference between a “dry” and “dehydrated” skin. Being well-informed will help you understand which products and treatments your skin needs and will help you take care of your skin properly. After all, you only get one skin, and everyone sees it – so knowing how to take care of it is of utmost importance!.


Worthy Woman Skincare and Aesthetics is a proud stockist of Lamelle skincare products and supplements, and we offer only the best treatments to give your skin what it needs to look and feel its best. We can stock you with all the products mentioned in the blog and work out a treatment plan that addresses all your skin needs.


Start your skin journey with us and get the beautiful, healthy skin you want and deserve to have!


Written by Maryke le Roux (Dermal Aesthetician)

Worthy Woman Skincare & Aesthetics

066 580 7526 || 544 Lois Ave, Erasmuskloof

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