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difference between dry and dehydrated skin

The Difference Between Dry & Dehydrated Skin

Dermatologist Dr Ariel Haus explains the difference between dry and dehydrated skin, and what you can do about them.
10 Aug 2020

At first glance, ‘dry’ and ‘dehydrated’ seem like two words to describe the same thing. But when it comes to skincare, they are completely different concerns with different underlying causes. We spoke to dermatologist Dr Ariel Haus about how dehydrated skin is different from dryness, and what you can do to care for it.

What’s the difference between dry and dehydrated skin?

Dry skin is a skin type, but dehydrated skin is a condition anyone can experience. “Dry skin has a lack of oil, or lipids. With dehydrated skin, there’s a lack of water in the stratum corneum, which is the top layer of the skin.”

“You don’t need to have dry skin to have dehydrated skin. Oily and combination skin can be dehydrated as well,” says Dr Haus.

So how do you tell which one you have? Here’s a quick run-down of the key characteristics:


  • Feels rough
  • Appears dry
  • Can be flaky


  • Looks dull
  • Feels tight
  • Feels rough
  • Is sensitive
  • Shows fine lines
  • Shows accelerated signs of ageing, like sagging skin and deep wrinkles

What’s the difference between dry and dehydrated skin?


You may have thought wind, rain and cold were the major causes of dehydrated skin when it comes to weather, but in fact UVA in sunlight is the one to watch.
“The sun can make the skin dehydrated,” says Dr Haus. “UVA is the main factor that can affect our skin, increase the ageing process, increase oxidants in the skin, dehydrate it and increase free radicals in the cells, damaging the skin.”


“I see a lot of patients with very dry and dehydrated skin, especially in London where there’s a lot of hard water,” Dr Haus explains.
“Hard water contains limestone, which can remove water from the skin. You can have a shower every day, but make it a short shower, and stick to water that’s warm rather than hot. Hot showers and baths can make the skin more dehydrated.”


It’s a factor in many skincare issues, and dehydrated skin is no different. As your skin gets older, you may find it more difficult to keep its moisture levels high, according to Dr Haus.

“The ageing process makes our bodies more dehydrated, including the skin,” he says. “Structural changes associated with the ageing process cause more dehydration. It can create a slow-down of cell turnover.”

And when skin becomes dehydrated, it can start to look older, too. “Dehydrated skin will have a rough-feeling texture, with fine lines becoming more prominent.”


While air con and heating can make the temperature more comfortable during hot or cold weather, they could be doing more harm than good to your skin.

“Air conditioning and central heating can affect the skin’s hydration,” says Dr Haus.

If you spend a lot of time in air-conditioned rooms, or with the central heating turned up, you might find these factors are making dehydrated skin conditions and dryness feel worse.


If you’re using products that are too harsh, too light, or you’re using them infrequently, your skincare could be contributing to your dehydrated skin concerns.

“Here in the UK – especially in the winter – the environment is very cold and dry, which can aggravate dry and dehydrated skin even more,” says Dr Haus.

“It’s important to get a very good moisturiser for the body, and another separate product for the face. Avoid harsh scrubs when you cleanse your skin, too.

What should you do if you have dehydrated skin?

“It’s important to drink plenty of water,” says Dr Haus.

However, “our skin is the largest organ in our bodies, so it’s very important to use top-quality ingredients to keep your skin hydrated,” says Dr Haus. “I advise my patients to apply moisturisers or serums that contain fragmented hyaluronic acid, which is especially good for keeping water in the skin.”

What is hyaluronic acid? “Hyaluronic acid is something we all have in our bodies. It’s naturally present in all human beings, and it helps prevent the effects of ageing. In dehydrated skin, it will help retain water in the skin,” Dr Haus explains.

“I advise my patients to use hyaluronic acid either as a cream, for the face or around the eyes. There are very good creams which can keep the skin very well hydrated,” says Dr Haus. “For the face, I prefer serums, as they penetrate the skin more deeply and quickly.”

Product pick: Hydraphase Intense serum

La Roche-Posay’s Hydraphase range for sensitive and dehydrated skin, contains fragmented hyaluronic acid and La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water, which help infuse the skin with water and retain moisture for long-lasting hydration. Hydraphrase Intense Serum also contains two powerful water captors, Arginine and Serine, and has a fresh and non-greasy gel texture that is easily absorbed.

Buy Hydraphase Intense Serum online with free delivery

What else can you do?

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle alongside your skincare routine will help support plump, radiant skin and prevent issues like dehydration. Good diet, healthy habits and drinking lots of water are all ways to bring out the best in your skin.

Dr Haus’ top 5 lifestyle recommendations for dehydrated skin:

  1. Use sun protection
  2. Avoid alcohol
  3. Avoid smoking
  4. Eat a balanced diet
  5. Drink a lot of water

For a full range of skincare designed to rehydrate skin, explore the Hydraphase range.

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