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Dry skin vs dehydrated skin…and what this means for acne.

October 20, 2014

Dry. Dehydrated. Synonyms, right? Wrong!

Dry skin and dehydrated skin are not the same thing. Although they are related, there is a difference, and knowing which you have will make soothing and nourishing your skin much easier. (And if you think dry and/or dehydrated skin is safe from breakouts… nope.)

Dry skin is a skin type, like oily or sensitive. It is hereditary, and will probably be present your whole life (or most of it) and the ageing process will exacerbate it. Those with normal skin could also end up having dry skin as they get older. Dry skin is due to under-active sebaceous glands, and like all body processes, the glands slow down further with age. Having less oil means that the skin is less able to protect itself from the environment and has less ability to retain moisture (which makes it dehydrated, but hold on we’ll get to that.) Having less oil means that there are less cells in the uppermost layer of skin, leading to more visible fine lines and making skin wrinkle easier than oilier skin. The good news is that pores on dry skin are smaller, which means less likely to get clogged and to breakout. But, this is only true for true, technically dry skin. Read on.

It is very, very important to protect dry skin with sufficient skincare products. Our Neroli Midnight Oil (which can be worn during the day as well!) and our Grapefruit Cleanse + Hydrate Balm are excellent for dry skin. See our recommended ritual for dry skin here.

Dehydrated skin is a condition, and a very common one at that. “Dehydration” is something that is done to the skin, and is not a feature of the skin itself (as “dry” is). Dehydrated skin might not necessarily lack oil, but it lacks moisture. It will feel and look dry, scaly and possibly flaky. To see if your skin is dehydrated, check your nose and forehead: does it look like an extra, super thin layer of skin is sitting on top of the rest of your skin? Dehydration.

So although dehydrated skin doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of sebum, a lack of sebum will cause dehydration as sebum helps with moisture (water) retention. Stay with me here. Oily skin can be dehydrated too, because I said, it’s caused by what’s done to the skin.  It can be caused by sweating, poor diet, skin getting beaten up by the environment (wind, cold, dry heat, etc), not using daytime protection (SPF, face oils, etc), not drinking water and getting too much sun. Oily skin also gets dehydrated by using overly harsh soaps and too much astringents, or failing to moisturise. (If you have dry skin, please don’t use soaps or anything that might dry it out further! gah! I’ve heard of and know people who do this…still…and it drives me bananas.)

But here’s the clincher for dehydrated, oily skin: When oily skin gets dehydrated, it tends to break out. 

Oily skin has larger pores and it needs to be exfoliated more as it produces more cells (and therefore needs to shed the dead ones, and not get them jammed into pores with debris and whatnot as well.) When oily skin is dehydrated, these cells harden and block oil secretion. For someone with acne, this will mean an infection, and will result in terribly painful cystic acne.

Our White Willow Bark Perfecting Tonic is ideal for oily/dehydrated skin. The willow bark helps to gently remove those old cells, the witch hazel is a very gentle, soothing astringent and the cucumber, watermelon and aloe are super nourishing and moisturising. A dab of kosher vegetable glycerine helps draw moisture from the air, and back into the skin. Oily skin, dehydrated or not, also needs appropriate daytime moisture and protection, and I cannot recommend our Cypress Purity + Defense highly enough. Read our whole ritual for oily skin here.

Bonus! Here are some tips for battling dry skin, when the weather gets extra parched.