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The Difference Between Dry and Dehydrated Skin

Dry and dehydrated skin - although there is a difference between the two, they are frequently linked together as one. Let's chat through the difference and how to tell which you are experiencing in your own skin journey.

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What is dry skin?

Dry skin is a skin type. Dry skin can oftentimes feel tight and look flaky, dull, and rough. Dry skin lacks oils to maintain its protective barrier, so water will easily evaporates, no matter how much hydration you put on your skin and inside of your body. It is very often combined with dehydrated skin, because a disrupted protective barrier leads to transepidermal water loss and dehydration.

How is that different from dehydrated skin?

Dehydrated skin is a skin condition that can occur on any skin type. Your skin feels tight, but might look oily, might have larger pores and has a tendency to make your makeup products "cakey" or create seperation. Dehydrated skin can be more easily hydrated with the right products.

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The biggest difference: dry skin lacks oil, dehydrated skin lacks water

A dry skin type is characterized by the chronic underproduction of sebum, which is just a fancy way of saying the skin lacks oil.

Dehydrated skin is characterized by the current lack of water in the skin. Simply put - your skin type refers to the amount of oil in your skin, while your skin condition refers to the amount of water in your skin. 

But here’s the thing - the skin’s sebum (oil) allows the skin to maintain its water — so less oil ultimately means less water. Thus, dry skin is more likely to get dehydrated.

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Why dry skin is more common in colder months

We all know that skin gets more dry (well, dehydrated) in the winter - but most people don’t fully understand why that’s the case. To put it simply, warm air is able to hold much more moisture than cold air - and the amount of moisture in the air has a direct impact on your skin - especially if you have dry skin.  

Let’s look at an example that we all can relate to. You know when you’re at the beach in the summer and just walking outside makes you immediately start to sweat? Well that’s because the hot summer air is able to hold a lot of water — so much water that it doesn’t need to steal any water from your skin. And so instead of your sweat evaporating into the air like it normally does, it just stays siting on your skin making you feel extra sweaty. 

Now let’s look at the inverse scenario. Unlike hot summer air that is full of moisture, cold winter air is lacking in moisture. It is desperate for water, so it steals it from another source — your skin. And because you have dry skin that lacks the oil necessarily to lock in your moisture, your skin’s water freely evaporates into the dry air. And just like that, your dry skin just became drier. 

What are things that are making my skin more dry?

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There are several lifestyle habits that can exacerbate dry skin, including:

1. Skipping your sunscreen: Most people with dry skin don’t associate it with skipping out on their sunscreen, but believe it or not, they are very much related. Regardless of the time of year, UV rays disrupt your moisture barrier which is responsible for maintaining your skin's hydration. So whether it’s summer or winter, rain or shine, indoors or outdoors, be sure you're applying a minimum of SPF 30 daily. 

2. Over-exfoliating: There are so many excellent benefits to exfoliating the skin such as brighter, smoother complexion and better product penetration that it can be tempting to want to exfoliate more often — but more is not always better. When you over-exfoliate, the skin becomes stripped of it's natural oils leaving it unable to keep moisture in the skin and  becoming more prone to skin irritation. Instead of exfoliating daily like you may be able to do in the warmer months, cut back to 1-2 times a week as your skin tolerates.

3. Taking long, hot showers: They may be ultra relaxing to you (especially in the winter), but they’re anything but relaxing for your skin. Hot water strips the skin of its natural oils, leaving it more susceptible to dryness and irritation. Instead of lingering in the hot shower to unwind after a long day of work, opt for a quick warm or lukewarm shower followed by relaxing under a heated blanket with a good book or your favorite playlist.

What lifestyle changes can help me to manage dry skin?

If you have dry skin and want to make some adjustments at home, the steps are simple — add water and reduce water loss. Here are a few practical ways to apply this:

1. Give your skin ceramides: Ceramides mimimic the natural oils in your skin that hold in moisture and improve your skin barrier. These are typically found in rich moisturizers, my favorite being Creme de la Blair which is packed with ceramides, soothing, hydrating, and anti-aging ingredients.

2. Keep the air moist: Putting a humidifier next to your bed is a great way to keep the air moist so its less likely to steal the water from within your skin.

3. Apply your moisturizer to damp skin: Applying moisturizer to damp skin allows more water to get pulled into the skin before getting locked in by your moisturizer.

4. Wash with lukewarm water: While hot water feels great, especially in the winter, unfortunately it strips the skin of it’s natural oils, reducing it’s ability to hold in moisture.

Products designed to target dry skin

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