Dry Skin vs. Dehydrated Skin

Tori Douglas

Global Digital

3 min read

Skincare Education

Discover the difference between dry and dehydrated skin and how to effectively treat both.

dry skin vs dehydrated

If your skin is looking and feeling worse for wear this season—we’re talking dull, flaky, rough, the works—then there’s a good chance dryness and/or dehydration is the culprit. But how can you tell if your skin is dry, dehydrated, or both? With the help of board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick, we're sharing the tell-tale signs of both skin concerns—plus how to treat them to get a year-round glow.

What’s the difference between dry and dehydrated skin?

“While there may be some overlap in the appearance of the skin, generally, dehydrated skin lacks water, while dry skin lacks oil,” explains Dr. Garshick. “Furthermore, dry skin is typically considered a skin type, whereas dehydrated skin can be considered a conditional state of the skin.”

In other words, some people—such as those with eczema, for instance—may experience inherently drier skin that’s deficient in oil. Dehydration, however, is typically caused or exacerbated by lifestyle factors such as central air (which pulls moisture from the skin), harsh skincare products, and excessive sweating.

How can you identify dry skin?

Dry skin tends to appear flaky or scaly and is often accompanied by increased redness, sensitivity, and irritation—you know, all really fun stuff. Dr. Garshick adds that the skin typically feels tight, itchy, and raw, and it is sometimes associated with a burning sensation. It’s also worth noting that dryness is a blatant sign of a compromised skin barrier, which can occur for a well-spring of reasons, including but not limited to UV damage, over-exfoliation, exposure to extreme weather, and pollution.

What does a dehydrated face look like?

“Dehydrated skin may appear dull and result in a more noticeable appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and dark circles under the eyes due to the lack of moisture in the skin,” says Dr. Garshick. It makes sense, after all, considering that when skin is short on H20—aka dehydrated—it naturally looks less bouncy and plump, which in turn makes these things more pronounced.

To see if your skin is dehydrated, Dr. Garshick suggests this simple test: “Try pinching a small portion of your cheek; if the skin doesn’t bounce back quickly or wrinkles easily, it may be dehydrated.” Finally, skin tightness is also a common symptom of dehydration.

Can dry and dehydrated skin be treated the same way?

Great question. Dr. Garshick says that in the majority of cases, dry and dehydrated skin can be treated super similarly—by helping to boost hydration and strengthen the lipid barrier, which reduces the potential for water loss and in turn keeps your complexion glowing.

If your skin is dry, scaly, and flaking, you’ll want to incorporate a combination of humectants, emollients, and occlusives into your skincare routine ASAP to help restore hydration. A few hydrating face masks that provide all the good stuff include the Rose Deep Hydration Sleeping Mask, which floods skin with vital moisture while you snooze, and the Floral Recovery Calming Mask–an Allure 2022 Best of Beauty winner that soothes, smoothes, and cocoons dry skin.

Dr. Garshick explains that it’s also possible to have oily skin that’s dehydrated. In this case, she says it’s best to use lightweight formulas that won’t clog pores but still deliver supreme hydration, such as the Kombucha Antioxidant Facial Treatment Essence, the Rose Deep Hydration Balancing Emulsion, and the Rose Deep Hydration Oil-Infused Serum.

Quench your skin with fresh

Author Profile
blog author tori

Tori Douglas

Global Digital

Written by Tori Douglas for Fresh. Tori is a NYC-based digital and brand strategist. Tori has worked for various publications and brands such as Kiehl's, The Body Shop, Deux Hommes Magazine, and Elite Daily with her expertise lying in the fashion & beauty space.