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Dry vs Dehydrated skin - what's the difference, and how do you help your skin

When your skin feels just plain dry why on earth do you need to know it is ‘just’ dry or is it dehydrated – surely it’s the same thing right? Well, no, they’re two completely different skin concerns and if you want your bouncy, glowy, happy skin back, you need to know the difference.

Keep reading to know the difference between the two, the potential causes, and how to treat the skin. So next time you’re looking in the mirror wondering what happened overnight you’ll know what your skin is telling you and how to help it.

What is the difference between dry and dehydrated skin?

Dry and dehydrated skin are used just as interchangeably as tea and dinner and so you’d be forgiven for thinking they mean the same thing. However, they mean vastly different things.

Dry skin is a skin type affecting your whole body where your skin is lacking oil. It’s important to note that you will have been born this way.

Dehydrated skin is a skin condition that anyone can experience at any time. Your skin is lacking water caused by many factors such as sun, pollution, makeup, diet, incorrect product use, weather etc.

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

- Dr Haus, a dermatologist from Harley St, London

What Is Dry Skin?

You will know if you have dry skin. As suffer myself, usually the first sign your skin gives you is upon applying any creams/moisturisers/lotions, your skin immediately screams ‘THANK YOU’ and soaks them up in a flash, leaving you needing to apply another layer.

The other big giveaway is how your skin feels and looks. Michaella Bolder, the facial expert for L’Oréal Paris, explains “Dry skin occurs deep between the layers of your skin but causes dry, flaky skin cells to appear on the surface, making skin appear rough, cracked and a little bit leathery. It lacks suppleness and elasticity, which leads to wrinkles.”

How Do I Treat Dry Skin?

So, you’ve scanned over the above skin characteristics and think dry skin is you, what can you do to help elevate your symptoms. I say elevate because there is no cure, this is how your skin structure is made up. But there are ways to get your skin back its bouncy, glowy, happy self.

  • Avoid foaming cleansers, these will likely strip the skin of precious oils. Instead use an oil-based cleanser to inject moisture as it cleanses.

  • Look for skincare products packed with skin-soothing ingredients

    • Emollients to prevent moisture loss, such as fragrance-free plant oils, fatty alcohol, petrolatum, glycerine, triglyceride, and fatty acids such as linoleic acid

    • Cell-regenerative ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate, cholesterol and ceramides, to support and protect your skin barrier.

    • Antioxidants in cream or serum form to protect your skin from free radicals and the environment.

Vibrant Skin’s Time Repair serum incorporates avocado and evening primrose oils which work to deeply nourish your skin, along with marine collagen derived from seaweed which is the perfect ingredient to regenerate skin texture giving you back healthier, smoother, moisturised skin.

What Is Dehydrated Skin?

A skin condition that predominantly affects the face rather than other areas of the body, although it can affect all parts of the body. When skin is dehydrated, it will take water from anywhere it can find it including your make-up! If you’ve found your make-up disappearing not long after you’ve applied it, this may be why.

Once your skin can no longer find water from other sources, your sebum production will go into overdrive giving you that unwanted excess oil - a perfect storm for milia, clogged pores, and breakouts along with irritation, itchy skin, and dry patches. REMEMBER, skin can even feel oily and dry at the same time.

If you think your skin is struggling with dehydration, expect your face will feel tight, rough, and a little sensitive.

"Dehydrated skin looks flat due to surface cell deflation, and it shows a network of tiny, triangular fine lines"

- Michaella Bolder

Why do I have Dehydrated skin?

There is a myriad of reasons why your skin may be experiencing dehydration, from sun and pollution to your diet.

According to Dr Philippa Lowe, MB, ChB, LLB – Dermatologist at Cranley Clinic, London, "skin dehydration can be caused by anything that damages the skin barrier, such as changes in temperature, harsh weather, stress, sun damage and lack of sleep.". Meaning, you need to be careful with your skincare routine, so you don’t upset your skin barrier (we explain more below).

Typical reasons for developing dehydrated skin:

  • The Sun – 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.

  • Hard water, hot showers, and baths – I’m the first to admit that I LOVE a hot bath with some aromatherapy oils to help me de-stress at the end of the day. If you’re the same, it’s important to know that hot showers and baths can make the skin more dehydrated, and if you live in a hard water area it’s a double hit to your skin. Hard water contains limestone, which can remove water from the skin. Try to keep your bath and shower relatively short, and always apply body oil to your skin after to lock in and give your skin extra hydration.

  • Ageing – While our bodies naturally age, the structural changes associated with this process slows-down cell turnover which causes dehydration.

  • Air-conditioning and central heating – Both are extremes of the other and can be damaging to your skin’s hydration/water levels.

  • The wrong skincare for your skin – We say this all the time, but listen to your skin, especially when using anything potent like actives and exfoliants. If you’re using products that are too harsh, too potent, not in the right order for your skin, and/or you’re using them infrequently, your skincare routine could be gradually damaging your skin barrier, meaning it cannot maintain moisture levels adequately.

How do I treat Dehydrated?

There may be a lot of reasons for developing dehydrated skin, but there are several steps you can take to help this skin condition and bring your skin back to life.

  • Cleansers

Look for gentle yet effective cleansers that include hydrating, soothing, and repairing ingredients.

  • Exfoliants

Never use harsh scrubs with coarse, abrasive particles – these cause micro-tears in your skin, opening your skin up to infection and irritation. Try using chemical exfoliants (AHA/BHAs/Salicylic acid) that has been proven to gently remove dead skin cells without damaging the skin barrier.

❗AHA/BHAs/Salicylic acid – use as your skin needs, overuse can cause irritation.

  • Serums

Its well-documented that serums containing hyaluronic acid and collagen, as well as water-based face mists to replenish moisture reserves and give skin its bounce back.

Including vitamin C in your morning skincare routine will help to strengthen the skin against environmental aggressors that can sap moisture from the skin, whilst helping to reduce the appearance of visible signs of photodamage such as fine lines and wrinkles.

Vibrant Skins Energising Vitamin serum combines several serums in one. A sophisticated combination of vitamins and non-fragrant essential oils that will strengthen, hydrate, and soothe your skin.

For the face, I prefer serums, as they penetrate the skin more deeply and quickly.”

Dr Haus, dermatology clinic - Harley Street, London

  • Moisturisers

Think water, water, and more water. Focus water-rich products that are light in texture and are packed full of hydrating ingredients.

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

- Dr Haus, dermatology clinic - Harley Street, London

Vibrant Skin’s Hydra B5 & Hyaluronic Acid serum contains fragmented (a fancy term for “low molecular weight”) hyaluronic acid to help infuse the skin with water and retain moisture for long-lasting hydration. Our serum is also packed full of fruit extracts - grapefruit, raspberry, and cranberry fruit extracts to supercharge the benefits and has a fresh and non-greasy gel texture that is easily absorbed.

If you’re after some extra lifestyle tips, we’ve got you covered.

  • Always use sun protection – even in winter

  • Avoid alcohol

  • Avoid smoking

  • Eat a balanced diet i.e., water-rich foods such as cucumber, lettuce, avocado, broccoli, and watermelon

  • Drink plenty of water to hydrate from within

Pro Tip: If you have both dehydrated/oily and dry skin, include oil and water in your routine. Oil-based skincare products will ‘moisturise’ the skin while water-based skincare products will hydrate the skin.


No matter what your skin is going through there are always ways to help it recover. The first step is to find out what your skin is doing (is it dry or dehydrated) and why, only then can you give it what it needs to repair.

Dermatologists agree that if you want to pack your skin with everything it needs to be healthy, you need serums. Dr Haus says, “For the face, I prefer serums, as they penetrate the skin more deeply and quickly.

If you’re struggling to know whether your skin is dry or dehydrated let us know. We’re here to help you achieve your best skin.


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