Dry, Itchy, Sensitive & Overly Tight: Is It Dry or Dehydrated Skin?

By on October 17, 2014, in Beauty Knowledge Center, Soft Surroundings

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As the brisk cold breezes arrive, your skin may be feeling extra sensitive and dry. But is it truly dry skin or is your skin just dehydrated?

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Dry vs. Dehydrated
Well-hydrated, balanced skin has a certain radiant glow and dewy youthfulness. Skin appears brighter, more firm and less lined. But what if your skin is feeling more parched than perfect lately? Dry skin is common when the weather cools, the humidity drops and the moisture-sapping heater kicks on, but how do you know if you have classically dry skin or just a short-lived bout of dehydration? The answer lies in what’s causing the dryness.

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Dry Skin
True dry skin is a skin type often caused by genetic influences, not just a temporary issue. Dry skin usually feels taut and flaky, no matter the season. Dry skin has a different structure with smaller oil-producing sebaceous glands and fewer moisture-binding, protective lipids. As we age, once-balanced skin (and hair) can become dry due to a drop in sebum production, your body’s own natural hydrating oil. Hormonal fluctuations and thyroid imbalances can also cause a dry skin change.

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Dehydrated Skin
All skin types can suffer from dehydration. Yes, even oily skin can grapple with periods of dehydration. Usually more fleeting, dehydrated skin is an easily treatable condition influenced by environmental factors like sun and wind exposure, indoor heating and cooling, smoking, certain medications and insufficient water intake.

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Treating Dry Skin
Because dry skin doesn’t produce enough moisturizing oils, it’s important to find highly-emollient products to fortify your skin’s oil reserves and plump up the volume on your natural moisture barrier. Look for heavier creams with an oil base like Jojoba, Coconut or Sesame or even Shea Butter for rich hydration. Humectants like lipids, ceramides and Hyaluronic Acid are also great to bolster the protective shield on skin and seal in the moisture.

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Restoring Dehydrated Skin
For dehydrated skin, the focus is less on oils and more on restoring hydration, preferably with water-based lotions. Humectants are also good for dehydrated skin because they attract moisture from the atmosphere without breakout-causing oil. Look for non-comedogenic lotions with Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid or Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs). AHAs are great because they not only lock in moisture, but they also slough away skin-dulling debris that can clog pores.

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Beneficial for Both
Some lifestyle changes can ease the dry times and help transform your skin into beautiful and glowing, whether it’s dry or dehydrated. Sleeping with a humidifier is a wonderfully easy way to boost your moisture and wake looking more refreshed. Keep your shower short and sweet and dial down the heat so you don’t impede your moisture mission. Immediately moisturize while your skin is still damp.

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Internal Hydration
Drinking your 8 a day, eight 8 oz. glasses of water, is more crucial than ever. That glass of H2O hydrates every cell in your body, including your skin, improving the tone and elasticity. Slip a sunny slice of lemon in your water for better digestion and detox. Add water-rich fruits and vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, apples, oranges, melons and berries. The bonus is that many of these are antioxidants that help neutralize free radical damage. Omega-3 rich fish and nuts like salmon, mackerel, tuna, flaxseed and walnuts help support your body’s natural oil production, boosting elasticity and clarity.

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What to Avoid
Not all liquids are created equal. Caffeine-laden drinks and alcoholic cocktails are fine in moderation, but can sap your skin’s moisture. And when washing your skin, be sure to use gentle, non-foaming cleansers so you don’t strip away your natural hydration. Protecting your skin from Mother Nature is also important. Sunscreen is vital, no matter what the season is. As the chill sets in, why not go undercover with a chic hat, scarf and gloves? Your skin will thank you for it.

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  • Beth

    I have chronic dry skin and a doctor put me on a thick cream moisturizer for my skin. I have found no improvement and this article is giving me great advice. I am going to switch to a lighter moisturizer along with the humidifier. Since I have had dry skin for decades this may be what has been missing.

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