Our skin goes through changes and it can surprise you to know that you can have dehydrated skin even when you moisturize. How so? Today we are going to delve into topics that gets asked a lot - the difference between dry skin and dehydrated skin as both are seen to be lack of moisture in the skin.

We often get comments such as “I have moisturized consistently all my life, how come my skin feels dehydrated” or “What is the difference between your serums and the shea butter I use”. It gets even muddier when you find out you can have oily skin and still be dehydrated. Do you really know your skin type and are you correctly distinguishing from products that are hydrating or moisturizing. It is imperative that you know the difference so you end up choosing the right product and to ensure it functions correctly for your skin type.

So let’s start firstly summarising science of it all.

  • 60% of the human adult body is made up of water
  • The brain and heart are composed of 73% water
  • The lungs contain 83% water
  • The skin contains 64%

With the body made up of so much water, naturally, it makes sense that we need to top up with water to keep up the natural occurrence of water in our bodies. Our skin is the largest organ in our body and holds all of our bodily fluids, which prevents dehydration.

What are some of the best ways to keep up this water content? Drinking 8-10 cups of water a day is recommended. Eating nutrient-rich and water-based fruit and vegetables can also help hydrate your body. In terms of skincare, our aim is to have healthy, smooth and plump complexions and we do this by hydrating, increasing the amount of water in our skin cells to keep our bodies nourished and make sure it has all the tools it needs to fight any damage caused by dryness, skin conditions or environmental damage. This is achieved in part with products with ingredients which hold in and promote hydration.

When your skin is regularly hydrated, it keeps the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles take longer to form. In addition to younger firmer skin, your skin cells maintain their overall cellular functions when hydrated. However as the skin is the last organ to gain the benefits of hydration, we use topical ingredients that promote hydration to help maintain this function and to prevent moisture loss. These work to keep your skin stable, protected and regenerated while holding in a substantial amount of moisture and keeping your skin lively, plump, and firm.

When the skin loses water, dehydration results. Dehydrated skin needs products with humectants. These work to catch moisture from the air and saturate it through the layers of your skin.  

Examples of hydrating ingredients – humectants which help to bind and retain moisture - include hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate. These are vital, natural substances that help keep your skin hydrated and youthful-looking. Glycerin and honey are other examples. Our anti-aging serums, moisturizers, and lotions contains both sodium hyaluronate or hyaluronic acid and non-gmo vegetable glycerin to help keep your skin beautifully hydrated.

Aloe is another ingredient that promotes skin hydration. The National Centre for Biotechnology Information published a study in 2006 that measured the water content in the skin from Aloe that demonstrated the hydrating effect of aloe on the skin. After two weeks, each varying concentration of aloe vera extract was shown to increase the water content in the skin. We use aloe vera in our masks and cleansers.

We use oils that are known to lock in moisture such as Cupuaçu butter which locks 4 times its weight in water, cousin to cocoa butter has been called the lanolin of the plant world.

Dehydrated skin lacks water. The effects of dehydrated skin tend to look dull and feel tight, even when properly moisturized.

Basically, dehydrated skin needs hydration.

Dry Skin

Dry skin affects males and females equally and is a very common issue in older individuals as they are prone to having dry skin.

Let’s explain.

We have our sebaceous glands attached to our hair follicles. These glands produce “sebum,” an oily substance that helps to protect, lubricate and nourish our skin, which in turn prevents the skin from drying out and causing premature aging.

As we age, our skin tends to produce diminished amounts of natural skin oils and lubricants. This is because the glands that make oil for your skin get smaller as you age and make less.

Dry Vs Dehydrated Skin (And what to do about it)

For those with clogged pores or oily skin types, there might be an overproduction of sebum, while those with dry skin types might have a lack of it.

There are other reasons why we might have dry skin. The amount of water vapor in the surrounding air, also known as humidity, is another cause of dry skin. Medical conditions like diabetes and kidney disease can cause dry skin. Work conditions that expose you to harmful chemicals can cause dry skin. Very hot water as you take a shower or a very long bath if the products are drying. Dry skin is classified as a skin type, which means a combination of genetic, hormonal, or environmental factors has contributed to your skin’s inadequate production of natural oils.

Dry skin can flake, itchy, and cause an overall dull, rough, or lackluster appearance. Dry skin can be uncomfortable -- rough, itchy, and gray or ashy in colour. It may feel tight, especially after you shower, bathe, or swim. You may have unusual redness and lines and cracks in the skin, sometimes deep enough that they bleed. Many things can cause it, and what you can do it about it depends on what brought it on. You can usually manage dry skin with lifestyle changes, home remedies, soaps and moisturizers that contain natural oils, fruit extracts which contain vitamins such as Vitamin C, butters such as shea, mango or cocoa butter, or even beeswax found in our lip balms and massage candles to help your skin lock-in and retain moisture. Natural oils will help fight signs of aging, too.

Make sure you’re using a sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or 30 every day, too. Sun-exposed skin can easily lose moisture and make your skin appear dry, flaky, and even more wrinkled.

You can do a few things to keep your skin moist and healthy: Put moisturizer on right after you bathe. Use a humidifier when the air is dry. Wear natural fibers, such as cotton and silk, because they allow your skin to breathe. (Wool, though natural, can sometimes irritate your skin.) Use detergent that doesn't have dyes or perfumes, and cover-up when the air is dry to help your body keep moisture.

Dehydrated skin, on the other hand, is caused by a lack of water. When the water content of your skin is depleted, the results become visible in your skin, leaving it less elastic and supple.

Not oil, like dry skin.

In essence, the natural lipid barrier of our skin protects itself from damage and loss of water, but if you’re someone who suffers from dry, flaky skin, then you may need some extra reinforcements – enter moisturizers. Dry skin means your skin isn’t producing enough lipid cells on its own, so moisturizers are used to help lock in moisture. Dry skin needs oil and moisturization.

Regardless of your skin type, moisturizing is an essential part of your daily routine.

When to know the difference and the minimizing solutions.

So when, how often and how do we know which one to do and what products to use? Dehydrated skin lacks water and dry skin lacks oil. So your skin could be dehydrated, dry, or both. This is why it is important to choose the right products and know how and when to use them. Both moisturizers and hydrators work to ensure that our skin receives moisture. One works for alleviating dehydrated skin and the other works on dry skin. Identifying the difference is crucial in treating the exact issue.

Dry Vs Dehydrated Skin (And what to do about it)

Firstly, when applying products to our skin, we apply moisturizers after serums since serums contain humectants. Since the purpose of hydrating is to bind water to our skin and moisturizing is to prevent the water from leaving our skin, it’s important that hydration comes before moisturizing. Once you get that layer of hydration on, you want to seal it all in with an oil. This combination creates a healthy balance.

With dry skin, lack of moisture (lipid content) can result in rough, dry or flaky skin. If this is your skin, make sure you’re using the right moisturizing ingredients. We recommend oils because they penetrate deep into the skin and still allow the skin to breathe. We would recommend our Night Recovery Serum, Regeneration Concentrate Boost, or even Rejuvenation Boost Serum - all of which contain jojoba, perilla, moringa or chia seed oil for deep and healthy moisturization.

Oils, lotions, and creams can smooth and soften your skin, making it less likely to crack and they can ease pain and itchiness. If you have extremely dry skin, something with lactic acid or urea may work best, because they can help your skin hold water. Kaneya’s Rejuvenation Cream Masque can help balance your skin.

For those with particularly oily skin, you may or may not prefer to moisturize as often. For you, applying just a hydrating product might sometimes be enough. Your skin naturally produces enough (in some cases, more than enough) oil to keep water from leaving the skin.

There’s also nothing wrong with using both a moisturizer and a hydrator once you apply any hydrating products first, and a moisturizer after this. This routine ensures that you’re adding the necessary hydration and moisture to the skin while locking it in.

It can often be hard to tell the difference between dry or dehydrated skin, so we do encourage you to see one of our skincare professionals if your symptoms are persistent.

Final Thoughts

The next time you are browsing the online forums or the skincare aisles for your favourite products, remember that “hydrating” and “moisturizing” aren’t just marketing buzzwords that are synonyms. Dehydrated and dry skin also require different solutions. They address different concerns but are both incredibly beneficial to the overall health of your skin. While we do use hydration and moisturize to mean the same thing and use them interchangeably, they each mean something different and serve different purposes when it comes to your skin.