So many years in the beauty industry and I still learn something new everyday. I have been plagued by terribly dry skin these last couple of months – so dry, in fact, that I have stopped putting on makeup as it just settles into cakey patches! And this is truly strange, since I normally have super-greasy skin. After unsuccessfully trying to do damage control with the richest moisturisers and face masks, I went to a beauty brand’s presentation today and discovered that I don’t have dry skin at all: what I have is “dehydrated” skin.
Which means, in short, my skin lacks water instead of oil. It also means I’ve been approaching the problem all wrong because dry and dehydrated complexions need completely different types of care. Let me explain… !
What is dry skin?
“Dry” is a skin type. And odd as it sounds, dry skin isn’t about a lack of moisture. Dry skin produces less natural oils (sebum in science-speak) than normal skin types. This could be part of your genetic makeup or a result of age- or hormone-related changes. Matters can be made worse with harsh cleansers, or products like mineral makeup that absorb oil.
Well, they play an essential part in maintaining skin’s moisture levels (since it’s oil that holds in moisture), while also creating a barrier against bacteria and environmental toxins. Less-than-optimum levels of natural oils can increase skin sensitivity, cause chronic inflammation and create a chain of biochemical reactions like collagen breakdown.
So, how do I recognise that my skin is dry? And not dehydrated?
Dry skin will generally have small pores and look rough or flaky. It may become more sensitive, feel tight, dull or itchy and show signs of premature ageing. Wrinkles or fine lines can look more pronounced.
And then how do I sort it out?
Think of it this way: leather is dry, so a leather sofa needs to be conditioned with oil to prevent it from drying out. If you apply water to a leather chair, it only gets drier. The same goes for skin. Since the issue with dry skin is a lack of protective oils, you need to add oil-rich creams, masques and butters. Look for formulas that contain niacinamides, ceramides, shea butter, beeswax, squalene, jojoba oil, sunflower seed oil and cetyl alcohol. Some to try: Rodin Olio Lusso Luxury Face Oil (my personal must-have!) and L’Occitane Shea Butter Ultra Rich Face Cream.
Prevention is also key for tackling dry skin, so wash with a creamy cleansing lotion and avoid using bar soap or harsh foaming cleansers. Finally, try a gentle exfoliant to remove surface flakiness and boost cell renewal.
What is dehydrated skin?
Dehydration is a skin condition, meaning it is temporary and more easily treatable than dry skin. Dehydrated skin lacks water and not oil – usually as a result of external elements, such as weather or harsh soaps.
Dehydrated skin can feel tight and flaky, and often forms fine lines easily due to the surface-cell deflation (which means they lack the moisture that normally makes the skin surface smoother). In fact, if looked at closely through a magnifying glass, dehydrated skin shows tiny triangular fine lines. Besides this, dehydrated skin usually appears dull, lackluster, sallow and “tired”, while being more prone to acne and blackheads.
So, how do I sort out dehydrated skin?
The first thing to consider is moisture content: do you drink adequate amounts of water every day? Use this water calculator to figure out exactly how much you need to be chugging.
You also want to be paying attention to what kind of ingredients are holding moisture to your skin. I’m talking humectants here, such as glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and squalene. Two to try: La Roche-Posay Toleraine Fluid and Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve Face Cream.
Finally, look at your current skincare and cut out the dehydrators, especially those containing salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil, sulphur and acne medications like Retin-A. Also substitute any harsh face wash with a non-foaming one like the Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser that doesn’t stripping off much-needed moisture. Once you have established a gentle, high-moisture regimen, give your skin at least a fortnight to heal, then gradually begin to re-introduce potential irritants – IF NECESSARY.
So, is your skin dry? Or dehydrated?