Discover beauty through professional reviews

NOW READING How to Tell Whether You Have Dry Skin or Dehydrated Skin — And Why It Matters
February 21, 2018

How to Tell Whether You Have Dry Skin or Dehydrated Skin — And Why It Matters

Not all tight, flaky skin is created equal. You may think you have dry skin, but you may actually have dehydrated skin. What’s the difference? Only the difference between oil and water, between glowing and dull. Read on to see whether you’ve been treating your skin for the right condition.


Not sure what the difference between dry and dehydrated skin is? Don’t worry, it’s really not that complicated, but here’s why it matters to know the difference.


dehydrated skin


Dry skin


Woe to those of us with dry skin. Our skin is protected in part by the very thing our oily-skinned brothers and sisters do battle with every day: sebum. Sebum is made by our sebaceous glands. Professor Wikipedia explains it best:


“Sebaceous glands secrete the oily, waxy substance called sebum (Latin: fat, tallow) that is made of triglycerides, wax esters, squalene, and metabolites of fat-producing cells. Sebum waterproofs and lubricates the skin and hair of mammals.”


Us poor dry saps have wimpy, lazy sebaceous glands that don’t want to put in work. As a result our skin lacks the oils that make it supple. Also as a result, we envy you oilier skinned people who age like fine wine while we’re over here lookin’ like a wild mummy.


A major sign of dry skin is a tight, sometimes painfully tight feeling after washing your face if you don’t immediately start moisturizing. Pores also tend to be smaller and less visible as those bummy sebaceous glands aren’t doing their job and are pretty much closed for business. Another sad sign is a dulled complexion that lacks any of the radiance you see in plump skin.


Dehydrated skin


Think of dehydrated fruit and beef jerky. How are they made? Simple! Removing the water content from the product. It’s great for making a non-perishable snack and really crappy for making beautiful skin.


dehydrated skin


He’s not wrong. Listen to Zoolander: We need to push the hydration of our skin in order for it to look its best! Dehydrated skin lacks water, and one of the telltale signs of dehydrated skin are fine lines that disappear with proper hydration. Dehydrated skin can also be more sensitive than usual since the moisture barrier has been compromised, so acne and irritation usually go hand in hand with dehydration.


So what does this all mean? Can you have dehydrated skin that’s not dry? Yeeerrrrp! You can even have oily skin and be dehydrated! Usually that happens as a result of trying to fight those pesky overactive sebum glands. By trying to dry them out, you end up dehydrating your skin. That’s why it’s very important for oily skin to still moisturize!


Here’s the bad news for dry skin: You can also have dehydrated skin, and you’ve got none of that precious sebum to help you out, so you have to do double duty and make sure you hydrate and lube up.


Dry vs. dehydrated: How can I fix it?


So you’ve determined what the problem is — now let’s solve it.


For dehydrated skin, you’ve got a wealth of options within K-beauty. In fact, one of the main things I really love about K-beauty is its dedication to hydration. They know that a beautiful complexion comes from that plump chok chok skin. Hyaluronic acid is one of the best ways to achieve this, as it has the capability of attracting and holding a crazy amount of moisture. Graymelin makes a 100% Hyaluronic Acid essence that you can add to your routine that will make dramatic improvements to your hydration game. I’m also a fan of the Huxley Grab Water Essence for light but serious hydration.


dehydrated skin


Anything with snail is also a wonderful hydrator that gets the job done (ironically) quickly and without feeling slimy. COSRX Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence will get your skin on track with its 96% snail goodness and crazy affordable price point.


For dry skin, it’s as simple as adding oil to the equation, and that’s another thing K-beauty does oh-so well. Olivarrier Squalane Fluid Oil gets right to the heart of the matter and provides some of that precious squalane you’re missing but does so with plant-derived sources as opposed to animal. Your skin will drink this stuff up within seconds, and you’ll feel like you can smile again without cracking.


SanDaWha Extra Virgin Camellia Face Oil will hook you up with one of my favs, camellia, and set your skin on the path to glowing radiance. It will knock out that dry dullness with its rich oil and give real suppleness that’ll make you tag your selfies with #blessed.


Swanicoco gets it done with simplicity with their Organic Jojoba Pure Oil. It contains pure Simmondsia chinensis seed oil, which has been shown to enhance skin’s restorative properties.


What if I’m dry AND dehydrated?


dehydrated skin


Chill! There’s still hope! All you’ve got to do is use the products for both the dry and the dehydrated skin, and then seal that goodness in with a barrier cream. Start with the hydration, add some oil, then top it all off with a generous application of cream. It’s going to act as a sealant (kind of like the waxy sebum you’re missing is supposed to) and keep all the precious goodness you’ve added to your skin in there.


There’s a cream that’s so perfect for this job it’s even in the name: the much loved Goodal Barrier Cream. It does exactly what it says it does and creates a barrier that ensures that precious moisture we’ve put back in our skin ain’t gettin’ out through the course of your day (or night).


So there we have it! Simple explanations and simple solutions. If only the rest of life was so easy!


Do you have dry skin or dehydrated skin? Or do you have both? What do you like to use to treat your dry skin or dehydrated skin?



Coco Park is an author, beauty journalist, blogger, podcast host, and all around oddball living in Montreal Quebec with her family. Originally from the southern USA, she worked for several years in the makeup industry as a professional makeup artist and holds a certificate in esthetics. She is a proud member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Want to know more? Check her out on the Beauty Beyond Basics podcast, on her blog, on Instagram @thebeautywolf, and in her book "Korean Beauty Secrets: A Practical Guide to Cutting-Edge Skincare & Makeup."



Love the way Coco lays out the difference between dry and dehydrated skin in such a simple, straightforward (and slightly sassy) way. It really helps to narrow down the product choices to target exactly what your skin is thirsty for.


Loved this article! Huge help! Thanks 🙂

Coco is the best! She's one of the people who helped me fall in love with SanDaWha (and K-beauty). I use the Liposome and Camellia products since my skin ranges from normal to dry. If you haven't tried them yet, check out the sample page. It's a great brand.

For the longest time I had no idea what my skin type was or how to take care of it properly, I wish I had this article when I started learning about skincare. I live in the hot dry desert of Arizona and also had no idea how that could play into my skin. For a while I thought I had normal to oily skin because my t-zone would get oily through out the day, this was when I did not do anything to my skin. Then when I started to take care of it I realized I am in... Read more

Great article! When I moved to the desert in Las Vegas from New York I left a humid summer climate to a dry heat climate. I prefer the drier heat even though it is much hotter. Its important not to jump to conclusions so easily though and take an account of all the factors that may be affecting your skin. Treating dehydrated skin/body is much different than treating a dry complexion.

I love this article! I spent years thinking I had dry skin. I would never use foundations that were matte, or even a natural finish because I thought they made me look more dry. Only to find out that my skin issues were due to an improper skin care routine. I would exfoliate almost every day and my skin just got worse and worse. Now that I am gentle with my skin, and using nourishing products my skin is very happy. I can wear any foundation I want now and not look dry!

This is a great article on explaining the difference of dry skin and dehydrated skin. Really good read and so important to know the differences. Stay hydrated and Drink Your Water!

I have oily skin but sometimes I do get dry patches in my skin after washing my face and that’s why it’s important to use a moisturizer even if you have oily skin like me , the skin still needs moisture no matter if you’re oily.

There is a big difference between dry skin and dehydrated skin! So, the myth has always been that if you have oily skin to stay away from moisturizers, face oils and use harsh surfactants to eliminate the oils. WRONG! You need to do the opposite and balance your oil production. Awesome article :-)

This is a great post! I agree with and understand these points. I knew that I didn’t need to eliminate my oily condition when I was young, however, I have discovered in my older years that I am still oily with dry skin.
Thanks 😊

I try to stress to my clients the difference between moisturizing and hydrating. I often find those just needing hydration (usually my teen clients or those with adult acne) are slathering on moisturizers. While that is fabulous, I always make sure they are using a lightweight moisturizer formula preferably water based (helps avoid additional oils to an already oil protected face) and include a hydrating serum. Hyaluronic acid anyone?