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."




Definitely made the mistake of trying to control oil by stripping for many years. I've been using the COSRX snail mucin essence and COSRX intensive hyaluronic acid cream and my skin feels a lot better. I got some random breakouts in the process but I think it's from introducing new products and trying to repair all of the damage from many years of mistakes... Even if my skin doesn't look much better in terms of breakouts, it definitely feels soooo much better and I think thats progress.


Oh wow, based on the size of the pores on my nose, I would have thought I have oily skin, but according to the perpetual tiny wrinkles under my eyes and my tendency to over exfoliate, I have dry skin. I should really reconsider my product choices.


You're a lifesaver. I used to have oily skin and acne so I ever fought the acne and I ended up with a sensitive skin. I'll definitely reconsider after your article.


Dehydrated and combination skin😐


Hahaha love the gifs!! Great info!


This site is worth more than any product I could purchase. The practical knowledge gained from reading the articles is skin changing! Now I'm off to use a snail mucin sheet mask!


Since I began to worry about the care of my skin I investigated and asked for advice believing that my skin was dry when in fact it was mixed dehydrated and this post has helped me a lot because once again it corroborates what is true about me, because in my country Mexico in which it is more customary to drink soda than water and if we add to that my bad nutrition, luckily now I am waiting for my products and I try to pamper my skin with the care it needs and of course a trip to the... Read more


I have a bit dry, a bit dehydrated and a bit sensitive skin. I've been using the COSRX Snail 96 and a hyaluronic cream (but not everyday) and I'm waiting for my SanDaWha Camellia Oil and the Klairs Supple Toner to arrive. I hope they help me.


I hope you're enjoying your Klairs toner! It was the my first K-beauty purchase and it has a good rep for a reason. 😊


Learning that my skin was oily but dehydrated was the thing that completely changed my entire outlook on my skincare routine. I spent so long completely stripping it in an attempt to "control my oils" when what I really needed was a few layers of a hydrating toner like the Klairs Supple Preparation Toner underneath my moisturizer.


I think I'm in the same boat. Oily but dehydrated due to the climate I live in :/ Hard to stay hydrated when it's 120 degrees outside :( But now I know that I need a better toner and maybe an emulsion instead of heavy creams to fight the dehydration.

Ruth Kim

I definitely have dry skin, which sometimes can get dehydrated. The SanDaWha Camellia Facial Oil is my absolute FAVORITE to layer on after my emulsion step and before my final cream step. It feels lightweight, sinks in really quickly, and gives my skin a really beautiful and subtle glow.


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