Featured Question: Dry Skin vs. Dehydrated Skin

Source: flickr.com user Tasayu Tasnaphun
Source: flickr.com user Tasayu Tasnaphun

You ask, we answer! This question comes from our Atopalm Facebook page, and is the third installment in our Featured Question series. (Read our other Featured Questions for more great info.) If you have a skin care question, be sure to leave a comment here, or Like our Facebook page to ask there. Your question could be featured in a future post!

Our latest question comes from Michelle. She asks, “How can you tell the difference in dry skin and dehydrated skin? It was suggested that the sensitivity I am experiencing might not be dry skin after all, but actually dehydration. What’s the difference, and how do you help treat it? Thanks!”

What a fantastic question! Many people don’t realize that there’s a difference between dry and dehydrated skin, but they are actually very different skin states. To explain how they’re different, and how to treat them, here’s a brief refresher on the structure of the skin.

The skin is made up of many layers of water-based cells. The top layer, call the stratum corneum, is responsible for protecting the lower layers of the skin. One of the ways it is able to protect is by using sebum (oil) and lipids to create a barrier that both protects against excessive moisture loss while attracting hydration to the skin. If the stratum corneum becomes damaged, however, then lipid production is altered and the skin is left vulnerable to attacks and imbalances.

Dry skin is a skin type that is caused by a lack of skin lipids and sebum. Generally, those with dry skin have small or under-active sebaceous glands that simply don’t supply the skin with enough sebum to keep it feeling supple and comfortably moisturized. Other causes of dry skin include an under-active thyroid, hormonal imbalance, or even dehydrated skin that has gone untreated. Dry skin may also be simply caused by genetics, age, or long-term damage to the skin.

Dehydrated skin, on the other hand, is a skin condition that is easily treated and prevented. While dry skin, being a skin type, can never fully be treated, dehydrated skin can be restored to its natural state. Dehydrated skin is caused by external aggressors, including extreme weather conditions, excessive exfoliation, harsh soaps, sub par skin care products, or a lack of water consumption. Dehydrated skin is exactly what it sounds like – skin that doesn’t have sufficient water content.

The symptoms of hydrated skin are similar to those of dry skin, which is why it’s so difficult to determine which you’re suffering from. Dry skin feels tight, scaly, itchy, and sensitive, and has lost the suppleness and luminosity of youthful, properly functioning skin. Dehydrated skin also feels tight, less supple, and itchy, but may not be as sensitive as true dry skin types.

Treating dry and dehydrated skin

The reason it’s so important to determine whether or skin is dry or dehydrated is that treatment differs based on the answer. If you are unable to figure out whether or skin is dry or dehydrated, you should visit your dermatologist to discuss your symptoms.

If you’re treating dry skin, you’re working toward the goal of minimizing discomfort and restoring healthy function to your skin. In order to achieve this, you’ll need to use skin care products that are able to restore your skin’s protective lipid layer. Atopalm is one of the few skin care lines on the market that is actually able to restore the skin’s barrier. It does this with MLE, an ingredient that perfectly mimics what the skin’s natural lipid layer is supposed to look like. Once the lipid layer is restored, the skin begins to function like healthy skin again, preventing moisture loss and locking in hydration.

In addition to proper dry skin care products, you’ll also want to avoid harsh skin care, as well as very hot water. Always bathe in tepid water and pat your skin dry instead of rubbing it. It’s also important to wash your skin with cool water and a mild cleanser for dry skin at night instead of in the morning, as this allows your skin to replenish its natural oils overnight to protect over the next day.

If you’re treating dehydrated skin, the focus should be on restoring water to the cells. This can be accomplished both topically and internally. First and foremost, up your daily water intake to at least 64 ounces per day, if not more. Additionally, focus on eating lots of fruits and vegetables, which contain high levels of water, as well as antioxidants which protect the body and skin against damage. Aside from dietary changes, also be sure to bathe in tepid water instead of hot water, and try sleeping with a humidifier in your room.

These lifestyle alterations should go a long way toward healing your dehydrated skin, but in the meantime you’ll want to control symptoms like tightness and itching. Eradicating these symptoms is as simple as using a dry skin care routine until your skin returns to its normal healthy state. Utilizing Atopalm during this time will help by reinforcing the skin’s protective barrier, which will prevent your skin’s new hydration levels from dissipating. You may find that you only need dry skin products until your skin is healed, or you may continue to use them to further protect, moisturize, and soothe skin.

Hopefully this glimpse at the difference between dry and dehydrated skin has helped you better understand your skin and how to treat it!

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