• Home
  • Guide
  • Yep, Your Skin Is Probably Dehydrated

Yep, Your Skin Is Probably Dehydrated


Trust me, I'm a licensed aesthetician. And nearly every facial I've given has proved that dehydrated skin happens to most of us. Any questions?

But I have oily skin! It doesn’t seem dehydrated.

Dehydrated skin is a condition, not a skin type. That means you can have oily, dry, or combo skin your whole life, and your skin can still be temporarily dehydrated.

So I get that, but what does it mean to have dehydrated skin?

Simply put, dehydrated skin lacks water. This is different from dry skin, (remember, a skin type), which is defined by a lack of oil. And that’s also how oily skin can be defined as dehydrated as well—it can have plenty of oil (too much in fact, it is oily after all), but still lack an adequate amount of water.

How can I tell if it’s dehydrated?

For one, there are the symptoms: tightness and sensitivity. But since those can be associated with dry skin as well, you’ll need to investigate a little further. Grab a magnifying mirror and pinch your forehead very gently, using your pointer and middle fingers. Do you notice a shiny, crinkly effect, like a layer of Saran wrap on your skin? That’s the sign your skin isn’t dry, it’s dehydrated. If you’re not sure, do the process on another section of the face and compare—usually dehydration is most visible on the forehead, while areas like the cheeks retain moisture a bit better.

I see it! My skin’s dehydrated! What can I do to fix it?

Keeping your body hydrated with lots of water is always a good place to start. If you drink a cup of coffee (good for energy but terrible for hydration), drink a cup of water to balance it out. The same goes for alcoholic drinks.

In terms of topicals, start incorporating a serum or moisturizer rich in water-soluble humectants—hyaluronic acid, aloe, or glycerin (try this guy from Pestle & Mortar). Your skin may feel more hydrated after a good oil press-pat, but you’ll need one of the humectants to actually add moisture. Be wary of products with denatured alcohol, alcohol SD or ethanol (they’re different names for the same thing) as an active ingredient. This type of alcohol dries out the skin and any moisture along with it, and it’s hiding in more products than you may think—always check labels.

But… I already use a hyaluronic acid serum!

That’s a good step, and proper application should diminish dehydration over time. But if you aren’t using it correctly in your routine, it won’t do much to actually solve the problem. The great benefit of hyaluronic acid is that it holds several times its weight in water—but for it to do that, you need to give it some water to hang onto. Before applying HA, make sure your skin is slightly damp or freshly misted. Because water evaporates quickly, follow the serum with something occlusive, like a moisturizer or an oil, to create a seal. If you’re not sealing in that moisture, it will dry up, too. If you don’t want the extra step of serum plus oil, opt for a gel moisturizer—these guys mix water-loving ingredients like HA with mild occlusive ingredients, so you get the whole package. Both dry and oily skin can benefit from a hydrating gel moisturizer in the summer, but oily skin will love the way it feels light on skin all year round.

Is there anything else I should know?

Most people are dehydrated, especially coming out of winter. If you notice you are, it’s nothing to freak out over—it doesn’t mean that you should throw out the routine that’s otherwise been working for you, or that you’ve been wrong about your skin type all along. It’s not like adding another zodiac to the wheel. It might even go away on its own, once summer comes around. If it doesn’t, luckily, hydrating ingredients are in a lot of products, at every price point. You’re doing great! I think you deserve a tall glass of water for that.

—Ali Oshinsky

Photo via ITG