What Causes Dehydrated Skin? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Oct 20, 2020Dry Skin0 comments

When you have dehydrated skin it clearly shows. Skin that lacks moisture looks parched and lackluster. Skin appears brittle from the visible rough patches and flakiness.

Dry, dehydrated skin can be a temporary condition or a lifelong concern. Dry skin can be genetically determined or a product of an increasingly stressful lifestyle coupled with continual exposure to the sun, wind, and chemicals in the environment.

It can also be caused by the use of inappropriate products on the skin: meaning it is extremely important that skincare professionals are highly trained in properly diagnosing dry, dehydrated skin for the most effective treatment and product regimen.

The terms dry skin and dehydrated skin are often used interchangeably, but technically dry skin and dehydrated skin are not the same things.

Dry skin lacks oil. It’s a skin type — meaning that your skin just isn’t genetically programmed to produce the amount of sebum it needs. Without the sebum and its lipids, the skin isn’t able to retain moisture as well as it should, nor fortify the skin’s protective barrier.

Dehydrated skin, on the other hand, occurs when your skin doesn’t have any water. It’s usually the result of external factors, says Mona Gohara, M.D., associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University. 

Unlike dry skin, which is just the result of natural dysfunction within the skin, dehydration is typically self-imposed, says Gohara. “I’ve seen so many patients who just overdo skincare products — over-exfoliating by scrubbing too hard, too frequently, which deteriorates the barrier and just leaves skin raw.” Even your lifestyle, like the weather and your diet, can limit your skin’s ability to retain water.

Even oily skin can experience dehydration. As mentioned, dehydration is a lack of water, not oil. This means sebaceous oil activity can still be normal or even overactive in dehydrated skin.



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Both dry and dehydrated skin can experience:


Irritation, inflammation, itchiness, and sensitivity

A feeling of tightness or tautness

A look or feel of roughness

Slight to severe flaking and scaling

Fine lines, severe redness, and cracks that can sometimes bleed


What Causes Dehydrated Skin? 


Intrinsic Aging


Intrinsic aging is the normal process of physical change over time that’s more about genetics than lifestyle. (Lifestyle-induced aging is known as premature or extrinsic aging.) Sebaceous gland activity tends to decrease with age and the skin’s natural hydration decline over the years. The skin’s ability to regenerate lipids comprising the protective lipid barrier layer of the Stratum Corneum also declines with age, as does blood flow to the skin, which may cause a drop in sebum production.


Weather / Environmental Elements


Prolonged exposure to the sun causes water to evaporate from the skin, which is why sunburned skin requires more moisture than unexposed areas. Cold winds, air conditioning units, forced air heating and low temperatures can also dry out the skin and contribute to premature aging.



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The trend of fat-free diets can deprive our bodies of skin-friendly Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). This deficiency can result in chronic itching, dryness, scaling, thinning, and can lead to an imbalance in prostaglandins (chemical messengers that do many things, such as control inflammation).

Excess intake of alcoholic beverages and certain medications (such as nasal decongestants) can also contribute to dry skin or dehydrated skin.

One of the biggest consequences of dry, dehydrated skin is an increase in sensitivity, as dryness and dehydration are precursors to sensitized skin. Addressing it quickly can help stave off issues of sensitization. 

However, don’t immediately gravitate towards prescribing super-emollient cleansers and creams, as emollient products could aggravate dehydrated skin that’s also classified as oily. A thorough skin analysis is your ultimate tool in the successful treatment of this challenging skin condition.



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How to Treat Dehydrated Skin? 


Just as there is a personally tailored skincare regimen to fit your needs, there are also specific lifestyle changes you can make to fix your dehydrated skin. They include abstaining from coffee and alcohol, both can dry out the skin, and eating a healthy diet rich in whole foods. And the most important is to drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated internally is essential for beautiful skin. Dr. Lancer advocates for healthy skin from a holistic approach so while you make adjustments to your lifestyle, you will also need to fine-tune your skincare routine. Here are some guidelines for getting your complexion back on track:


  1. Avoid harsh skincare products. This isn’t a time for rough exfoliating scrubs or cleansers that strip skin of moisture. Gentle products are best to help your skin look and feel hydrated and moisturized.
  2. Skip the use of exfoliating brushes or tools. While these devices are popular for removing dead skin cells, they can also exacerbate rough, red, and dry skin.
  3. Review your skincare routine. If you’ve recently added several different kinds of potent products such as retinol, acids, and vitamin C, they could be a cause of dehydration. Try decreasing the frequency of use or alternating products to see if that helps your skin get back to normal and make sure you are using them according to the directions on the label.
  4. Don’t wash your skin with hot water. Piping-hot water can make skin feel even more dehydrated. When washing your face, use lukewarm water instead.
  5. Use a hydrating moisturizer. The Method: Nourish offers powerful hydration thanks to avocado and olive fruit oils that soothe and replenish, while hyaluronic acid and peptides help skin retain moisture. Make sure to use your moisturizer day and night for around-the-clock hydration. This step will restore your skin to look smooth and glowing again.
  6. Supplement skin with antioxidants. In skincare, antioxidants help protect skin and neutralize free radicals while giving your complexion a renewed vitality, which can counteract the signs of dehydration. Dr. Lancer’s Omega Hydrating Oil is formulated with a rejuvenating blend of oils while omega fatty acids 3, 6, and 9 act as antioxidants to renew skin’s elasticity and suppleness.
  7. Always use sunscreen. Without the diligent application of sunscreen, the damaging effects of UV rays will counteract the healing action of the peptides, antioxidants, and other ingredients used in your skincare. Sheer Fluid Sun Shield offers SPF 30 coverage, as well as anti-aging ingredients such as Gamay grape stem cells plus chamomile to soothe and calm skin.


If you are ever plagued with dehydrated skin, don’t panic—just use these smart and simple skincare and lifestyle strategies to keep skin hydrated and radiant.


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