Skin School: How to give dehydrated skin a gorgeous glow

Tight, itchy, dull-looking skin with fine lines and dark under-eye circles? These are just some of the symptoms that come with dehydration. Here’s how to revive your parched complexion…

Dehydrated skin is exactly as it sounds – it’s skin that is lacking water, or hydration. You might be experiencing tightness, itchiness, dullness, darker under-eye circles, sunken eyes, shadows around the face, surface crepiness or exacerbated fine lines and wrinkles. 

These symptoms can occur because your skin is unable to effectively draw moisture from the air, or from within the body, which causes dehydration. There are a lot of misconceptions about dehydrated skin, which is often confused with dry skin, so let’s start with the difference between the two…

The difference between dehydrated skin and dry skin

For starters dry skin is a skin type, whereas dehydrated skin is a skin condition.

Whereas your skin type – for the most part – stays the same, your skin condition is the state of your skin at the present moment and is influenced by everything from the weather, hormones, diet and stress, to pollution and how it responds to skincare products. It can even change as you move through different phases of life. 

All skin types can experience dehydration, even oily skin types, so if you ever find yourself staring at the mirror wondering how on earth you have breakouts and dry skin at the same time, know that your oily skin is actually just dehydrated.

Why you don’t have combination skin

At KKL, we don’t view combination skin as a ‘true’ skin type as it’s usually caused by external elements, such as skincare, diet and other lifestyle factors. 

For example, when normal skin becomes dehydrated, it can over-produce oil, leading to combination skin. Similarly, when oily skin becomes dehydrated, it can cause tightness, so balancing the skin will revert your skin back to its true skin type. 

We often see clients who come to us with acne, but tell us they have dry skin, because their skin feels tight and dry with some flaking, when in actual fact, their skin is oily and dehydrated. Oily skin is prone to dehydration as sebum causes inflammation and that inflammation can cause dehydration.

Many of us, when our skin is tight and feels dry, might think, “Oh, I must have a dry skin type” and seek out rich moisturisers, oils and creams, when in actual fact…you guessed it…the skin is just dehydrated.

Those rich creams then only serve to make our dehydrated skin worse, which actually leads to more oil production. Again, in this scenario, you might assume you have combination skin. 

What our skin really needs is to be detoxed from moisturisers and stimulated in order to kickstart its natural moisturising processes to refill the reservoirs (something that moisturisers and creams suppress – read more about our no-moisturiser stance over here).

Is your skin dry or dehydrated?

If you have a ‘true; dry skin, your skin will have very fine, nearly invisible pores with no oily shine. It will be thinner, more delicate and prone to flaking and sensitivity, with a rough texture and fine lines. It’s very unlikely that you would have experienced acne in your teenage years and you will have probably experienced dry skin conditions, such as eczema or dermatitis.

Just look at the rest of your skin – your skin type doesn’t necessarily only apply to your face. If your skin has an impairment to moisturise itself, then this won’t just be localised to your face, your parents may have had to slather your body in rich emollients as a child, too.

An easy way to test if your skin is dehydrated? The pinch test. Pinch one of your cheeks – if it wrinkles on the surface when gentle pressure is applied instead of holding its shape, or essentially doesn’t bounce back after you let go, then it may be dehydrated. 

The skin is also likely to be tight, itchy and dull-looking with dark under-eye circles, sunken eyes, shadows around the face, surface crepiness and fine lines and wrinkles. 

What causes dehydrated skin?

The most common causes of dehydrated skin are intrinsic ageing, or

genetic ageing – our skin’s fibroblasts, which produce the hydrating hero hyaluronic acid, become sleepy or completely shut down, leading to a decrease in the production of collagen and elastin – the environment and weather; prolonged sun exposure, wind, air conditioning and heating. 

These factors cause water to evaporate from the skin, also known as trans epidermal water loss or TEWL, leading to an impaired protective skin barrier and dehydration. Lifestyle is also a big factor – low-fat diets, excessive alcohol intake, incorrect skincare, over-moisturising and make-up are common culprits. Certain medications can also contribute to dehydrated skin.

How to prevent and treat dehydrated skin

The use of retinoids, and certain peptides and growth factors within skincare, stimulate the skin’s fibroblasts to produce higher levels of hyaluronic acid. 

Hyaluronic acid is essential for dehydrated skin because it’s a humectant, which means it attracts and binds water within the skin providing much-needed hydration.

Hydration – not moisturisation – is key for dehydrated skin. You need products that will draw or put water back into the skin, which is why hyaluronic acid (as well as glycerin, urea and light, water-based products) are ideal. The difference between these products is that they will provide the hydration your skin needs without disrupting the skin’s natural moisturising processes.

For the skin to be awake and operating at its best, its many important processes need to be functioning optimally. When the skin’s natural hydrating factors are asleep this has a knock-on effect to other mechanisms within the skin, that not only lead to a dull and lacklustre skin, but also accelerate skin ageing.

When looking for a hyaluronic acid, not all types are created equal. Due to their water-attracting abilities, humectants can actually have a negative effect on the skin in dry weather. That’s because if there isn’t enough moisture in the atmosphere, humectants with high concentrations can actually draw moisture up from the dermis leading to deep dehydration. So it’s important to choose formulations that contain other ingredients to help counteract this. 

This is also why we don’t advise using hyaluronic acid as a stand-alone serum, as using it on its own can actually serve to pull moisture from the deeper layers of the skin if there isn’t enough in the upper layers. 

Maintaining a strong barrier function is key to preventing dehydration – we recommend exfoliating in order to enhance skin cell turnover and slough away dead skin cells. This exposes juicy new cells that are tightly glued together, giving you a strong protective barrier and a calm and smooth complexion. 

We also recommend drinking plenty of water – however, note that if you are over using moisturisers the skin won’t be able to effectively hydrate itself and won’t be stimulated to draw water up from the body as it thinks it has enough. 

Seek professional advice

Treating dehydration can be complex as there are a myriad of factors that can influence what products you should be using and when. We all invest a lot in our skincare products, so we want to make sure they are going to work. 

At Kate Kerr London, we thoroughly analyse our clients’ skin to design a bespoke skincare regime, along with personalised facials and advanced treatments, in order to target your key concerns and actually transform your skin health, cell by cell. 

A healthy skin is one that is functioning optimally, ages well and doesn’t suffer with any skin conditions. If you’d like to find out more about what your skin needs to be healthy, strong and resilient, get in touch.

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