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How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

How to improve dehydrated skin, according to the experts

Proper skincare and lifestyle upgrades will hydrate your skin in no time.

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Curology Team
Oct 04, 2022 · 7 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.
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Your body speaks to you in many ways, one of them is through your skin! Sometimes, your skin can feel itchy and dull. Other times, it seems dry and flaky. We’re talking about dehydrated skin. It’s going to take more than simply drinking water, but with little shifts in your daily routine, you can bring back your skin’s natural radiance and moisture in no time. 

Here we’ll show you how to improve dehydrated skin and recover the moisture your skin needs. Spoiler alert: It starts from the inside out. 

What causes dehydrated skin?

Your skin is a living organ that manifests itself in many ways through its appearance—one of which is skin dehydration. The weather, heating and air conditioning, lack of sleep, and oh-so-relaxing hot showers can all zap your skin’s moisture, leaving it lifeless and dull-looking.

How to improve dehydrated skin, according to the experts - female hand shows calf skin dehydrated

Dehydrated skin vs. dry skin: What’s the difference?

It’s easy to confuse dry skin with dehydrated skin—after all, dehydrated skin is often dry. But the two are actually different. Dry skin is typically considered a skin type, while dehydrated skin is a condition. 

Dry skin produces less sebum than other skin types (like combination or oily skin). No amount of skincare products can change your skin type.

Dehydrated skin happens due to more than just a lower sebum production. It’s triggered by external elements like weather, diet, and lifestyle choices. Together, these factors can suck the moisture out of your skin—literally. Thankfully, the condition is often temporary, and it’s easy to notice the difference between dehydrated skin before and after taking steps to address it. 

What are some of the potential signs of dehydrated skin?

Again, dehydrated skin and dry skin are two different things, and dehydrated skin manifests differently than dry skin. People with all skin types can have dehydrated skin, including those with oily skin. Signs of dehydrated skin may include:  

  1. Tight, itchy skin. External factors like the weather can drain the moisture from your skin, leaving it tight and itchy. 

  2. Dull skin. When your skin is dehydrated, its ability to perform normal skin functions and retain moisture may be impaired. This can leave your skin looking dull or faded. 

  3. Increased sensitivity. Your skin may become more susceptible to external irritants, and you may experience worsening symptoms of redness, itchiness, and irritation. 

  4. Noticeable appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Your skin’s appearance may be noticeably dehydrated, showing more noticeable fine lines.¹

The five main types of skin

Skin types have been classified using different criteria. The main types are normal, dry, oily, combination, and sensitive. These skin types are often used when designing products or prescribing topical medications to treat skin conditions like acne or rosacea. Skin types are used by the general population, but they’re not based on a medical classification system. 

Your skin type is partially determined by genetics, but it undergoes changes over time and seasonally. Here’s more information on the five skin types: 

  • Normal. This is the “Goldilocks skin type”—it’s not too dry nor too oily, and it has a regular texture and tone with no visible imperfections.  

  • Dry. Dry skin produces less sebum. People with dry skin type may have scaly or flaky skin. But remember, dry skin isn’t necessarily dehydrated skin!

  • Oily. This skin type may have a shiny appearance due to a higher production of sebum. Pores can appear more visible, acne is often more common, and makeup may seem to slide off. 

  • Combination. This describes many people’s skin type: an oily T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) with normal-to-dry skin everywhere else. Combination skin can be challenging because, in some areas, you’re working with too much sebum, and in others, not enough. 

  • Sensitive. Not everyone considers sensitive skin a skin type, but we feel it's important to mention it here. Sensitive skin is more reactive than other skin types to topical products. It’s often also referred to as delicate skin. 

How to improve dehydrated skin, according to the experts - young indian woman portrait

How to treat dehydrated skin

Remember, dehydrated skin is a condition, not a skin type, which means it’s treatable! We’ll give you a list of ingredients to look for in a moisturizer for dehydrated skin in a bit, but first, let’s talk about some other simple lifestyle changes you can make to help rehydrate your skin. Take it from us—your skin will thank you!

  • Use a humidifier during the winter or in dry climates. Dry weather can suck the moisture from your skin, but upping the humidity level in your indoor air can help. 

  • Drink plenty of water. Getting enough water is essential for your body’s organs to function properly, including your skin, your largest organ. 

  • Use the right products to hydrate your skin. Dehydrated skin tends to be more sensitive, so use gentle cleansers and moisturizers for sensitive skin. Applying serums at night after cleansing and before moisturizing can also help provide an extra boost of hydration. And don’t forget lip balm!

  • Gently exfoliate. Your skin may experience a buildup of dead skin cells while it’s dehydrated. Using a gentle exfoliant—not a scrub—can help to gently slough them off. We recommend a Konjac sponge, which is typically gentle enough for dry or sensitive skin.  

  • Avoid hot water. It may feel good, but hot water dries out your skin. If you do decide to soak in a hot bath or rinse under a hot shower, limit the time you’re in there. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends applying moisturizer after getting out of the tub or shower and using lukewarm water to wash up.²

Ingredients to help lock in moisture

When it comes to finding products for dehydrated skin, it’s all about looking for the right ingredients. Research has shown that humectants (ingredients that attract water) combined with emollients (ingredients that seal in moisture) form an effective treatment for dehydrated skin.³ Here’s a list of humectants and emollients to look for in products that claim to rehydrate skin:

  • Hyaluronic acid: A humectant that adds moisture to your skin by binding water from the environment and deeper layers of skin, hyaluronic acid helps make the skin look plumper, hydrated, and more youthful. It can also reduce the appearance of wrinkles. 

  • Glycerin: A humectant that pulls moisture to the skin’s surface from the deeper skin layers and the environment, glycerin hydrates, softens, and protects the skin.

  • Aloe: Loaded with vitamins C, A, E, and B12 to help support healthy skin, aloe’s emollient qualities help soothe and moisturize your skin.⁴

  • Shea butter: Shea has anti-inflammatory and emollient properties to help create a soft barrier that seals in moisture, and it helps give the appearance of smoother skin by filling in the tiny cracks caused by dehydration.⁵

  • Squalane: A natural plant-based antioxidant that fights wrinkle-forming free radicals, squalane also has skin hydrating and emollient properties.⁶ It's non-comedogenic, which means it won't clog your pores and is generally safe for all skin types.

Can Curology help with my dry skin? 

Curology’s licensed dermatology providers can provide expert guidance, plus a skincare routine for dry skin. We’ve learned it’s not just the ingredients that matter. It’s knowing how to use the products and fine-tuning a personalized skincare routine. That’s what customized skincare is all about.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Subject to consultation. 30-day trial. Just cover $4.95 in S&H.
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Signing up is easy. Just snap a few selfies and answer a few questions to help us get to know your skin. If Curology is right for you, we’ll pair you with one of our licensed dermatology providers, who will create a personalized prescription formula for your unique skin. We’re confident you’ll like what you see. That’s why your first month’s on us. You’ll also receive Curology’s cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen to round out your skincare routine. Get the most from your trial by asking questions—we’re here for you. 

FAQs

What causes dehydrated skin?

The weather, heating and air conditioning, lack of sleep, and oh-so-relaxing hot showers can all zap your skin’s moisture, leaving it lifeless and dull-looking.

What’s the difference between dehydrated skin and dry skin?

Dry skin is typically considered a skin type, while dehydrated skin is a condition. Dry skin produces less sebum than other skin types (like combination or oily skin). Dehydrated skin happens due to more than just a lower sebum production. It’s triggered by external elements like weather, diet, and lifestyle choices.

What are some of the signs of dehydrated skin?

Signs of dehydrated skin may include:  

  1. Tight, itchy skin.

  2. Dull skin.

  3. Increased sensitivity.

  4. Noticeable appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

People with all skin types can have dehydrated skin, including those with oily skin.

How to treat dehydrated skin?

Since dehydrated skin is a condition, not a skin type, it’s treatable! Here are some simple lifestyle changes you can make to help rehydrate your skin:

  • Use a humidifier during the winter or in dry climates.

  • Drink plenty of water.

  • Use the right products to hydrate your skin.

  • Gently exfoliate.

  • Avoid hot water.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. American Academy of Dermatology. Dry skin: Signs and symptoms. (n.d.).

  2. American Academy of Dermatology. Dry skin relief. (n.d.).

  3. Proksch, E., et al. Dry skin management: Practical approach in light of latest research on skin structure and function.Journal of Dermatology Treatment. (November 2020).

  4. Surjushe A., et al. Aloe vera: A short review. Indian Journal of Dermatology. (2008).

  5.  Lin, T.K., et al. Anti-inflammatory and skin barrier repair effects of topical applications of some plant oils.International Journal of Molecular Sciences. (2017, December 27).

  6. Kim, S.K., et al. Biological importance and applications of squalene and squalane.Advances in Food and Nutrition Research. (2012).

* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary. 

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

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