Most of us have complained about oily skin at some point in our youth, but little did we know dry skin was patiently waiting right around the corner to annoy us just as much, if not more. Not only does dry skin make it hard to apply a smooth canvas of makeup, but it also doesn’t feel very great—the itchiness and discomfort almost make you want your teenage T-zone back. Plus, chronically dry skin is a lot more vulnerable to manifesting the signs of premature aging, such as wrinkles. All these reasons make combating dryness a worthy cause.
First thing’s first, though. It’s important to know what the problem actually is.
Dry vs. Dehydrated Skin (Yes, It Matters)
If you want to solve your dry skin woes, you first need to understand the difference between dry and dehydrated skin. Both can make your complexion flaky, dull, rough, scaly and saggy—but knowing this crucial difference will inform which category of ingredients you’ll want to use (in other words, you’ll be able to tackle the issue faster!).
Youthfully bouncy and supple skin enjoys a perfect balance of oil and water. Simply put: Dry skin doesn’t have enough oil and dehydrated skin doesn’t have enough water.
While many people with dry skin are born with it (which is why dry skin is classified as a skin type), you can develop it at any point in your life through prolonged exposure to various factors, such as dry, Arizona-level heat. Another culprit is washing your hands too frequently, which gradually strips the skin of its natural oils. Certain skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis are also associated with dryness.
Dehydrated skin is often more of a temporary condition—and it’s usually caused by too much H2O evaporating from skin. Ever wonder why your skin feels tight after enjoying a ride on an airplane? That’s because the moisture-less cabin air is sucking water out. More mature skin can be especially prone to dehydration.
How to Bring Back the Glow to Dry or Dehydrated Skin
The tricky part is it’s totally possible to have both dry and dehydrated skin at the same time. If you’re seriously confused, consult a skin care professional to take an intimate, microscopic look at your skin. But if it’s more obvious—say, you normally blot the grease off your face by noon but you’re now appalled by the flecks of dry skin on your cheeks, it’s probably dehydration.
Either way, there is one overarching solution to each:
If your skin is dry, find a moisturizer or serum-containing emollients. Emollients don’t increase the water content in your skin, but they smooth over the rough spots and “lock-in” moisture. Think of them as shields (soft ones). Shea butter and jojoba oil are two popular and effective emollients.
If your skin is dehydrated, make it your mission to quench your thirsty skin ASAP. Find a formula containing a humectant, which has been shown by science to increase skin hydration. They act like magnets, attracting and binding to water. One of the most amazing humectants is hyaluronic acid, which holds up to 1,000 its own weight in water! (Note that if your skin is dehydrated, you’ll want to use something like hyaluronic acid, then prevent further evaporation with an emollient.)
How to Prevent Dry or Dehydrated Skin
Take a look at your daily routine to see if you’re inadvertently wreaking havoc on your skin. Do you love long, hot showers? Are you a germaphobe and wash your hands five times an hour? Do you scrub your face twice a day with soap?
There are several things you can do to help keep your skin looking and feeling its best. Here are some tips you can implement every day.
- Limit your time in the bath or shower. Avoid hot water, which breaks down the natural oils that keep skin moisturized.
- Use a humidifier.
- Don’t overheat your home. Hot air is drier than cool air.
- Wear protective clothing when you’re out in the cold.
- Apply your lotion right after your shower—when it’s still damp—to help hold the moisture in.
Don’t settle for feeling like a snake wanting to shed its skin. Take the necessary steps to give your skin what it needs and do what you can to protect it. Your skin will thank you with a beautiful, luminous glow!