Is your skin dry or dehydrated? How to tell the difference

Isn’t dry skin the same as dehydrated? Nope. Although they can both feel tight and uncomfortable, they’re very different. Think oil and water.

Dry skin is a skin type. It produces less sebum and lacks the natural oils that form a protective barrier, keeping skin smooth, supple and protected. Dehydrated skin lacks water, not oil. And it can happen to any skin type from extra-dry to oily and acne-prone. Skin can be blemished AND parched. And yes, you can have the double whammy of dry and dehydrated skin at the same time. What causes it? Air-con, central heating, sun, wind, dry air, alcohol, and too-hot showers are the usual culprits.

How to tell the difference between dry and dehydrated skin…

Dehydrated skin looks dull and tired, with fine dry lines and dark under-eye circles. It’s prone to inflammation, redness and congestion. The pinch test is a good gauge. Simply pinch the skin on the back of your hand and hold it gently for three seconds. If skin returns to normal instantly you’re hydrated. If it takes more than a moment you and your skin cells need fluid.

Think your skin might be dry? Brush your hand lightly over your arm. Does it feel rough and uneven, or look flaky? If the answer’s yes you have dry skin, which often feels tight after cleansing, gets itchy, and is prone to chapping and cracking in cold weather.

What dehydrated skin needs

It goes without saying that if your skin is dehydrated you need to drink more water. But there are other ways to help bring back a healthy, plumped complexion.

Use humectants

Look for ingredients that draw water from the air and give thirsty skin back its bounce. The best-known moisture magnet is hyaluronic acid, which can famously hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water. Also look out for newcomer polyglutamic acid which can hold four times more water – they work excellently used together. Other hardworking natural humectants are sodium PCA, glycerin, and caprylyl glycol. Apply humectants onto damp –not dry– skin, or they’ll simply draw water from your skin like a sponge.

More effective than a topical humectant alone is to stimulate the body’s own production of hyaluronic acid with natural extracts like astragalus, which you can find in Six Gldn Daily Vitamin C Radiance Serum, Essential Moisturizer, and Nourishing Face Oil.

Use a serum

Layer a lightweight hydrating serum under moisturizer. This acts like a seal to stop water escaping and keep skin plump and healthy. 

Keep air humid

In winter months when the heating’s on and air holds less moisture a humidifier can help stop skin drying out. The ideal moisture level is around 40-50%. 

Exfoliate skin weekly

Treat skin once or twice a week with ultra-mild AHAs like lactic or mandelic acid to brighten and sweep away dead cells that can block absorption of hydrating products.

Increase skin cell turnover

As a bonus, exfoliation also increases cell turnover, which in turn stimulates the production of hyaluronic acid. Don’t want to add more products to your routine? A few minutes workout with a gua sha facial massage tool promotes the same effect. Crafted from pure rose quartz crystal, the Six Gldn Gua Sha helps stimulate blood flow and collagen production, depuff, and unknot tense muscles.

What dry skin needs

Dry skin needs an extra gentle touch. Because it lacks a strong protective barrier it's more prone to sensitivity, redness, eczema, and itching.

Keep your routine simple

Take a good look at your daily skincare routine and strip it back to the essentials. Avoid strong acids, astringents, drying alcohol, physical scrubs and cleansing brushes.

Use mild cleansers

Opt for very gentle, replenishing cleansers that don’t strip the natural barrier of precious lipids. Skin should feel soft and comfortable after cleansing, not tight or stripped. Creamy cleansers are great for dry skin but if you love the feel of a foaming wash make sure to avoid harsh surfectants like sodium lauryl sulfate and SLES, which destroy natural oils, making dryness and irritation worse. 

No more long, hot showers

Hot water will do the same as harsh cleansers and break down the natural oils that keep skin soft and smooth. If a steaming hot shower is your thing, limit to a few minutes but ideally train yourself to love lukewarm water. We know, easier said than done, but your skin will thank you.

Strengthen the natural barrier

A strong, healthy skin barrier does double duty. It prevents moisture escaping and stops dirt, pollution and bacteria getting in. If your skin is dry you need to replenish the barrier and help it repair. The go-tos for barrier-strengthening ingredients include ceramides that help hold skin cells together, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and fatty acid and antioxidant-rich natural plant oils. What to avoid? Mineral oils and petrolatum-based ingredients are found in lots of lotions because of their smoothing, softening properties. But they clog pores and form a non-breathable film that suffocates skin and can damage the barrier. Opt for natural hemp seed oil, jojoba, and soothing evening primrose oil, which are all wonderful for dry, sensitive skin and can be used on the face and body.

Six Gldn Nourishing Face Oil is a richly replenishing blend of jojoba, rice bran, evening primrose, rose hip and sweet almond oils that soothes, deeply hydrates and supports the natural barrier. 

Support the microbiome

There’s an ecosystem of bacteria living on our skin that helps keep it calm, happy and healthy. When it’s out of balance, ‘bad’ bacteria overwhelm skin-friendly bacteria, which has been linked to dryness, inflammation, eczema and acne. Look for creams with probiotics – skin-friendly bugs – and the prebiotic ingredients that feed them to keep skin calm and healthy.

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