Dry Skin vs. Dehydrated Skin: What's the Difference?

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Although they are often used interchangeably, dry skin and dehydrated skin are not one and the same. And to find out how to properly address your skin concerns, it is important to know the difference.

"There are many factors that can lead to dryness of the skin," says Austin, TX, dermatologist Julie Fridlington, MD. "These range from harsh soaps to cholesterol-lowering medications, both of which make moisture retention difficult for skin.” Other culprits include "protein loss over time, fluctuating hormones and a humid environment,” she explains.

 Dehydrated skin, however, means you have a loss or depletion of bodily fluids. "All of the organs and tissues in our body that perform complex cellular processes like absorption of nutrients and conversion of those nutrients to energy as well as waste and toxin removal that occur daily in our body depend on water," says Dr. Fridlington, and if we don't have enough water in our body, we are starving our skin of moisture and leaving it susceptible to outside aggressors. "When the body is adequately hydrated it has more reserve against the daily insults that cause dysfunction to the normal protective skin barrier and eventually lead to dryness," she says. So basically, it is dehydrated skin that can lead to dry skin.

So how do we solve both of these problems? Although they are different, the remedies are somewhat similar: Drink plenty of water, exfoliate often to unblock pores and protect with moisturizer, specifically emollients. "Apply them to dry skin, when the skin is still moist after a shower to lock in the extra moisture," says New York dermatologist Rebecca Baxt, MD.