I fell into the trap myself. Moisturize the crap out of my skin and hopefully prevent fine lines and wrinkles. But over-moisturizing can be just as damaging as under moisturizing. In fact, many times it can be worse!
What is the difference between Dry Skin and Dehydrated Skin…
The skin is way more complex than people give it credit for. It contains multiple systems that work together to perform many tasks, like sweating, oxygen transfer, sun protection, goose bump formation – and so much more. In this complex system is a delicate balance between oil and water. And we all know from our salad dressing that oil and water never mix very well, but in our skin, they work in perfect harmony and problems only really arise with that system is out of balance.
Oil is a necessary lubricant for the skin. It allows everything to slide across friction-less to protect the delicate skin cells. Too much oil and the skin becomes shiny, and pores become clogged – making their structures so weak, the pores can gape open creating large pores, fine lines and wrinkles. People lacking in oil however can feel extreme tightness in the skin and flakiness on the surface – especially in the cheeks where we tend to lack hair follicles.
However, when you lack water, your skin can be tight as well, but you will probably lack the flakiness of dry skin. Dehydrated skin can also look tougher and more compact as the water in the skin provides an almost halo effect on the skin leaving parts of it translucent. Water is also a necessary component of many of the physiological functions of the skin, so breakdowns of systems can cause structural damage to the skin creating fine lines, wrinkles and misshapen pores.
If your skin is dry, your skin needs more oil. Much of the base of facial moisturizers provides some sort of oil for your skin. The goal is to have the lotion be pH balanced and accepted by the skin so that it does not sit on the surface causing clogged pores and other types of damage. In addition to pH and skin acceptability, we want to also be sure that the color of the oil is correct. The oil in human skin has a yellowish tinge to it, and many cheaper ingredients to replace oil in moisturizers tend to have a bluish tinge, which can age your overall look causing a greyish hue across the skin’s surface. Once the oil in the skin is cared for, then we see if the hydration is there. Often people are great at keeping hydration in the skin, so a simple correction of adding a little more oil to the skin is all that is needed for healthier more resilient skin. But once the oil is replaced, if the tightness is still there, we can sometimes choose to boost a little hydration temporarily to get the systems working properly again.
Dehydrated skin needs three main ingredients to boost the hydration of the skin. First, of course, we need water – the purer the better. It should be the first or second ingredient on the product’s ingredient list. But pay attention to the wording, if a company has taken the time to purify their water, they will state it on the ingredient list – so if there is no such statement, it is not a guarantee that the water will be pure.
Second, hyaluronic acid is a necessary ingredient. Hyaluronic acid is a wonderful molecule that acts like a magnet to water molecules – making it “fluffier.” Hyaluronic acid with less water molecules attached is considered “light” and can move down to the lower levels of the skin to hydrate the newly forming cells. Add a few water molecules to a hyaluronic acid molecule and we considered it medium weight. Hyaluronic acid molecules like this tend to suspend themselves within the skin’s surface – these molecules prevent the skin from becoming compact and keeps some space between the skin cell structures creating a “halo effect” on the skin. Finally hyaluronic acid molecules with lots of water molecules attached – hyaluronic acid can attract up to 1500 water molecules – is considered “heavy.” They are too big to penetrate the skin surface, but are considered very necessary when treating dehydrated skin as they offer a layer of protection to the skin allowing the water on the heavy molecules to evaporate first, protecting the hydration in the skin.
Finally Glycosaminoglycans (gleye –koh – sam –een – oh – gleye – canz), are necessary to both make Hyaluronic acid work better and they, themselves, hold water molecules like hyaluronic acid does and assists in creating a healthy structure to the skin. It should be said at this point, that many skin care companies like to skip the addition of this ingredient because Glycosaminoglycans are actually quite expensive to create. However, they are the difference between a highly effective hydration and one that can be hit or miss – it may work sometimes, but not all the times, so you run the risk of placing an expensive lotion or serum on your face that is just going to be washed off next time you wash your skin.
Putting lotions whose main focus is replacing the oil in the skin on dehydrated skin can further exacerbate the issues of dehydrated skin as the oil can almost form a plastic wrap effect on the skin, basically evaporating whatever water is left on the skin out to the surface. This can cause a temporary plumping of the skin which makes the skin appear more soft and moisturized (seen in the old days when people would be petroleum jelly on their feet, then wrap them in plastic bags), BUT this is only temporary, the water in the skin has moved to the surface and will evaporate off soon, which leaves the skin waterless and extremely prone to damage.
Putting lotions on the skin whose main purpose is replacing water on dry skin can not only damage the skin as the oil correction has not been done, but it can actually accelerate the aging process. We have systems in our skin that create oil, we have systems in our skin that create and hold water molecules in the skin. We are all natural oilers and natural hydrators. BUT if you continue to put a hydrator on the skin that did not need it, the skin no longer feels it is necessary to carry out of the function of being a hydrator and the skin can lose its natural abilities. So you either need to keep putting on a hydrator for the rest of your life or do some sort of correction to get the system working again, but it will never be as good and efficient as it once was.
Knowing the difference between dry skin and dehydrated skin can be crucial to ageless, healthy and resilient skin. Look for flakes for dry skin, or maybe a whitish cast on the skin – and lack of oil around the hair follicles, dry skin also can be quit itchy due to the skin irritation. Look for tightness and compactness in the skin (without the flaking) for dehydrated skin. If you are still unsure, ask an esthetician. BUT FIRST, ask them if THEY know the difference between dry skin and dehydrated skin…as many are not trained to know the difference, if they can’t tell you – find another person to ask.