Skin feels tight and uncomfortable, fine lines and wrinkles are more noticeable, and the complexion appears dull and lackluster — meet dehydrated skin. When your skin is parched, chances are your protective barrier is broken which allows moisture to evaporate more easily into the atmosphere. This over time leads to dehydration, which is a host for a plethora of skin concerns. So, adding proper products to your skincare arsenal should be top of mind in order to quench that thirsty skin once forever, and here we unpack everything there is to know about how to build the perfect skincare routine for dehydrated skin.
Why is my skin dehydrated?
Dehydrated skin occurs when your body loses more water than it takes, which can be caused by quite a few factors, including a weak barrier, excessive sweating, or not hydrating enough. Skin dehydration has to do with increased transepidermal water loss (TEWL), the process by which skin loses too much water, leaving it parched and tight.
Unlike dry skin, which is a skin type (mostly inherited) described by a complexion that lacks oil, dehydrated skin is caused by rapid water loss and is a condition that can easily be reversed.
What dehydrated skin needs the most?
When your skin is dehydrated, you should keep humectants and occlusives on your radar. While humectants work by pulling water from the environment into the skin, occlusives help trap that moisture so it doesn’t evaporate. The best humectants include hyaluronic acid, glycerin, panthenol, and alpha-hydroxy acids. Interestingly, without occlusives, humectants can attract water from the deeper skin layers and exacerbate water loss, leading to more dehydration. This is why it’s equally important to use occlusives, which form an invisible layer on the skin’s surface to reduce water evaporation. Fatty acids, squalane, beeswax, petrolatum, and cocoa butter are all great occlusives.
Kick off the day with a morning skincare routine tailored for your dehydrated skin. Simply put, your AM regimen should shield your skin from external aggressors, add water and protect against its loss.
When it comes to choosing the right cleanser for your concern, hydrating formulas that don’t strip the skin of essential moisture are where we’re at. The ideal formula for dehydrated skin should dissolve makeup and impurities without leaving the skin parched and tight. Hence, you should steer clear of face washes that contain SLSs, drying alcohol, and synthetic fragrances. Also, when it comes to texture, look out for a creamy or oil-based cleanser, and stay away from foamy ones — they’re more likely to strip away moisture. For instance, these squalane-infused face wash can do great for dehydrated skin.
You may think you don’t need a toner, but this extra step may add a lot of moisture to your skin as long as you use a targeted product. Long story short, stay away from astringent toners and those that contain drying alcohol. Instead, choose a delicate toner that hydrates and nourishes, such as a hyaluronic acid toner.
By their very nature, serums are quickly absorbed by the skin, working to restore moisture. This is possible due to their tiny molecules, which deliver actives straight into the skin.
Dehydrated skin craves a serum infused with hydrating actives, like hyaluronic acid, but also with skin replenishers that help fortify the barrier. The stronger the barrier, the fewer chances for moisture to evaporate and leave skin parched. As such, make sure your serum also includes peptides, vitamin C, ceramides, squalane, and niacinamide.
The serum needs to be locked with an occlusive moisturizer, which also has a key role in protecting the outer skin layer against external foes that may weaken the barrier and prevents TEWL. Also, ensure your day moisturizer is spiked with antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E so that free radicals can’t wreak havoc on your skin.
Sunscreen is non-negotiable 365 days a year, so you shouldn’t skip it no matter what. Sun damage is one of the biggest culprits that lead to dehydrated skin, so always end your morning skincare routine with sunscreen that has at least SPF 30.
Evening routine for dehydrated skin
At night, skin cells go into renewal mode, growing and repairing the tissue. Hence, this is high time to use products that work in synergy with the skin’s natural repairing process that happens while you Zzz.
First, cleanse and tone to prepare the perfect canvas for your nighttime routine for dehydrated skin.
Since your cells are in a makeover state at night, applying a repairing serum — like a peptide serum — will definitely get you a robust barrier that doesn’t allow water to evaporate anymore.
At night is when you can rely on a heavier formula, one that moisturizes and repairs at the same time. Thus, pair a good sleep with a repairing moisturizer to strengthen your skin and hinder further water loss.
This trend works like a charm for dehydrated skin. For the uninitiated, slugging is a technique that involves applying a thick layer of a heavy ointment like petrolatum on your skin as the last step of your nighttime routine. In turn, this prevents moisture loss and locks what you have previously applied, so you get all the benefits plus, it reinforces the barrier, too. So, slather on your complexion a heavy layer of Vaseline before you hit the hay and wake up to moist and robust skin.
Dead cell buildup makes the skin appear dull and hinders product absorption, so even if your skin is dehydrated, you shouldn’t skip exfoliants. Look out for a gentle enzymatic exfoliant that sloughs off dead cells on the surface of the skin, or, for more dramatic results, yet gentle to your parched complexion, a lactic acid peel will do just great.
Two-three times a week, apply a hydrating mask to revive your dehydrated skin. A hydrating mask has the role of relaxing your skin and infusing it with skin-loving ingredients for a plumper look. Whether you opt for a DIY mask with honey, oatmeal, and olive oil or a sheet mask for problematic skin, they will help strengthen your skin and reveal a radiant, plump glow.
Eat healthily, drink plenty of water
Drinking enough water (8 glasses a day) is always a great thing, but even more needed if you have dehydrated skin. Diet also is related to how the skin looks and feels, so make sure you eat skin-loving foods, such as avocados, fatty fish, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and eggs.
Avoid long hot baths
Hot water strips moisture from the skin, so skip the long, hot showers or baths. Try to limit yourself to 5-10 minutes of a warm shower per day to help your skin prevent further water evaporation.
Consider collagen supplements
The use of collagen supplements for dehydrated skin has been rising lately. A few clinical studies were performed regarding the effects of collagen-based supplements on skin hydration, and the results were promising: collagen supplements improve skin elasticity and moisture retention.
What to avoid
- Soaps in bar form
- Drying cleansers
- Products with irritants like alcohol and fragrance
- Hot water, since it strips away skin’s natural oils
- Abrasive scrubs or exfoliants
- Stiff-bristled brushes
- Prolonged sun exposure
- Products with salicylic acid
- Strenuous exercise
Read next: 12 Products To Quench Your Dehydrated Skin ASAP
Women’s Concepts uses reliable sources, including dermatologists’ insights, clinical trials, and scientific journals, to find accurate information and support all the facts shared in our articles. All statements and claims have clear and legit references. Read our editorial policy to learn more about our sources of information, our process of researching and fact-checking the content, and how our team strives to keep all articles updated, completed, and trustworthy.
- Rawlings AV, Davies A, Carlomusto M, Pillai S, Zhang K, Kosturko R, Verdejo P, Feinberg C, Nguyen L, Chandar P. Effect of lactic acid Purnamawati S, Indrastuti N, Danarti R, Saefudin T. The Role of Moisturizers in Addressing Various Kinds of Dermatitis: A Review. Clin Med Res. 2017 Dec, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5849435/
- Biophoton-associated chronic photodamage of skin, including skin dehydration and surface roughness, 2019/10/11, https://www.kao.com/global/en/news/rd/2019/20191011-001/
- Palma L, Marques LT, Bujan J, Rodrigues LM. Dietary water affects human skin hydration and biomechanics. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015 Aug 3, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4529263/
- Choi FD, Sung CT, Juhasz ML, Mesinkovsk NA. Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications. J Drugs Dermatol. 2019 Jan 1, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30681787/