Have you looked in the mirror of late and realized that no matter how much you follow your skin care routine, or even moisturize your face and the rest of your body, your skin still looks dull and lifeless? If this is something that has been happening to you then you might be dealing with dehydrated skin. If you are a skincare enthusiast, you might be surprised to learn that dehydrated skin is a thing and is hardly mentioned in articles or videos by skincare gurus all over the internet. In this article we are going to delve into this topic and outline the most common signs of dehydrated skin, answer the question ‘what is the fastest way to fix dehydrated skin’, and tell you the difference between dry and dehydrated skin.
What Is Dehydration And Dehydrated Skin?
According to the Mayo Clinic, dehydration refers to a state where you lose more fluid than you take in – so much so that your body can no longer function optimally because it doesn’t have enough water and other fluids.
Dehydration occurs when there is a failure to drink enough water, or excessive water loss due to sweat, vomiting, or diarrhea – especially in children, and with other illnesses. Two thirds of our bodies are made up of water which is responsible for multiple functions like the lubrication of the joints and eyes, aiding digestion, flushing out waste and toxins, and healthy skin, being dehydrated can lead to life threatening consequences (2).
So, what is dehydrated skin? Just as being dehydrated means you lack enough water in your body, dehydrated skin is skin that lacks enough water/hydration.
Dry Skin Vs Dehydrated Skin: What Is The Difference?
While they may sound and sometimes look the same, these are two different issues that require vastly different treatment methods.
There are two main differences when it comes to this matter:
- Dehydrated skin is a condition that could require professional help to fix and reverse it while dry skin is a type of skin. No one is born with dehydrated skin, the condition is caused by internal and sometimes external factors. On the other hand, a person can be born with dry skin – the same way that someone else could be born with either, normal, oily, sensitive or combination skin.
- As mentioned above, dehydrated skin is skin (aka epidermis) that lacks enough water. On the other hand, when someone has dry skin, it means that their epidermis lacks enough natural oils aka sebum.
Sebum – which is produced by the sebaceous glands – mixes with lipids and forms a protective layer on the skin’s surface which helps lock in moisture and protect the skin from UV radiation and other causes of harm. Without this layer, we end up losing moisture through the skin and it becomes very dry (4).
Signs of a dry epidermis can include flaky skin (dry, cracked and looks a little like scales), redness and irritation, as well as increased incidence of skin diseases like psoriasis, eczema, post-acne inflammation, or dermatitis.
What Are The Causes Of Dehydrated Skin?
As mentioned above, this is a condition that anyone can get regardless of their skin type. But what exactly is the cause of it? According to Medical News Today the main culprits behind dehydrated skin include:
- Not drinking enough water – Yes, drinking water prevents constipation, helps lubricate your joints, gets rid of wastes through urination and perspiration, and even helps regulate your body temperature (7). But the benefits go beyond the internal as how much (or little) water you drink is shown by how good or bad your skin looks.
- Sweating too much – This could be due to working out too much in too hot temperatures – without proper hydration. This could also happen when or doing fad heat therapy treatments for weight loss which promise to help you lose weight by ‘sweating off the fat’.
- Diarrhea or vomiting – This leads to a lot of fluid loss.
- Fever – Your body temperature rises too high and you lose most of the water in your body through sweat.
- Sunburn – According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, severe sunburns, like other burns, can lead to dehydration and shock (5).
What Are The Signs Of Dehydrated Skin?
Now that you understand what factors could lead to dehydrated skin, how do you know if your skin is dehydrated? What are some signs to watch out for, to learn if you are suffering from this condition?
- Dull skin – The skin of a person who regularly drinks enough water and moisturizes their skin has a natural and subtle glow to it. If you realize that no matter how well you moisturize, your skin still looks flat, turn your attention to how much water you’ve been drinking – chances are that your issue stems from there
- Itchiness – It is a symptom found in both dehydrated and dry skin. When your epidermis is dehydrated it becomes dry and loses its natural elasticity – which means that it ends up feeling irritated whenever it’s stretched. Such skin may even crack, bleed and become infected if the cracks and bleeds are not properly looked after.
What Are Some Signs Of Dehydrated Skin On Face?
When we check ourselves out in the mirror, we mostly concentrate on and scrutinize our faces first before looking at other areas of our body. Due to this, most of us are able to notice signs of dehydrated skin on our faces first.
Some symptoms of this condition that may manifest on the skin on our faces include:
- Reduced glow – One of the best parts about a good and consistent skincare routine is that natural glow that we get. If you realize that your glow is declining and your skin is now dull despite following your routine consistently, you might be dehydrated and need to up your water intake.
- Increased sensitivity – Hydrated skin equals a healthy moisture barrier. If your skin is not naturally sensitive and you start noticing that some parts are cracked or feel irritated when you apply your usual products, then you might be dehydrated.
- Dark under eye circles or more sunken eyes – According to WebMD, without enough hydration, the skin under your eyes loses elasticity and pulls away from the eyes, which leads to a sunken look and more pronounced dark circles.
- Fine Lines – When it comes to signs in the skin of a dehydrated young adult, fine lines are probably the most obvious symptom. Hydrated skin is often more plump and any fine lines fade away fast (if they are not there due to aging). Skin that lacks hydration/enough water will get very fine lines that will refuse to fade away.
- Under eye bags – Without water, the skin around your eyes will lose its elasticity and can pool under the eye causing these bags.
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What Is The Most Obvious Sign Of Dehydrated Skin?
If all these above signs seem confusing to you, the most obvious sign of skin that lacks moisture is seen through the pinch test.
- Take a bit of skin – the top of your hand is the easiest place to see the difference – between your thumb and forefinger and squeeze it lightly
- Release it
- Once release, if the skin bounces right back then you are well hydrated
- If you notice some wrinkling and the skin takes some time before going back to normal, then you are not properly hydrated
What Is The Fastest Way To Fix Dehydrated Skin?
So, how do you treat dehydrated skin?
- Drink more water – This is the fastest way to fix this condition. If you are not sure how much water you need to drink or cannot remember to drink more, download a water tracker to help keep you on track. Other fluids count as well, as long as they don’t contain caffeine or alcohol.
Remember to also hydrate with extra water during and after your workouts as well as after being in the sun.
- Drink less alcohol – Research shows that even mild alcohol consumption leads to dehydration (6).
- Drink less coffee and other caffeinated drinks – While research shows that mild caffeine consumption does not lead to dehydration (3), too much of it can due to its diuretic effect (1).
- Stop smoking
- Eat your water – Eat more water-rich foods like watermelon, cucumbers, strawberries, cantaloupe, oranges, lettuce, peaches, celery, tomatoes and more.
What Are The 3 Most Common Signs Of Dehydration?
Top symptoms of lack of hydration include:
- Headache, delirium, or confusion.
- Dizziness, weakness, fatigue, and light-headedness.
- Dry mouth
Is Ashy Skin The Same As Dehydrated Skin?
No, it is not. Ashy skin simply refers to dry skin.
The Bottom Line
While the signs of dehydrated skin may look almost the same as those for dry skin, they are not treated in the same way. Dehydrated skin is directly related to how much water you consume in a day while dry skin is a condition that one is born with and is not treated with water or hydration but with moisturizing.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Caffeine ingestion and fluid balance: a review (2003, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Dehydration (2022, nhsinform.scot)
- No Evidence of Dehydration with Moderate Daily Coffee Intake: A Counterbalanced Cross-Over Study in a Free-Living Population (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Skin lipids in health and disease (2016, onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- Sunburn (n.d., hopkinsmedicine.org)
- The effects of dehydration, moderate alcohol consumption, and rehydration on cognitive functions (2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Water and Healthier Drinks (2022, cdc.gov)