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Dry skin vs. dehydrated skin: a complete guide

We explain the differences between dry and dehydrated skin, and how to properly assess your skin type.

First of all, don’t feel discouraged if you have dry or dehydrated skin. Both conditions are extremely common for all genders and all ages. Dryness is a characteristic of a certain skin type. It can easily be confused with dehydrated skin, which is usually a temporary condition.

In this Guide, we hope to help you correctly diagnose your skin type by answering all your commonly asked questions about these often confused skincare terms.

Q: What’s the difference between dry skin and dehydrated skin? 

Dry (or very dry) skin is actually a particular skin type. It’s a permanent condition characterised by a feeling of tightness over the entire face and body and is usually caused by an abnormality in the skin barrier. The skin lacks water and lipids, have a closed texture and is susceptible to redness.

Dehydrated skin can affect people of all skin types. This is a reversible, temporary condition that is characterised by tightness too, but this is due to poor binding and water loss. The skin lacks moisture, making it feel uncomfortable and making it appear scaly.

Q: What are the symptoms of dry or very dry skin? 

The first clue is that you can feel that it’s dry. It’ll also be tight, uncomfortable, and in some cases, quite rough to the touch. These symptoms can also be accompanied by itching and burning sensations. When you apply the correct product to your skin, you should feel and experience relief.

A doctor or dermatologist can diagnose whether your skin has Xerosis Cutis, a term used for abnormally dry skin. Signs that indicate you may have Xerosis Cutis include the skin having a dull appearance; desquamation (where the outer layer of the skin starts shedding); cracking; inflammation and a loss of elasticity. Irregularities on the skin’s surface are usually more significant with dry skin.

Dry skin provides a favourable environment for eczema to develop, particularly in the form of pityriasis alba (dry patches).

These patches generally appear on the cheeks and arms of children with systemic dry skin (which occurs as part of atopic dermatitis).

Within the experience of dry skin, there are various stages:

Stage one or dry skin: temporary discomfort, slight tightness, and light desquamation.

Stage two or very dry skin: Significant discomfort and tightness, intense desquamation, cracks and chapping.

Stage three or pre-atopic xerosis: Rough, dry skin (dry patches) and light irritation.

Q: What causes skin dryness? 

The surface of healthy skin is naturally protected by a hydrolipidic film which consists mainly of water and lipids (sebum). This film is impermeable, protects the skin from external stress and reduces water loss. When the upper layer of the epidermis does not have a good balance of water and lipids, it can no longer effectively fulfil this barrier function and it becomes uncomfortable to varying degrees.

In contrast to dehydrated skin, dry or very dry skin is a chronic, genetic condition. It is generally designated as one of three skin types: dry skin, oily skin or combination skin.

In addition to systemic dryness, there are dry skin conditions that can be triggered by other factors:

  • External factors: environmental or weather conditions.
  • Skin diseases or general illness: atopic eczema, psoriasis, thyroid dysfunction, diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, etc.
  • Medical treatments or medication.

Q: Who is affected by dry skin?

Some people are born with dry skin as it is part of their genetic heritage. It’s also important to understand that the skin changes with age. When it comes to younger children, the skin is dryer (except in newborns; however, water loss is more significant at this stage of development). The skin becomes oilier in adolescence and then becomes dry again in adulthood (when the sebaceous glands and sweat glands become less functional).

Q: What can you do if you think you have a dry skin type?

We suggest starting with a confirmed diagnosis. Contact your dermatologist if you have lasting discomfort. They will be able to advise whether you have dry skin or dehydrated skin. If your skin suddenly becomes dry, it’s important to track down the triggering factor and manage it.

The trigger may be a change in your physical environment, like working in a new office space with an air conditioner, engaging in a sport or leisure activity for the first time, such as swimming in a chlorinated pool or the salty ocean. Even using a harsh soap or shower gel could trigger dryness.

A dermatologist will also do an analysis on any underlying medical factors, e.g. a potential illness and look the medication you’re taking.

Q: What are the best ways to keep your skin hydrated?

It’s important to rehydrate your skin as much and as often as possible. In addition to the discomfort it causes, dry skin allows irritating and allergenic agents to penetrate the skin. It also promotes the appearance or persistence of certain skin conditions (like eczema and psoriasis). The first step is to ensure you are drinking enough water. Try to drink at least 1.5 litres of water per day (unless your doctor tells you otherwise).

It is also always important to choose non-aggressive cleansing and skincare products. Use replenishing, non-detergent and, if necessary, rehydrating cleansing products (in the form of milks, creams, balms, ointments and oils, depending on the area and degree of dryness). The aim is to reduce water evaporation, maintain a sufficient amount of water in the epidermis and repair the impaired skin barrier. Try and avoid overheated and stuffy places and get as much fresh air as possible.

Once or twice a day, wash your face with a mild cleanser that doesn’t damage the skin barrier. We recommend a cleanser with a low pH of 5.5, which is the optimal pH level for skin. After cleansing gently dab your skin with a clean dry towel, avoid rubbing the skin dry. Follow this with a misting of our GF2 formulation.

Stick to a consistent skincare regime:

Each morning and evening, after cleansing and applying your GF2, gently apply a moisturising or emollient treatment prescribed by your dermatologist or doctor to relieve those pulling, tight sensations and protect your skin from external stress. Remember to nourish the skin on your face and body with suitable products.

Q: How does our GF2 help if you have a dry skin type?

The formulation in our GF2 Skin Rejuvenation and GF2 Skin Therapy for Him helps to restore the hydration of skin over time. DNA repair protein disappears, and hydration eventually recovers. For those days when your skin is feeling a little drier, we recommend using a serum containing Vitamin C or Aloe Vera after the GF2 spray has dried on your skin.

The GF2 formulation contains hypochlorous acid - a molecule that is highly anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal. It is also an excellent anti-inflammatory with immune-modulatory effects, which accounts for HOCl's ability to treat chronic or inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and atopic dermatitis.

GF2 also prevents dehydration of the skin and helps to protect the skin barrier. Daily use of GF2 (we recommend you use it twice daily) can make a real difference, helping to strengthen and restore your skin barrier with regular use. This helps make the skin barrier less porous, decreasing the number of allergens and irritants that penetrate the skin, and helping to control and soothe flare-ups.

Some words of advice when using GF2

GF2 restores skin health. It does so by, amongst other things, reducing excess oil secretion (which is a compensation function in the skin when there is a loss of skin hydration). Oil secretion reduces quickly with GF2 use, but the recovery of the epidermal-dermal junction, where hyaluronic acid is recovered with the help of GF2, takes a little longer. In other words, when using GF2 for the first time, oil secretion goes down before hydration catches up.

During this time, we recommend using a hydrating serum if required (maybe with some hyaluronic acid) on any areas of dryness (under the eye etc.) after applying GF2 (once the GF2 has dried). Hydration recovery takes anything between 2 - 4 months, after which the need for the serum will reduce.

Learn more about the benefits of our GF2 Skin Series.

If you have any additional questions about the difference between dry and dehydrated skin, let us know in the comments section below.