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Dehydrated Skin Under the Microscope

Dehydrated Skin Under the Microscope

Does your skin feel tight, like it’s one size too small?

Is it dry, flaky, and parched?

Or maybe you notice fine horizontal lines running across your face or on your forehead?

Then chances are, you could be suffering from dehydrated skin.

But a word of warning, before you can treat this condition correctly, it’s important to understand the difference between dehydrated and dry skin.

Definition of dry skin

If you have dry skin, your skin is lacking in OIL and can be categorised into three groups:

  • Xerosis is generally the most common dry skin complaint
  • Ichthyosis is a moderate dry skin condition
  • Ichthyosis Vulgaris is the most severe dry skin condition, characterised by scaling skin, often found on the legs

Interesting fact: The reason our legs are often dry, is that there are less sudoriferous glands on the legs.

Definition of a dehydrated skin

If you have dehydrated skin it will be lacking in MOISTURE in the epidermis – the visible layer – and is characterised by the following:

  • a rough, coarse texture
  • flaky, scaly patches
  • inflammation
  • redness
  • fine lines

Understanding water movement in your skin

Before we start, we apologise in advance, as we are going to have to go all skin-sciencey for a short while.

When thinking about dehydration, it’s important to focus on the natural hydrolipidic film, a type of emulsion that covers the surface of your skin. This is a complex fluid, formed by specific substances that are excreted from the sudoriferous and sebaceous glands, epidermal lipids, and NMF.

Interestingly, this film over the skin also contains an important fatty acid substance known as 7-dehydrocholesterol. UV has a direct action on 7-dehydrocholesterol, producing Vitamin D, which is then absorbed into the bloodstream and utilised within the body to help with the development of bone tissue and correct utilisation of calcium and phosphorous.

The film is created by two phases – the liposoluble phase and the hydrosoluble phase.

The liposoluble phase: The lipo-soluble film is the oily phase and is secreted from sebaceous secretions, it originates in the sebaceous gland and is closely attached to hair follicles and the epidermic lipids of the bilayers of the stratum corneum and is slightly acid.

Hydrosoluble Phase: The hydro-lipidic film progressively reduces with age, and the body’s internal hydration levels are reflected by the hydrous transfer through the skin.

This aqueous phase is made up of the natural moisturising factor (NMF). It is essential in maintaining hydration of the epidermal layer, and perspiration from the eccrine sweat glands covering the entire skin’s surface.

Drying elements from the environment increase evaporation from the epidermis, and excess transpiration occurs. The hydrous transfer then reflects the internal hydration levels of the body through the skin; thus dehydration and a slowing down of the hydrosoluble phase occurs, especially when the natural hydration balance is abused.

As you can see, it is all a matter of balance; all skin tissues must maintain sufficient water balance for proper function, including the ability to adjust within your environment.

Factors that influence dehydrated skin

Intrinsic ageing: When we are young, our skin is rich in specific ingredients, these decrease with age, causing an imbalance in our skin’s natural lipid barrier. Humectants that keep our skin plump and hydrated, such as hyaluronic acid and urea, also deplete with age.

Extrinsic ageing: Smoking, drinking, taking recreational or prescribed drugs; these can all cause the skin to become dehydrated. Dangerous chemicals, UV rays, cold wind, harsh ingredients, air conditioning, and heating are the other factors that can dry out our skin.

Ingredients for hydration

Essentially what this tells us, is that to get that clear skin difference, we need to achieve correct hydration within our skin cells, which all depend on a healthy moisture factor, a skin barrier being intact, balanced hydration, and sebum levels in your skin.

Below are some of the classes of ingredients responsible for moisture retention and balance:

Humectants for hydration
These are important for skin hydration; they work by attracting water from below the epidermis and the atmosphere, drawing it into the stratum corneum.
Hyaluronic acid, pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (PCA), glycerin, urea, and lactic acid are all great examples. Our humectant-based skin shot H₂O hydrating complex, is a great way to give your skin a direct hit of moisture, if your skin is super dehydrated, layer over H20 with Quench ultra-hydrating water gel, for a moisture magnet boost.

Occlusives for protection
These contain wonderful, rich phytosterols for skin healing, which have natural water barrier effects. Shea butter, avocado, sunflower oil, cocoa butter, macadamia, jojoba, squalane, evening primrose, and baobab oil, are all lovely rich emollients that keep your skin soft and supple. The skin treatment Ceramide barrier repair balm is a great example of an emollient-rich skincare product.

Identical Ingredients found in your skin
These are acid mantle repairing ingredients, they that contain compounds found in our natural moisturizing factor (NMF), like urea and pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (PCA), which all do help to keep the moisture balanced in our skin.

Barrier restoring
Another range of ingredients that mimic those found in the stratum corneum are lipids, ceramides, and cholesterol – the essential building blocks of our skin. Fortify, our barrier repair moisturiser, will help to repair an undermined skin.

Drinking water – how much is enough?

Clients will often ask “why is my skin is so dry or dehydrated, I drink plenty of water?”. Sadly, drinking eight glasses of water a day is great for your body, but not for your skin. Sorry to disappoint, but think about it – if it were that easy to get rid of dehydrated skin, then we would all be drinking lots of water, and there would be no incidents of dehydrated skin.

Whilst your skin is the largest organ on the body, it is the last to receive water and nutrients; all the other organs steal it first. This means the cause and treatment for dehydrated skin is far more complicated than just drinking water.


As you can see, having balanced hydration is slightly technical to understand, but essentially it is based on the following main factors:

  • relevant ambient humidity
  • the retention power of the stratum corneum
  • the amount of water transmitted from the inner to the outer layers of the skin
  • the time span, involving how long water moves from the lower skin layers to the upper regions of the stratum corneum

Finally, remember that dehydration is due to a lack of water, not oil, despite what you may have heard. Even oily skin can experience dehydration.

This means that the activity of your sebaceous glands can be normal or even overactive in dehydrated skin.


7 thoughts on “Dehydrated Skin Under the Microscope

  1. Sejal Vora says:

    Hi, I have recently found your website and I am looking to purchase some products, but I need some help in exactly what to buy. Would I be able to email you to get some help?

  2. Nerissa says:

    Hi Samantha,
    I have recently discovered your site and really like all the information. I am really keen to purchase some of your products but need some direction in which ones to get. I have been sifting through them all but have now confused myself! Would it be possible for you to email me so I can give you a quick overview of my skin, age etc so I could get a few suggestions of what to buy please.
    Many thanks

    • Samantha Miller says:

      There is a theory that dehydration creates tiny horizontal lines which obvioulsy lead to folds wrinkles in the skin. I think it is really more about the fact that a dehydrated skin looks parched, flaky, sallow whilst one that is hydrated, plump and moist looks so much more youthful. Take the ingredient hyaluronic acid that not only locks 1000 times its weight in water onto the skin, but also stimulates collagen and elastin your internal scaffolding really helping to prevent ageing. Samantha

  3. Anonymous says:

    I nevr really understood the difference betweem dry and dehydrated skin, so thankyou for making it sO clear, great read

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