• Dehydrated Skin (and Hydrating Substances)

Dehydrated Skin (and Hydrating Substances)

I regularly receive questions from blog readers about dehydrated skin. But what is it precisely?

Dry skin is by definition ‘dehydrated’. Oily skin is not usually dehydrated, but it can be. This can be seen in people whose skin barrier function has been disturbed. Cosmetic products for oily skin that are too harsh, and also certain medicine which is taken for example to combat acne can cause “dry skin”. Fortunately there are some substances which can make skin less dehydrated and healthy again!

The causes of dehydrated skin

There are basically three causes for dehydrated skin.

  1. Evaporation from the skin is too great (e.g. if humidity is below 60% or a skin barrier function is damaged) whereby moisture is not retained in the skin
  2. The skin doesn’t contain enough substances which can retain water
  3. The transportation of water from the deeper skin layers to the uppermost layer is too slow

In practice I often see that dehydrated skin is caused by the misuse of cosmetic products. Notorious for this are harsh cleansers, bathing or showering too frequently, irritating cosmetic products and scrubbing too often. This results in the skin barrier function breaking down and consequently we lose moisture retaining agents (NMF’s) from our skin. Also sun, air conditioning, changes in temperature and certain skin conditions can cause dry skin.

‘To do’ if you have dehydrated skin.

Adding water, or ‘aqua’, to skin is not the answer. If this was the case then a half hour in the bath every day would probably be very helpful. But water on its own dries the skin out very quickly! Look what happens to your fingertips when you get out of the bath after a ( probably very relaxing) while! Drinking plenty of water doesn’t ensure that your skin will become any less dry either.

Barrier healing substances

If you have dehydrated skin it is most important that you make sure that the skin barrier becomes strong and healthy again. You not only stop too much moisture from evaporating but also make sure that different skin processes are working more efficiently. Your skin becomes more resilient and can better protect itself against bacteria, fungal infection and viruses. Substances which help in the recovery of your barrier function are for example Vitamin C and Niacinamide (these are real multi- taskers!) but panthenol is also a super ingredient.

Hydrating substances

There are also hydrating substances which can improve the moisture balance in skin through binding moisture and/or preventing moisture from evaporating from the skin. These are the basic functions of a cream. If your skin is dehydrated then what you really need are substances that can ‘seal’ the skin off as well as something that will retain moisture like a sponge. Below are some examples of substances that can do this.

  • Dimethicone and Cyclomethicone (silicones)
    These ingredients make skin feel smooth without making it feel greasy – they are ingredients which are good for all skin types. Because they are hypoallergenic and don’t clog the skin this makes them very suitable for dry skin with acne.
  • Glycerine
    Is widely used in cosmetic products. It is very hydrating and works well in combination with hyaluronic acid. Glycerine can feel a bit sticky when used in high concentrations. It is mainly suitable for normal to dry skin.
  • Hyaluronic Acid
    Is used in many anti-wrinkle creams. Sadly it is not there to eliminate wrinkles but is a champion hydrating substance. It has a good moisture retention capacity and works well in combination with glycerine or silicone based substances such as dimethicone/cyclomethicone.
  • Collagen
    Just like hyaluronic acid, it can retain water. The plant form is mainly used in cosmetic products. On the contrary to what most people think it doesn’t have any effect on wrinkles.
  • Petrolatum (as in Vaseline)
    A strong moisture recovering substance. Products containing petrolatum feel greasy. This ingredient is therefore not readily used in the more expensive creams. However a night with Vaseline on your face can work wonders for extremely dry skin. The chances of getting an allergic reaction are very small and it is very suitable for very dry and sensitive skin.
  • Mineral oils
    As with petrolatum (other) mineral oils are very good at retaining moisture, but are at the same time less greasy. On the contrary to what is often thought mineral oil does not cause acne and the chances of allergic reaction is minimal.
  • Plant oils
    Think of jojoba oil or olive oil. They help the skin to retain moisture whilst also containing anti-oxidants. Preferably avoid fragrant oils, such as lavender, mint or tea tree. They can irritate the skin. If you are prone to allergic reactions then plant oils are not for you.
  • Lanolin (or wool grease)
    This is included in many basic creams that you can, for example, buy at the chemists. It looks like tallow (fat) and is effective for using on dry skin. It can sometimes cause allergies and is less suitable if you have sensitive skin or acne.
  • Urea
    Originally produced from urine, but fortunately nowadays it is synthetically reproduced. This ingredient has good water binding properties, but in high concentrations can irritate the skin. It is therefore less suitable for sensitive skin.
  • Glycolic acid
    Improves the moisture balance of the skin and removes dead skin.

So a whole list to choose from! Most of the ingredients have even more beneficial properties, such as glycolic acid which is also an anti-oxidant and helps against pigmentation. When used in high concentrations, the substances dimethicone and cyclomethicone can improve scarring.

Regards Jetske

(Dr. Jetske Ultee-Research Physician Cosmetic Dermatology)

You can also read: ‘A Must‘(Vaseline for dry skin),
Such Dry Skin‘,
Help with Choosing a Moisturizer‘,
Alcohol in Skin Care Products. Rather Not!’, ‘
Argan Oil: The New Wonder Drug?‘ and
Do Anti-Oxidants Actually Work in a Cream?
or do the skin analysis.

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