The Best Skincare Routine for Dehydrated Skin

If your skin is feeling tight, looking dull, lacking plumpness, and has red, flaky patches, you may jump to the conclusion that you have dry skin. Let me ask you one question – has your skin always been dry? If not, it’s much more likely that your skin is dehydrated.

Dry skin is skin that is low in sebaceous activity – nerd speak for it not producing as much oil as it should. Dehydrated skin, on the other hand, is low in water rather than oil – it’s not a genetic predisposition but more of a result of lifestyle factors such as a diet low in fatty acids and other nutrients like vitamins and minerals, alcohol consumption, misuse of skincare products and harsh weather conditions.

You can read more about the difference between dry and dehydrated skin here. 

We’re going to speak about what it actually means in terms of what your skin is going through, the best ingredients and the best skincare routine for dehydrated skin. 

What actually is skin dehydration? 
Skin dehydration isn’t quite cut and dry, due to the numbers of factors that can influence how our skin becomes dehydrated. However, from a formulation standpoint, when skincare formulators are thinking about dehydrated skin, usually they’re trying to up moisture content and reduce water loss from the skin by adding hydrating ingredients and ingredients that can help to restore the skin’s barrier to a happier state. 

So realistically, if your skin has become dehydrated, it’s lower in lipids like ceramides, for example, or even sebum. It’s not so much that your skin isn’t producing enough sebum, it’s more that the sebum you do make may be removed from the skin. 

Coming from a skin therapist perspective, like formulators, we want to alleviate the dehydration instantly with hydrators and then try to reduce what is causing the skin dehydration. It’s actually one of the simpler skin concerns to address and can be hugely improved within a week or two.

The Best Skincare Routine for Dehydrated Skin

Cleansers for dehydrated skin 

No matter how your skin has become dehydrated, we need to think about your cleanser. I believe cleansing is the cornerstone of your skincare routine, and I advocate for cleansing being your core exfoliating step too… However, it’s important to replenish anything that your cleanser could be taking away. 

Your core, gentle daily cleanser for dehydrated skin should be a cream cleanser, an oil cleanser or a balm cleanser or if it is a wash or a foam, we want to make sure it’s not skin-stripping and that it actually introduces more hydration to the skin. If your skin feels tight after cleansing, that cleanser is not for your skin, at least right now when you’re looking to improve skin hydration. 

Ingredients that I love for skin hydration are prebiotics and probiotics. Probiotics can help to rebalance the skin’s flora, which can also help with skin dehydration. Not to be biased, but my own Skingredients PreProbiotic Cleanse (€25, theskinnerd.com) is ideal for dehydrated skin as it contains a pre-probiotic complex and polyhydroxy acid. 

Another thing to keep an eye out for in cleansers for dehydrated skin are ceramides. Ceramides are a lipid native to our skin that play a part in retaining moisture, so introducing them throughout our routine is integral. If you prefer a foam or wash to a creamy cleanser, you could opt for the Holika Holika Good Cera Super Ceramide Foaming Wash (€18.50, beautybay.com) which contains three types of ceramides. 

One thing to note – your pre-cleanse can actually very much dehydrate your skin if you’re opting for a micellar water that is high in alcohol or fragrance, or the dreaded face wipes. Opt for a pre-cleanse that does not contain these ingredients, such as a pre-cleanse balm or the Cleanse Off Mitt reusable makeup remover (€6.50, theskinnerd.com). 

best skincare routine for dehydrated skin

Serums for dehydrated skin 

I think when many think of a skincare routine they think “cleanser, moisturiser, SPF” as standard, but I’d be inclined to opt for a serum rather than a moisturiser. Although a moisturiser can be super beneficial as a method of softening the upper layers of the skin, serums can penetrate deeper to deliver active ingredients further into the epidermis for longer-term results. 

On the short-term front, the type of hydrator we’re looking for is called a humectant. A humectant is a molecule that binds water to it, and the main one you’ll find in skincare is hyaluronic acid (although glycerin is another really effective humectant). Hyaluronic acid is going to help to draw moisture from your environment into your skin. Your skin is going to feel instantly plumper and more hydrated when you use a hyaluronic acid serum. Skin Formulas Hydra Serum (€50, theskinnerd.com) contains multi-weigh hyaluronic acid to instantly hydrate while stimulating your skin’s own reservoir of hyaluronic acid. 

Long-term, our goal is to help to strengthen the skin and give it what it needs to synthesise collagen for example, and to retain its moisture with more ease. My go-to ingredient in topical skincare for this (and for essentially all skin concerns) is vitamin A, particularly in the form of retinyl palmitate. Retinyl palmitate converts to retinoic acid in the skin, but with a slightly longer chain of conversion than retinol. This means that the skin can tolerate it better, but that you can get similar results. Introduce a vitamin A serum such as Environ SkinEssentiA AVST Moisturiser (€57, theskinnerd.com). 

Vitamin A is also an antioxidant and the AVST Moisturiser has additional antioxidants too. Antioxidants help to protect our skin from the environmental damage that can lead to dehydrated skin. Studies in areas with high levels of air pollution in Beijing showed that skin dehydration is the skin concern caused most instantly by air pollution. 

Moisturiser for dehydrated skin 

Now, I know I said that serums are more important generally but if you are happy to have a moisturiser as well as serums, you want something that helps to restore your skin’s barrier, which is more than likely not working as it should if you’re seeing skin dehydration! 

Your skin’s barrier is a bit like the lid of your skin. If your skin is a lunch box filled with water, if there’s a hole in the lid, that water is going to come out during the day. If we help to repair these holes or weak spots, we can keep much more of that water in! 

Skingredients Skin Good Fats (€42, theskinnerd.com) contains shea butter glycerides which are incredibly nourishing without clogging pores, plus ceramide NP, to help soothe the skin, protect it and help it to retain moisture. 

SPF for dehydrated skin 

Everyone needs SPF every single day, as UVA and UVB rays can cause damage to our skin, including contributing towards accelerated ageing, pigmentation and skin cancer. UVA reaches us all year round, no matter the weather, through windows too, so it’s integral we protect ourselves. The best SPF for your skin is really down to personal preference. 

Heliocare 360 Mineral Tolerance (€35.00, theskinnerd.com) is a broad-spectrum SPF 50 with a repairing enzyme to help to heal the skin while providing antioxidant protection too, so this could be a great option. 

Supplements for dehydrated skin 

Our philosophy at The Skin Nerd is that skin health requires a 360˚ approach, so you need to feed the skin from within as well as on the outside. Something I swear by for dehydrated skin is an omega supplement, such as the Advanced Nutrition Programme Skin Omegas+ (€37.00, theskinnerd.com). Omegas promote normal skin health and are proven to increase skin glow. 

The new Hush & Hush SkinCapsule Hydrate+ contains hyaluronic acid and Ceramosides, an ingredient that works to introduce more ceramides to the blood stream. In 2 clinical studies, on 80 people, Ceramosides had a high skin hydration effect – so worthwhile if you’re keen on nutraceuticals! This will be launching on theskinnerd.com on the 25th of January! 

Exfoliation for dehydrated skin 

Over-exfoliation is actually a main cause of dehydrated skin, so cut back to once a week to see if that improves hydration and slowly increase. If you are using a skincare routine where every product contains an exfoliating acid, no wonder your skin is dehydrated. 

If you don’t use an exfoliating product of yet, consider lactic acid. Lactic acid is believed to be one of the most hydrating exfoliating acids, and due to a large molecular size, acts in a more controlled and gentle manner. 

You can opt for something like the Inkey List Lactic Acid 10% Serum (€9.99, mccabespharmacy.com) and use it once or twice a week, before your vitamin A serum. 

Find out more about which exfoliating acid is best for your skin here. 

Your nerdie recap on dehydrated skin 

  • Dehydrated skin isn’t the same as dry skin
  • Your goal is to provide hydration short term and to help restore your skin’s barrier long term
  • Key ingredients include probiotics, hyaluronic acid, shea butter, ceramides, omegas and lactic acid
  • Add a bit of patience and your skin will feel plump and hydrated

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