Dehydrated skin is skin that lacks moisture. It may flake, itch and be easily irritated and feel tight after washing it, especially after cleansing with soap or harsh cleansers. Moisture-deprived skin also looks older since the lack of moisture accentuates fine lines and wrinkles. The key to treating this common skin problem is to help skin hold on to more water.
What Causes It?
Skin becomes dehydrated when it loses too much water to the outside environment. This can come from external factors that cause water loss such as extremes in temperature or dry air. People who live in a dry climate or in a home with low humidity often lose excess water through their skin, especially in the winter.
Using harsh soaps and cleansers and washing too often can also harm skin’s natural lipid layer that helps to hold water in, leading to skin dehydration. Taking hot showers and baths, living in a dry environment and running air conditioning also draw water from the skin’s surface causing skin to become dehydrated.
Other factors that cause skin dehydration are overexposure to the sun and medical conditions such as an under-active thyroid gland or diabetes. Dehydrated skin also becomes more common with age as the protective, outer layer of the skin thins out and doesn’t retain water as well.
Skin is dehydrated when the outer layer of the skin called the stratum corneum contains less than 10% water. At that point, skin starts to feel tight and lose its translucency. It also feels rough and dry to the touch. Skin that’s dehydrated lacks the rosy glow of youth and may feel itchy, irritated and uncomfortable.
It’s important to avoid over cleansing dehydrated skin especially with soap or other harsh detergents since this can harm the lipid barrier that helps the skin hold onto water. Short showers are better than soaking in a tub of hot water. If you live in a dry home, add a home humidifier to put more moisture into the air to reduce water loss. Avoid unnecessary sun exposure, and always wear a sunscreen to reduce moisture loss and protect against premature skin aging.
One of the best things you can do for this problem is to use a mild cleanser, and follow up with a moisturizer. Moisturizers provide skin with an additional barrier that reduces water loss. Some moisturizers called humectants draw water from the environment to moisten the skin. They are found in many moisturizing skin care products.
For cleansing, choose a product specially formulated for skin that’s dry or dehydrated. The cleanser should contain moisturizing and soothing ingredients like aloe vera and honey. Other ingredients such as salicylic acid and resorcinol can help to improve skin’s texture.
At night, follow up with a moisturizing cream that contains hydrating agents to provide a barrier against moisture loss. Select a product that is hypoallergenic and won’t irritate sensitive skin. Once it’s on, you can sleep peacefully knowing your skin is well nourished and protected from water loss.
Protect your skin from dehydration throughout the day but using a sunscreen with antioxidants to protect skin cells against damage that can cause premature aging. This provides good, daily protection against dehydrated skin and sun damage. Sun protection is a must for keeping skin moist and youthful.
The Bottom Line?
Dehydrated skin can make you look older by accentuating fine lines and reducing skin’s natural translucency. Fortunately, using a mild cleanser and moisturizer made for water-starved skin helps to hold in hydration and give skin back its youthful glow.