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During a recent facial, I listed my main skin concern as breakouts, and after a skin analysis, the aesthetician kindly let me know I'm not actually suffering from acne. And although I was pretty sure about the congestion (it is my face, after all), I was open to her explanation. Turns out, my skin is severely dehydrated, which came as a surprise, as I'd generally considered my skin to be oily or, at the very least, combination. But don't be fooled: The skin can be both oily and dehydrated — a new type of combination skin, if you will.
"Dry skin is characterized by fewer oil-producing glands on the face and body," says Ross C. Radusky, a board-certified dermatologist at SoHo Skin & Laser Dermatology. "Dehydrated skin, on the other hand, is a lack of water, not oil. So you can actually have an oily complexion but still have dehydrated skin."
Most of us understand the negative impacts of dehydration on our overall health, but who knew it had the potential to wreak such visible havoc on our faces? In order to understand the difference between overall dryness and dehydration, I consulted a few experts, who share the three steps to healthy, hydrated skin.
Step 1: Diagnosis
Basically, dryness refers to a skin type, and dehydration refers to a skin condition. "Dry skin lacks oil because it produces less sebum than normal skin, and the lack of sebum means the skin is without the lipids it needs to retain moisture and to build a strong barrier to protect against external aggressors," says Tata Harper, organic skin-care mogul and founder of Tata Harper Skincare. "Dehydrated skin does not have enough water. Dehydration is caused by many external factors, but the most common are weather, environment, diet, and caffeine consumption, all of which can result in diminished water content within the skin."
A good test, says Radusky, is to pinch your cheek. If it's wrinkling with gentle pressure instead of holding its shape, your skin cells are desperate for water. He also notes that dehydrated skin will feel tight, look dull in the mirror, and you may notice more exaggerated wrinkles, or ones in places you don't remember having them, along with more exaggerated dark circles beneath your eyes.