Understanding the difference between dryness & dehydration.
Despite the reality that the terms ‘dryness’ and ‘dehydration’ (along with ‘moisturizing’ and ‘hydrating’) are used interchangeably when discussing skin, there is a significant difference between the two.
The difference is simple. Dry skin is lipid-deficient. Dehydrated skin is water-deficient.
Moisture comes from oils. Hydration comes from water.
Since this is rarely discussed or delineated, many people believe their skin is dry when really it is just dehydrated. This misunderstanding is why so many people struggle with feeling that no matter what they put on their skin, it never feels properly moisturized.
True hydration is often the missing link in persistently dry or depleted skin. And because so many modern skin treatments are so disruptive to barrier function, dehydration is one of the deepest and most rampant skin issues happening today.
All skin can be—and likely is— dehydrated. Oily, dry, combo, sensitive, mature and even youthful skin (especially if it’s being regularly exposed to harsh treatment methods) is subject to dehydration.
Both dryness and dehydration can be a result of incorrect topical skin treatments, or more commonly, a larger, more systemic imbalance that the skin is exhibiting outwardly.
Skin requires both oils and waters to stay healthy, harmonious and properly moisturized and hydrated, which is one of the core reasons why Oil Serums and HydroSouls are so foundational for all skin and why many people don’t find relief with using oils, butters or balms alone.
Barrier function & hydration
Dehydration is one of the most prevalent skin imbalances, and also one of the most invisible. There are a few reasons for that. The first being its general exclusion from the skin care conversation and the way it’s inaccurately lumped in with ‘dryness.’
Another reason for the rampancy of dehydration is the unfortunately too-common disruption of the skin’s hydrolipid barrier. Modern skin beautification techniques and treatments— acids, exfoliants, retinols, etc—disregard and disrupt the skin’s protective hydrolipid barrier, prioritizing aesthetic over health and harmony. These types of treatments strip the skin of it’s barrier and leave the skin susceptible to dryness, dehydration, sensitivity, and even bacterial or fungal imbalance. (Part of the skin barrier is a microbiome of beneficial bacteria and, along with the skin’s natural oils and waters, these essential bacteria are stripped too). It also leaves the skin unable to self-regulate. Without proper barrier function the skin is unable to hold onto its water, which results in trans-epidermal water loss; the evaporation of water from the skin. Several things can contribute to trans-epidermal water loss (age & climate included), but compromised barrier function is the most common culprit. Supporting barrier function is essential for hydrated skin.
Increasing topical hydration
Healthy barrier function is essential for the skin to be able to retain moisture/hydration, so staying away from things that disrupt barrier function, while simultaneously supporting barrier function with the choices you do make, is key to cultivating skin that is properly hydrated and moisturized.
This will surprise no one, as this is our solution for everything, but it’s just as important here as it is everywhere else. The Oil & Water ritual using nourishing plant oils and restorative plant waters mimics and supports the skin’s hydrolipid barrier.
Even in treating dehydration, waters/hydrators alone are not enough. Oils are essential to this process, because they hold the water to the skin, in the same way the waters drive the oils deeper into the skin—working in perfect synergy. For many people with surface dehydration, a daily skin practice with Oil & Water will be enough to balance out their dehydration. In some cases this alone might not be enough, given a person’s age, their environment etc. And in that case, we add an extra step.
Ultimate hydration layering
Mist with copious HydroSoul (10+ sprays)
Mist with HydroSoul (2-5 sprays)
The Oil & Water Ritual (blend both in palms, then press/massage into skin)
Mist with HydroSoul (2-4 sprays)
Massage in sealing moisture (Butter, Balm, or moisturizer— something with breathable occlusive ingredients like shea butter, beeswax, cocoa butter)
For extra hydration, steps 1 & 2 can be repeated however many times until you reach a feeling of saturation
*Sealing is a key step in sealing hydration into dehydrated skin!*
Treating dryness & dehydration from the inside out
These are some of our favorite foods to eat and practices to engage in to support moisturized, supple, hydrated skin.
Focus on Healthy Fats
Avocados ｜ Chia ｜ Hemp
Coconuts (coconut oil, milk, butter, etc)
Other/all seeds and nuts
especially pumpkin, sesame, macadamia
Animal fats like ghee, butter, tallow, lard, etc
(organic & grass-fed/pastured if possible)
Organ meats & wild caught fish (like salmon, mackerel, sardines)
Supplemental Omegas from fish oil, borage, evening primrose, flax
Prioritizing dietary oils like olive oil and avocado oil
Hydration is a little more nuanced. Of course water is key, but on it’s own and especially if it’s municipal water that’s been highly processed and purified (as opposed to spring or well water), and even more especially if it’s been processed through reverse osmosis or distillation—chugging water on it’s own is not as hydrating as you might expect.
Here's what is hydrating:
(high quality, unrefined salt—not iodized table salt)
(contains whole-form hyaluronic acid)
Chia in your water
Hydrating fruits like cucumber, tomato, and watermelon
Yin-increasing activities like Yin Yoga and breathwork
Oatstraw overnight infusion
Homemade seed milk
(which can assist with dryness too)
Keeping lymph flowing
(gentle movement, hot baths, rebounding, lymph massage, dry-brushing etc)
Adding things like salt, citrus, chia and chlorophyll directly to your water enhances hydration, so consuming the list above in a watery state adds an extra oomph of bioavailable hydration.
If your environment is contributing to your skin’s dehydration (whether it be the climate you live in, or the air inside your home), a humidifier can also be incredibly helpful.
Wish I had received this depth of info even a year ago. What do you recommend for vegans? Since we are only a slight % of the population, it feels like our food choices are dwindling. Doctors are even hesitant to weigh in on vegan foods which sustain the moisture barrier you discuss.
Advice is welcome!!!
Hey EH family….this was some great informative information, Thank you !