Skin Dehydration – What It Is, Causes and Preventive Measures

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The essence of a skincare routine is to help the skin look smooth and healthy. However, that may not work for you if one thing is missing. If you are consistent with your skincare routine and your skin still feels dry and patchy, you may be experiencing skin dehydration. 

Dehydrated skin often looks and feels dry and also itchy. You may confuse this as having dry skin but the two are different. Dry skin is a skin type and it only means that your sebaceous glands are not producing enough oil for your skin. 

Dry, scaly skin is not on our skin wish list, and neither is a tired, dehydrated look. Dehydrated skin is a sign of dehydration—lack of enough water to moisturize the skin. This can happen to anyone, whether or not your skin is dry, oily, sensitive, or acne-prone.

Read ahead to find out all the information you need as this article explores the symptoms, causes, prevention tips, and how to hydrate dehydrated skin.

What Is Dehydrated Skin?

A “dehydrated skin” is what you get for not having enough water in your body to hydrate your skin. The body needs water to function properly and when there is a lack of enough water, the skin suffers as well. 

The skin gets dull, dry, and patchy and the overall appearance of the skin will look unhealthy. Skin dehydration also causes the skin to develop dehydration lines—which is similar to wrinkles but not the same. 

Although dehydrated skin appears dry, it shouldn’t be confused with dry skin. A person with dry skin can still have their skin look nice and healthy because what their skin lacks is enough oil.

On the other hand, no skincare products can treat your skin problem if your skin lacks water. Mild skin dehydration is common amongst adults and infants as their body needs more water to function.

Babies are known to vomit and go through diarrhea more than adults. This causes water loss from the body and if the loss of water surpasses the intake, the body becomes dry.

According to a study, The human body is filled with water as it contains between 55 to 65% water. This is because every skin cell, tissue, and organ requires water to function well. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the body needs water to:

  • Prevent heating up when sweating
  • Prevent constipation
  • Protect skin tissues
  • Ensure adequate bowel movement and urination to remove waste from the body
  • To keep the skin plump and healthy

The body uses up water and the only way to ensure proper hydration is to drink enough water to make up for the lost one. When your body uses up more water than you take in, you start to experience dehydration. Dehydration affects all parts of the body including the skin. 

While skin dehydration can be annoying, you can easily treat it with simple lifestyle changes. Simply start treating the inside of your skin by drinking plenty of water and using hydrating skincare products such as hyaluronic acid to restore hydration to your skin. 

In cases where you experience severe dehydration and dry skin, ensure that you consult a doctor for treatments.

How Do You Test Skin Dehydration?

You can easily test your skin at home to confirm if what is causing dryness on your skin is dehydration. Simply carry out a “pinch test” to check your skin elasticity.

The elasticity of the skin can break down due to lack of hydration, therefore it is a perfect way to test dehydration. 

To do this, pinch a small area of your cheek, abdomen, chest, or hand. Do this for a few seconds and release your skin. 

If your skin gets back in place quickly after this, it is safe to say your skin is healthy. However, if it takes a while to get back into place, you are most likely dehydrated. 

If you notice any wrinkling or lines on your skin after doing the test, your skin may also not have enough hydration. You can also visit a dermatologist or aesthetician to check properly for signs of dehydration.

What Are the Signs of Skin Dehydration?

One of the many signs of dehydrated skin is the need to scratch your skin. If you always get the urge to scratch your skin, you may be experiencing skin dehydration. Another one of the most common signs of dehydrated skin is an increase in skin irritation. 

Once the skin loses its hydration, the skin’s barrier becomes weak. This results in the inability to protect the skin from environmental aggressors. Therefore, when the skin becomes exposed to them, it becomes sensitive and itchy.

Another symptom of dehydration is the appearance of dry patches on the skin. These patches appear rough and scaly. Dehydration lines, dull and saggy skin are also symptoms of skin dehydration. 

Adults can experience other dehydration symptoms such as: 

  • Constant thirst
  • Dry lips and mouth
  • Less urination
  • Fewer bowel movements
  • sweating less than usual
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Sunken eyes
  • Dark urine with a strong odor

Infants can also experience other signs of dehydration such as:

  • Dry mouth, lips, and tongue
  • Lack of tears when crying
  • High fever rate
  • Constant sleepiness or drowsiness
  • Dark urine with a strong smell
  • Increased sensitivity of the skin

What Causes Skin Dehydration?

As you age, you may lose your sense of thirst. This means that adults have the tendency to not drink enough water and that can cause serious dehydration to the body and skin. 

Infants also lose plenty of water because they often experience diarrhea and they puke more than adults.  

Certain health concerns such as diabetes, kidney dysfunction, and so on can influence dehydration. This is because they cause sweat and urination more often than usual. 

Medications such as laxatives, antacids, blood pressure drugs, and so on, can also contribute to the dehydration of the skin. 

Other causes of dehydration include:

  • Using harsh cleansers such as bar soap
  • Washing the skin with hot water
  • Not moisturizing the skin after cleansing
  • Washing the skin too often
  • Using too many acne topical treatments such as retinol
  • Weather changes such as the dry air that comes during winter
  • Too much exposure of the skin to UV rays
  • Excessive use of alcohol-based skincare products
  • Consumption of too much caffeine
  • Smoking 
  • Too much intake of alcohol

How Do You Treat Dehydrated Skin?

You can easily treat skin dehydration with simple lifestyle changes. One major step to treating dehydration is to drink plenty of water. This will help to restore hydration to your skin quickly. 

Drinking adequate water is important for you at this point and you can start by following the eight glasses of water daily. You may need to go beyond eight glasses of water, depending on your body weight and amount of daily activities.

Other lifestyle changes to help you treat dehydration include: 

  • Moderate consumption of alcohol
  • Less caffeine consumption
  • Quit smoking
  • Drink water during and after your workout
  • Eat plant-based foods such as vegetables
  • Eat fruits that are rich in water such as cucumber and watermelon

Changing your skincare products and routine can also help with treating dehydration and replenishing the skin. Start by switching your cream to a moisturizer that helps to hydrate the skin. It is also important to get rid of harsh skincare products.

When to contact a doctor

Drinking water and practicing lifestyle changes may not be so much for severe dehydration. Severe dehydration can lead to low blood pressure and can also cause organs to stop working properly. 

Severe dehydration can affect the brain, heart, kidneys, immune system, and so on. If you are experiencing symptoms of mild dehydration and you also go through a lack of urination, quick breaths, and a heartbeat, you need to seek urgent medical attention. 

A doctor may be able to treat severe dehydration with intravenous fluids.

How to Prevent Skin Dehydration

It is quite easy to avoid dehydration. It is often easier to prevent a problem than find solutions. To prevent your body and skin from going through any form of dehydration,

  • Consume plenty of water every day
  • Ensure that you drink plenty of water during and after exercising
  • Stay away from alcohol and smoke
  • Avoid sugary and caffeinated drinks
  • Drink more water in hot weather
  • Drink more water when sick and on medications
  • Avoid harsh skincare products

Can Dehydration Cause Acne?

Skin dehydration can cause acne breakouts to occur in the skin. Dehydration causes your skin to become dry, which, in turn, causes your skin to produce too much oil. When this happens, the excess oil can mix with the dead skin cells and dirt to clog your pores.

This thereby leads to the formation of acne in your skin. Also, since the skin barrier is weak due to dehydration, it will be easy for bacteria to get into the formation and cause inflammation and bumps. 

If your breakout is caused by dehydration, acne is more likely to appear around the ears and on the forehead. Once you notice this, make sure you work towards restoring hydration to your skin to stop acne breakouts.

Does Dehydration Cause Wrinkles?

Dehydration doesn’t cause wrinkles but can cause a similar condition called dehydration lines. Skin dehydration can cause the skin to lose its elasticity. This results in saggy skin and causes the appearance of lines like wrinkles to form on the skin. 

How Long Does It Take to Treat Dehydrated Skin?

It takes just 24 hours to change your hydration levels. All you have to do is drink enough water, refrain from harsh skincare products, avoid smoking and taking too much alcohol, and moisturize your skin. 

Once you do all this, you will notice your skin begin to go back to normal. However, it can take up to two weeks to heal your skin completely. Be patient and help your skin repair its barrier.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is oily skin a sign of dehydration?

Yes, it is. If you notice your skin becoming more oily than usual, you may be experiencing skin dehydration. 

This is because when the skin becomes dehydrated, the sebaceous glands respond by producing more oil in the skin. Meanwhile, what the body needs is water and not oil. This results in the skin becoming oils as the sebaceous gland produces excess.

Does itchy skin mean dehydration?

Yes, it does. Itchy skin can be a sign of dehydration, however, this is not always the case. 

To confirm if your skin is dehydrated, do the pinch test by pinching your abdomen and holding it for a few seconds. If your skin snaps back to normal after releasing it, your itchiness is due to something else.

Can oil help dehydrated skin?

No, it can’t. Oil is not what hydrated skin needs. Dehydrated skin needs water to restore hydration. 

Oil will do nothing but join the dry and dead skin cells on your skin to clog your pores and this can lead to acne breakouts.


Any type of skin can experience dehydration—whether dry, oily, acne-prone, or combination skin. Dehydration occurs as a result of the body using more water than you drink.

When there is less than an adequate amount of water in the body, the skin becomes dehydrated. 

Understanding why your skin is dehydrating is a major step to restoring hydration to your skin and preventing further dehydration. Lack of water and the use of harsh skincare products are the major causes of skin dehydration.

Do your skin a favor by avoiding them.

Thanks for reading.

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