How can you tell the difference between dry skin and dehydrated skin?

The first sign of dry to very dry skin is discomfort on the face and body, especially after a bath or shower. Discomfort can include tightness, stiffness, scales, “snake skin” and more. This poorly-nourished skin no longer fulfils its barrier role. While dryness is a characteristic of a certain skin type, it can easily be confused with dehydrated skin, which is usually a temporary condition.


What are the symptoms of dry or very dry skin?

Dry skin is first defined by feelings. People feel that their skin is dry because they consider it is uncomfortable, tight and possibly rough and think the application of an appropriate product will provide relief. These symptoms can sometimes be accompanied by itching and burning sensations. A doctor, however, will decide that skin is dry (the term xerosis is also used) based on objective criteria: a dull appearance, specific clinical epidermal signs of desquamation, cracking, sometimes inflammation and loss of elasticity. Irregularities on the skin’s surface are even more significant with dry skin. Dry skin provides a favourable environment for eczema to develop, especially particularly in the form of pityriasis alba (dry patches). They generally appear on the cheeks and arms of children with systemic dry skin (that occurs as part of atopic dermatitis). Within the range of dry skin, there are various stages :

Dry skin temporary discomfort, slight tightness and light desquamation
Very dry skin significant discomfort and tightness, intense desquamation, cracks, chapping
Pre-atopic xerosis rough, dry skin (dry patches) and light irritation

What causes skin dryness?



Healthy skin is naturally protected on its surface by the hydrolipidic film, composed mainly of water and lipids (sebum).

It is impermeable, protects the skin from external stress and reduces water loss. When the upper layer of the epidermis does not have a good balance of water and lipids, it can no longer effectively fulfil its barrier function and becomes uncomfortable to varying degrees, as explained above.

In contrast to dehydrated skin, dry or very dry skin is a chronic condition generally caused by a genetic disorder.

It is a type of skin, like oily skin, combination skin, etc.

In addition to innate or systemic dryness, there are also dry skin conditions triggered by other factors :

external factors environmental or weather conditions
skin diseases or general illnesses atopic eczema, psoriasis, etc.
thyroid, diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, etc.
medical treatments

What differentiates dry skin from dehydrated skin?

1 / Dry skin or very dry skin

designates a particular skin type. It is a permanent condition characterised by tightness over the entire face and body caused by an abnormality in the skin barrier.

The skin is fine, has a close texture and redness, and lacks water and lipids. 

2/ Dehydrated skin

can affect people of all skin types at one time or another during their lives. This is a reversible, temporary phenomenon characterised by localised, occasional tightness due to poor binding and water loss. The skin lacks moisture, making it uncomfortable and sometimes scaly. Learn more about dehydrated skin here.

Who is affected?


Some people are born with dry skin; it is part of their genetic heritage. It is also important to understand that the skin changes with age. It is drier in children (except in newborns; however, water loss is more significant at that age), becomes oilier in adolescence and then becomes dry again in adulthood (the sebaceous glands and sweat glands become less functional).

Natural skin aging causes the epidermis to become thinner (because its cell renewal rate diminishes) and the horny layer to become thicker.

What should I do?

If you have lasting discomfort, contact your dermatologist who will be able to diagnose whether you have dry skin or dehydrated skin.

If skin suddenly becomes dry, the triggering factor should be explored:

  • it may be a change in the environment (working in a different atmosphere, engaging in an activity that dies out skin such as swimming in a pool, or using an aggressive soap or shower gel after sports),
  • an internal disease or a medicated treatment (anti-cholesterol drug, etc.).

If there is a responsible factor, it should be corrected insofar as possible.

Bioderma - Profound respect for the skin

In addition to the discomfort it causes, dry skin allows irritating and allergenic agents to penetrate the skin. It also promotes the appearance or persistence of certain conditions (eczema, psoriasis).

This is why it needs to be rehydrated.

  • The first step is to drink a sufficient amount of water.Try to drink 1.5 litres of water per day (unless your doctor tells you otherwise).
  • Also, it is always important to choose non-aggressive cleansing and skincare products. Use replenishing, non-detergent and, if necessary, rehydrating cleansing products (in the form of milks, creams, balms, ointments and oils depending on the area and degree of dryness). The aim is to reduce water evaporation, maintain a sufficient amount of water in the epidermis and repair the impaired skin barrier.
  • Avoid the overheated and stuffy atmospheres of apartments.

Bioderma - Profound respect for the skin

Once or twice a day, wash your face with a mild cleanser that will not damage the skin barrier.

To dry, gently dab skin without rubbing.

Bioderma - Profound respect for the skin

Each morning and evening after washing, gently apply a moisturising and emollient treatment to relieve pulling sensations and protect your skin from external stress. Remember to nourish the skin on your face and body with suitable products.

Bioderma - Profound respect for the skin

Bioderma - Profound respect for the skin
Bioderma - Profound respect for the skin
Bioderma - Profound respect for the skin
Bioderma - Profound respect for the skin

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