Most of us suffer dehydrated or dry skin every once in a while; it’s a fact of life. Skin hydration levels can change with the seasons, environmental humidity levels, caffeine and alcohol intake, amount of sleep, water consumption and more. Keeping our delicate moisture levels balanced can be problematic and frustrating, and those of us experiencing prolonged skin dehydration have likely tested an array of skincare products with less than ideal results. Often, getting back to basics can be the most positive change we can make to keep our skin glowing.
Skin Dehydration vs Skin Dryness
Contrary to popular belief, dehydrated skin is not the same as dry skin, yet many of us believe our complexion type into one of three categories: normal, oily or dry/dehydrated.
It is possible (and quite common) to have both dehydrated and oily skin. A usual misconception is that oily skin is characterised by high moisture levels, but it is an overproduction of sebum (oil), rather than water, that causes skin oiliness. A lack of water (dehydration) subsequently leads to increased sebum production as the skin attempts to overcompensate for low water levels. Aside from oiliness, dehydration of the skin is often distinguishable by a lack of suppleness and resiliency. For instance, if you pinch your skin and it does not spring back into its original position immediately, lack of hydration is a typical cause.
So, what is dry skin? Dry skin, by contrast, utilises fewer sebum-producing glands across the face and body. The low oil concentration can result in flaky skin that is rough and dull in appearance.
To complicate matters further, it is possible to have both dry and dehydrated skin. Since dry skin is lacking in oil content, its barrier function is impaired, which may lead to further water loss.
What Causes the Skin to Lose Hydration?
Numerous factors can lead to skin dehydration, many of which we have little control over. Elements such as changes in season, cold weather, pollution, UV rays, etc., can draw water out of the skin, plus several external and emotional influences. Below are the most common factors that can negatively impact skin moisture levels.
- Cold seasons, wind, UV rays, pollution, humidity levels.
- Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, insufficient water intake, some medication (such as acne treatment), hot showers.
- Fatigue, stress.
- Astringents or products that are too aggressive can strip the skin of moisture.
Hydrate Skin Naturally (and Keep it That Way!)
We now understand the impact of lifestyle and environmental factors on skin hydration. While investing in expensive lotions and creams for your skincare routine can help somewhat, at least in the short-term, significantly more effective and long-lasting treatment for dehydrated skin is often much simpler (and cheaper).
Let’s take a look at some of the factors that we can take control of to boost moisture levels in the skin and keep it hydrated.
1. Use Extra Virgin Olive Oil
For remarkable nourishing and moisturising properties, don’t overlook this kitchen cupboard staple. Extra Virgin Olive Oil quenches the skin’s thirst from within thanks to its high content of healthy fats and Vitamin A, E, D and K which help to protect, hydrate and nourish. Drizzle olive oil over your meals for a hydration boost, especially during the winter months.
2. Infuse Your Water
We all know how important it is to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water (six to eight glasses per day, according to the NHS; more if you are active). Despite this, many of us struggle to get in those glasses of H2O, instead opting for caffeinated drinks which, of course, are counterproductive in our quest for optimal hydration.
One way to increase your water consumption is to infuse it. Try fresh cucumber, lemon, berries, watermelon, pink grapefruit… the choice is yours. Simply cut up your choice of fruit or vegetable, put it into your water bottle and keep it in the fridge. This technique can be effective for a couple of reasons; firstly, your previously bland water now tastes delicious, which will keep you returning to the fridge for more! Secondly, you can lap up all the extra hydration benefits provided by your health-boosting infusions.
3. Alleviate Dry Skin with Aloe Vera
The leaves of the aloe vera plant contain high levels of beneficial nutrients such as Vitamin A, Vitamin E and Vitamin B12. The cactus-like plant, found in deserts across the globe, produces a gel that is often used in skincare. Aloe vera gel is 98% water which, in conjunction with its vitamin content, can effectively hydrate and soothe the skin.
Aloe vera gel is suitable for topical use on the skin and is tolerated very well by sensitive skin types, making it a popular natural product. If purchasing aloe vera gel, we recommend avoiding products with added ingredients that may negatively impact the skin, such as alcohol. One way to ensure you are using natural aloe vera is to keep your very own plant! Typically available from local garden centres, aloe vera gel can be easily extracted from the leaves – there are many online guides on how to do this.
4. Pamper with a Thirst-Quenching Face Mask
Get creative with a DIY face mask activity. Easy to make, affordable, natural and deeply beneficial for the skin, we believe that homemade face masks should be part of every skincare regime – you could create a pot, keep it in the fridge, and dig it out once a week to enhance your complexion.
The list of ingredients for a DIY face mask is limitless, and the recipes out there are vast (a simple internet search will provide you with hundreds), but some of our favourite ingredients include coconut oil (super hydrating), CBD facial oil (relaxing and moisture-boosting), avocado (nourishing) and natural rosewater (revitalising). For a quick and easy hydration boost, try a mix of raw honey, half a teaspoon of CBD oil, half an avocado – mix well until smooth, apply to skin, relax and rinse off after 20 minutes for beautifully soft, smooth and supple skin.
5. Fill Your Plate with Antioxidant-Rich Food
Packing your plate with fruit and veg is a great way to boost your intake of antioxidants and your body water percentage. Eating more antioxidant-rich foods, such as leafy greens, beetroot, berries and sweet potatoes will benefit your skin, keeping it smooth and supple.
6. Don’t Forget Protein
We know that protein is paramount for muscle repair and growth, but it’s also necessary for optimum hydration. Protein helps fluid absorption and regenerates new skin cells, so it’s important to ensure you are eating enough. Check every meal – do you have protein on your plate? If not, add some! This may be a sprinkling of flaxseed, a dollop of Greek yoghurt or a boiled egg, for instance.
7. Keep Cool
One of the most frequent ways we encourage skin dehydration is by taking showers and baths that are too hot. Washing your face with hot water can also add to the effect. The heat from the water stimulates moisture to leave your skin and evaporate, therefore, if you are prone to dehydrated skin, adjust your shower routine so that they are short and lukewarm to help keep water content locked in.
8. Take Steps to Reduce Stress
It’s easy to forget the connection, but stress can significantly impact hydration by impairing the skin barrier function, which in turn disrupts the repair process. While we often have little control over the occurrence of stressful events, we can take steps to improve our management of stress. This can include mindfulness, meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, relaxation, regular exercise and the use of CBD oil, all of which can help to reduce stress and anxiety and keep skin in better health.
9. Hydrate with Healthy Fats
Essential fats are crucial for skin barrier support, decreasing inflammation and maintaining a healthy complexion. Give your skin a boost by eating more oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, avocados, nuts and seeds.
10. Always Wear Sunscreen
UV rays can dry out the skin by damaging the skin barrier, which is required to keep the skin hydrated. It is crucial to protect your skin against the sun daily (even on cloudy days). Apply a good-quality broad-spectrum sunscreen after your moisturiser and before make-up application, to help lock in water content.