It’s been dubbed a ‘prolific’ skin condition by experts, yet most of us don’t even know we’re suffering from it. Here’s why dehydration could be behind your complexion conundrums…

tub of cream with small people

It’s 11am. You applied your foundation meticulously mere hours ago, yet your skin’s already slurping it up faster than you can say ‘pass me my makeup bag’. Vanishing act aside, your skin feels rough – not to mention persistently tight and sensitive – and you’re looking duller than a date with your ex.

If this all sounds familiar, there’s a good chance you’re suffering from a dehydrated complexion – one of the most common, yet misunderstood, skin conditions around, according to Pamela Marshall, clinical aesthetician and
co-founder of Mortar & Milk clinic. ‘Every client I see is dehydrated, although many don’t realise it. It’s prolific,’ she explains.

What’s the deal?

‘Dehydrated skin is often confused with dry skin, but the two are totally different. Dry skin lacks oil, whereas dehydrated skin lacks water or “moisture”, which is why oily skin types can suffer from dehydration, too,’ explains consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto.

‘Flaky skin is a tell-tale sign of dryness, while dehydration shows itself in a number of different ways. These include dullness, sensitivity, loss of elasticity, a rough, papery texture, fine lines – and even an increase in oil (as though it’s sitting on top of the surface), since the skin can overproduce it in a confused attempt to tackle that parched feeling.’

And the reason for makeup disappearing sharpish? ‘This can occur when your face drinks up the water in your foundation. You might notice it happening more when you’re hungover, as your hydration levels drop even further,’ adds Anjali.

Hydration thieves

While some culprits, such as cold weather, air con, central heating and hard city water, are pretty unavoidable, some of our daily beauty habits could also be behind our thirsty faces.

‘Our skin has an essential protective barrier, which keeps water in and irritants out. Once this is damaged, it can’t function properly, allowing water to escape,’ says Pamela.

‘Cleansing incorrectly is a big cause of barrier breakdown. There’s a misconception that the heavy makeup looks, so popular on social media, require potent cleansing products for removal. But wipes and foaming or acid-based cleansers can all give our barrier a beating, leading to water loss.’

Pamela points to another major dehydration-triggering baddie, too. ‘There’s a huge trend right now for strong, active ingredients, such as glycolic acid, but these are frequently overused. Don’t get me wrong – I love them, too – but they should be used sparingly at home, not every day, to avoid damaging the protective barrier.’

THE DRINKS FOR YOUR SKIN

Think you’re in the parched-skin pack? It’s easy to fix topsy-turvy moisture levels, although we don’t mean just an extra glug of water with your dinner. ‘Drinking more water will help your overall health, but it won’t lead directly to better skin hydration,’ says Anjali. Instead, aim for a three-pronged skincare approach, which involves rebuilding the protective wall, pumping more water back into the skin and ensuring it stays locked in. With our simple tricks, it’s as easy as H, 2, O…

Vitamin E Superdrug Vitamin E Hot Cloth Cleanser 200ml £4.99 Buy Now
La Roche-Posay La Roche-Posay HyaluB5 Hyaluronic Acid Plumping Serum 30ml £37.99 Buy Now
CeraVe CeraVe PM Facial Moisturising Lotion Normal to Dry Skin 52ml £12.99 Buy Now
Me+ Me+ Hyaluronic Booster 30ml £5.99 Buy Now
L'Oreal Paris L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Filler Serum Hyaluronic Acid 30ml £16.59 Buy Now
Eucerin Eucerin Hyaluron-Filler Night Peeling & Serum 30ml £37.99 Buy Now

1. ‘Creamy cleansers are perfect for keeping skin strong and hydrated, but they must be removed with a flannel. Repeat if you’re wearing a lot of makeup,’ says Pamela. Superdrug Vitamin E Hot Cloth Cleanser is a DARE top pick.

2. ‘Look for serums and moisturisers containing glycerine to soothe, hyaluronic acid to attract water to the surface layers of skin, and ceramides to protect the skin barrier,’ advises consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Hextall. La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Serum followed by CeraVe Facial Moisturising Lotion, tick off the trio and won’t block pores if you’re blemish-prone.  Other hyaluronic acid superstars include Me+ Hyaluronic Booster and L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Hyaluronic Acid Serum.

3. ‘For extra quenching, apply your skincare no more than three minutes after you’ve stepped out of the shower, to lock in the moisture that’s still lingering on the surface of the skin,’ Anjali recommends. Dampening your skin with a face mist first, like B. Confident Hyaluronic Acid Facial Spritz can also help.

4. ‘Exfoliation is important for revealing new hydrated cells, but restrict powerful glycolic acid use to once a week. Polyhydroxy acids, like gluconolactone, are a gentler form, which can penetrate and hydrate more effectively than most ingredients, as well as reduce inflammation,’ says Pamela. We rate Eucerin Hyaluron-Filler Night Peeling & Serum.

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