How to Resolve a Common Skincare Mistake

Are you making a key mistake with your skincare?

Most of us want to maintain youthful, radiant, clear skin and we use beauty and skincare products to do that. A survey of over 2000 Americans found that on average, women use 12 products (168 separate ingredients) in their beauty and skincare regime every day. Men use less but still average 6 products (85 separate ingredients) daily.

So clearly, we invest a lot in maintaining our skin. But are you making a fundamental mistake when you choose your ingredients (or the products that contain them)?

Are you confusing a common skin condition with your skin type?

A common mistake is that people confuse dehydrated skin which is a skin condition that anyone can have with dry skin which is a particular skin type.

Let's quickly recap - what's a condition and what's a type?

Skin Types

  • Dry skin - skin has very small, almost invisible pores and lacks natural oils (sebum). Skin has fine lines and wrinkles and is dry and can be flaky
  • Normal skin - not too dry and not too oily with few imperfections and is radiant with barely visible pores
  • Combination skin - oily (shiny areas) particularly on the nose and forehead but can be dry elsewhere and slightly larger pores than normal skin
  • Oily skin - large pores and usually shiny but can be dull complexion. Excess oil will be seen if you pat skin with tissue first thing in the morning

Skin Conditions

  • Sensitive skin - dry, red, flaky, itchy or burning skin that is prone to reactions
  • Dehydrated skin - dull, lackluster complexion with fine lines (like crepe paper)
  • Acne-prone skin - oily skin with break-outs that can lead to scarring

Dry skin can tend to sensitive skin but oily skin can also be sensitive particularly if the skincare regime is incorrect.

All skin types can be dehydrated, including oily skin and dry skin.

Does it matter if you confuse Dehydrated Skin with Dry Skin?

Yes, it matters a lot. Basically dehydrated skin is lacking moisture and dry skin is lacking oils. So how you treat them is different - for example, dehydrated skin needs moisture (think water) whereas dry skin needs oils and lipids.

If you have dehydrated combination or oily skin and you add oil, you will likely get clogged pores and subsequently breakouts.

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

One easy way to tell the difference between dry and dehydrated skin is to pinch the skin gently between your fingers and see if the skin between shows lots of fine lines - if so, you most likely have dehydrated skin. You can see a before and after hydration demonstration in the image below.

You may also notice your skin feels tight after cleansing when you have dehydrated skin

How does the body prevent dehydrated skin?

The body has its own mechanisms for maintaining the integrity of the skin barrier, with respect to hydration and moisturization.  These mechanisms are particularly important in the outer layer, the epidermis, and the 2 main mechanisms are:

  1. We have a Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF) that has several ingredients which are humectants. Humectants can actually absorb water from the environment and these include:
    • free amino acids and their derivatives like NaPCA (sodium pyrrilidone carboxylic acid)
    • urea
    • inorganic salts and sugars
  2. We make natural oils, called sebum ,which prevent water loss from the skin and keep it nourished

Think of your skin like an apricot that dries out with time and other factors to look dehydrated like a dried apricot. If you put the dried apricot in oil (eg. baby oil) it will not plump out - the baby oil will prevent further moisture (water) loss but no moisture can be added.

However, if you put the dried apricot in a humectant, like the body's NaPCA, the apricot will plump up. That's certainly what I want my dehydrated skin to do.

This is an experiment I did to show what I mean. A dried apricot from the same bag was put in a jar of mineral oil (baby oil) and in a NaPCA Moisture Mist. These are the results 12 hours later.

This is an experiment I did to show what I mean. A dried apricot from the same bag was put in a jar of mineral oil (baby oil) and in a NaPCA Moisture Mist. These are the results 12 hours later.

What causes dehydrated skin?

Dehydrated skin can be caused by the following:

  • ageing - with age, the NMF becomes depleted
  • environmental factors - sun, harsh and cold winds, air conditioning, artificial heating
  • lifestyle factors - poor diet and/or excess alcohol or caffeine
  • inappropriate skincare - soap can aggravate the skin by stripping the natural acid mantle of the skin. Inappropriate use of products can aggravate any skin condition or skin type

What is the treatment for dehydrated skin?

Your skin needs hydration (water) and it needs moisture (oils and lipids etc). The amount of each is dependent of your skin type and your skin condition.

For dehydrated skin, firstly the skin needs to be hydrated, so it needs more water. Once hydrated, the moisture can be locked in with oil-based moisturizers as necessary based on your skin type.

For hydration, look for products that have humectants, including NaPCA (sodium pyrrilidone carboxylic acid), urea, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid. Aloe vera will also hydrate the skin.

Then, depending on your skin type, you may need to add more moisture in the form of oils. Again, using oils that mimic the skin's natural sebum will work best, eg. jojoba oil.

Dry skin needs products rich in oils and using creams will be best, whereas oily skin doesn't need so many oils and using gels or lotions will be best as they are lighter and less likely to clog pores which an lead to break outs in oily skin.

Speaking of clogging pores, this is less likely to occur with products that are oil-free, non-comedogenic or humectants, so look for products that have these properties if you have oily skin.

Before applying products after the shower, pat the skin dry rather than rubbing so the skin is still damp and moisture can be locked in.

How do you know what products to use for your skin?

Well, as you see above, it depends on your skin type and any skin condition that you have.

As a general rule, work with the body's natural mechanisms, so:

  • use cleaners that are pH balanced (or combination of cleanser and toner) so you don't strip the natural acid mantle
  • ensure you have adequate humectants to ensure adequate hydration of your skin, particularly as you get older and/or are exposed to environmental stressors
  • use products that complement your skin type - so creamy, rich moisturizers for dry skin and lighter products for combination and oily skin types
  • avoid products that are just occlusive barriers if you have combination or oily skin are these products are likely to clog pores and cause breakouts. Occlusive 'moisturizers' include mineral oil and other by-products of the petroleum industry, often having petroleum or petrolatum in the name

Get a skin assessment

If you are unsure of what your skin 's type and condition are, then ask for a skin assessment. Ask the person who referred you to this page or contact Zansie or me (contact form on the right of this page or below if you are on a mobile device).

If you want to take the hassle out of searching the ingredient lists to get the right products for you, and you want non-toxic, quality products that are value for money, then we (or the person who referred you to this post) will happily provide you with a regime recommendation.


EWG Skindeep Survey Results:

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