May. 02, 2020

Dry vs dehydrated skin

At first glance , dehydrated and dry skin may sound similar. In fact, this is not true. Dehydrated and dry skin refer to two different skin conditions. In this blog we explain the difference between these two terms and tell you a little more about the causes and treatments of these two conditions.


In this skin tip, Dr. Barbara Geusens on the difference between dry and dehydrated skin and how to treat it.


Our skin cells form a barrier that protects our internal system from external and environmental stressors and helps prevent transepidermal water loss. The top layer of skin (epidermis) can be represented as a " brick-and-mortar model ", consisting of a 2-compartment system with a discontinuous phase (brick) representing the horny cells and a continuous phase (mortar) representing the lipids in the skin .

The skin cells renew and move to the skin surface. During this renewal process, they also form by-products that help build the skin barrier. On the one hand, there is the 'natural moisturizing factor (NMF)' , consisting of a mix of substances that maintains the natural moisture content of the skin. On the other hand, there are also sterols, fatty acids and ceramides in the intercellular space of the skin that help form the lipid layer of the skin. These 2 important components work together to form the skin barrier , which keeps the skin hydrated and resilient.


Dehydrated skin

If your skin is dehydrated, this only means that there is a (temporary) shortage of water in the skin. The skin is not able to retain enough water in the different layers of the skin. Dehydrated skin is a skin condition and can happen to anyone, even people with an oily skin type can have dehydrated skin. High water loss/dehydration can be caused by several factors that affect NMFs and/or the lipid bilayer.

There are many external factors that can cause dehydrated skin. The most common are:

  • Temperature changes: cold, wind, sun exposure
  • Hot showers and baths
  • Central heating & air conditioning
  • The wrong skin care products: harsh and aggressive ingredients
  • An excessive lifestyle: alcohol, too much caffeine, smoking, lack of sleep, a poor diet

Dry skin

When we talk about dry skin , we are talking about a skin type that has no lipids (mortar) in the skin. In most cases, dry skin is genetic , although it can also be caused by using overly harsh oily products that break down the natural intercellular lipid layer on the skin.

One does not exist without the other?

It is important to know that a lack of water (dehydrated skin) and a low amount of oils and lipids (dry skin types) are closely related. The "brick and mortar" structure of the skin, where the mortar consists of lipids that act as gatekeepers of the skin to keep water in the skin and prevent evaporation. When the skin's lipid balance is disrupted (due to genetic and/or environmental factors), the structural integrity of the skin barrier is lost, resulting in an increase in transepidermal water loss. Dry skin naturally also leads to dehydrated skin.


It's hard to know if your skin is dry or dehydrated because they have similar characteristics when it comes to "the feel of your skin." Both conditions are often accompanied by skin that feels tight and rough, looks dull and/or tired, and has a scaly, cracking texture, with visible redness.

By examining your DNA, we can gain more insight into your skin profile. In the lab, Nomige examines whether you have variations or mutations in the genes that help keep the skin barrier intact and control moisture balance; namely Fillagrin (FLG) and Aquaporin-3 (AQ3) . Based on your DNA profile, we know what risks you carry for dry/hydrated skin and we develop products whose ingredients can help counteract these risks.

If you have dry or dehydrated skin, but we do not find any risks in your DNA, external factors may also be the cause of your dehydrated skin.


For dehydrated skin, it is especially important to restore the water balance in the skin . This can be done by using hydrating agents, such as humectants . Examples of wetting agents are:

  • Butylene glycol;
  • Glycerin, probably the most popular;
  • sorbitol;
  • propylene glycol;
  • Urea;
  • PCA (Pyrrolidone carboxylic acid);
  • Lactic acid;
  • Hyaluronic Acid;
  • Panthenol

While for dry skin, restoring the lipid balance and maintaining a strong barrier is very important. This can be done by using skin-identical lipids to replenish the 'mortar' between cells . Examples of this are:

  • Ceramides
  • cholesterol
  • Free fatty acids
  • Phospholipids

Another less beneficial way to moisturize your skin is through occlusion. Think of ingredients such as paraffinum liquidum, wax... You just add a layer to your skin that makes it 'lazy' instead of constructively recovering. When you stop using such creams, your skin will feel even drier, ending up in a vicious circle. The better alternative is to use skin care products that contain skin-identical lipids (such as ceramides, cholesterol , ...), humectants (such as glycerin, urea , ...) or ideally a combination of both .

Learn more about DNA skincare & Nomige from Dr. Barbara Geusens

Watch an interactive and educational session where you will learn more about your skin, the role of your DNA, skin care and the concept of Nomige.

The online Masterclass is the ideal opportunity to learn more about Nomige and DNA skin care.

Questions about dry skin?

Discover dr. Barbara Geusens' tips on dry skin. Don't hesitate to contact us if you have any other questions.

Questions about dry skin?

Discover dr. Barbara Geusens' tips on dry skin. Don't hesitate to contact us if you have any other questions.

Follow our story

Connect with us and follow the hashtag #MyNomige to stay up to date on the latest skin tips and news.

Follow our story

Connect with us and follow the hashtag #MyNomige to stay up to date on the latest skin tips and news.

Follow the hashtag #Nomige and stay informed about the latest skin tips and news.
Everything you need to know about your skin
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Everything you need to know about your skin