Problem Solvers

How to tell if your skin’s dry or dehydrated

Our skin can’t speak – which is a pity, because if it could, it would probably sue us for slander. We’re desperate to give it a label – oily, congested, combination, acneic, dry – but what very few of us realise, is that skin’s appearances can be deceptive. 

Some skins are dry – a skin condition which can be controlled – but other skins are simply thirsty; oil-eliminating toning, office air conditioning and too little water all compromise its equilibrium, so what’s your dermalogical diagnosis?


Dry skin is a thing – some faces just don’t fancy making all the oil and sebum needed to retain much-needed moisture. If left to its own devices, it won’t look shiny (hoorah) but will probably appear patchy or dulled, and possibly more lined than that of your oily-skinned friends (boo). It’s also more susceptible to sensitivity (oil creates a natural protective barrier), so redness, inflammation and irritation are a gloomy side-effect.

Choose gentle, nourishing cream or oil-rich cleansers – Oskia’s {Renaissance Cleansing Gel} and MV Organic Skincare’s {Gentle Cream Cleanser} are both beautiful – and exfoliate regularly, to eliminate the dulling, dehydrated surface cells. 

Use acidic or enzymatic formulas (here’s a {guide} to which do what) – these will brighten as they help encourage cell renewal and in turn, enhance skin’s barrier function. 

Apply hydrators while skin is still damp after {cleansing} – this will help to seal the precious water into skin (and also mean you use less product). Use thin layers – facial {mist}, {serum} and emollient cream (look for shea butter, ceramides, beeswax, sunflower seed or jojoba oils) – and keep a facial spritz in your handbag, to top-up moisture levels on the go. Tata Harper’s {Hydrating Floral Essence} is a nutritive cocktail of essential oils – and smells incredible.


Dehydrated skin lacks moisture but can still make oil, which is why it’s often utterly bewildered – with shiny bits and flaky bobs; a condition most common amongst those with {blemish-prone} skin, who strip out all the moisture using harsh astringents. 

It’s also a frequent complaint in mid-winter – when the cold outdoors and central heating, combine to cause complexion mayhem. Your face will feel tight and uncomfortable – a bit like its been sun or wind burned.

Choose sulphate-free, moisturising or balancing cleansers – Biossance’s {Pure & Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil} helps to strengthen and restore your skin, while granting weightless (and lasting!) moisture while Omorovicza’s {Cleansing Foam} gently yet effectively eliminates make up, impurities and excess oil without compromising your skin’s equilibrium. Use Foreo’s {LUNA 3 for Combination Skin} to gently polish and promote blood-flow, and choose a lightweight, humectant hydrator – look for either glycerin or hyaluronic acid – to attract and retain moisture, without suffocating or exacerbating oiliness. 

The Ordinary’s {Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5}, Biossance’s {Squalane + Omega Repair Cream} and Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare’s {Hyaluronic Marine Oil-Free Moisture Cushion} are featherweight but soothing, to bring immediate relief from dehydration.


Verity Douglas

Verity Douglas

Content Editor

Cult Beauty’s Content Editor and a Cult Beauty OG, Verity loves nothing more than the marriage of language and lip balm. A quintessential Libran, she’s a self-professed magpie for luxury ‘must-haves' and always pursuing the new and the niche — from the boujee-est skin care to cutting-edge tech. Balancing an urge to stop the clock with her desire to embrace the ageing process (and set a positive example for her daughter), Verity's a retinol obsessive and will gladly share her thoughts about the time-defying gadgets, masks and treatments worth the splurge...