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

Verity is our Content Editor and a Cult Beauty veteran. Currently on maternity leave, raising Cult Beauty’s honorary ‘word nerd’, Tabitha, she speaks fluent ‘beauty’ and loves nothing more than the marriage of language and lip balm (and cleanser and candles… ad infinitum). Nothing can stop her from quoting Nancy Mitford, treating herself to yet another Bella Freud candle for her desk or buying that pilgrim-esque collared or heavily fringed outfit she’s been eyeing. You can trust her to debunk widespread beauty myths and dispense invaluable advice with ease…