Dehydrated Skin

What causes dehydrated skin

We probably should start with what dehydration is.

Water is a critical element of the body, and keeping the body adequately hydrated is a must to allow the body to function. Up to 75% of the body’s weight is made up of water. Most of the water is found within the cells of the body (intracellular space). The rest is found in the extracellular space, which consists of the blood vessels (intravascular space) and the spaces between cells (interstitial space).

Dehydration occurs when the amount of water leaving the body is greater than the amount being taken in. The body is very dynamic and always changing. This is especially true with water in the body. We lose water routinely when we:

  • breathe and humidified air leaves the body (this can be seen on a cold day when you can see your breath in the air, which is just water that has been exhaled);
  • sweat to cool the body; and
  • eliminate waste by urinating or having a bowel movement.


Dehydrated skin is a very common skin condition. Dehydration is the loss of water from the body. Dehydration, is the skin’s inability to retain its limited moisture in the epidermis. The quantity of water transmitted from the inside (dermal reserve) to the outside layers (epidermal) of the skin, is dependent on the level of internal hydration. Trans-dermal water loss or flow (TEWL) is the movement of water through the epidermis. People often get confused between dehydration and dryness. DRYNESS is lack of oil on the skin and DEHYDRATION is lack of moisture in the skin. Skin feels a little like tissue paper. If you feel a babies skin it feels soft and plump. Whilst dehydrated skin feels less dense and dull.










Internally, this will be due to a EFA fat free diet and a number of physical, chemical and environmental factors. External causes are

Poor cleansing: Any cleanser leaving the skin “squeaky clean” or even taut is dehydrating. Soap is harsh because it is alkaline, stripping the hydro-lipid film from the surface of the epidermis and leaving the horny layer exposed, unprotected and subject to moisture loss. Other alkaline washes, such as foaming cleansers and alcohol solutions used for oily and problem skin, are even worse since they produce closed comedones (clogging) which ultimately become blackheads and possible pustules.
Skin damage: This may result from using harsh acne treatments like hydrogen peroxide, retinoic acid, benzoyl peroxide, hexachlorophene, etc. These substances alter the keratinisation process and weaken the ability of the cells in the horny layer to bond together. A similar process results from continual sun exposure, and in addition dermal tissues which affect the transfer of moisture to the epidermis break down and do not function properly. In both instances the damaged skin takes on a withered look, and affected persons need assistance at the level of the horny layer.

Neglect: This covers a wide area, from failure to drink sufficient amounts of fluid, to applying protective creams on a regular basis, to deliberately hampering the body’s ability to function normally. Cigarette smoking, for example, is directly associated with wrinkle formation by constricting blood flow in the capillaries, which reduces the flow of moisture and nutrition to the cells.

Medication and illness: Certain illnesses may cause internal dehydration and ultimately affect the epidermis. Diuretics and many cold and flu remedies that dry up mucous have their side-effects on the skin’s surface. The use of cortisone also induces dehydration and may produce permanent effects since it acts in the dermal layer.

Inadequate moisturisers: Light textured and milky moisturisers that “disappear” into the skin offer little or no protection. The water soon evaporates and does not penetrate the horny layer due to the presence of hydrophobic fats and the “Electro-Physical Barrier of Rein”. The superficial wetting only impregnates squamous cells, and the constant evaporation of water can itself cause severe dehydration and fissures to form in the horny layer. F) Scrubs: The regular use of scrubs can break down cell cohesion in certain skin types, which reduces the capacity to retain moisture and places capillaries at risk.

 Astringents: Alcohol based tonics wiped on skin remove sebum and act like strong cleansers. Use toners only on dry, sallow skin that does not show couperose tendencies, and pat them on following application of a day protective or lipid cleanser.
 Air conditioning and climate: Moisture evaporates quickly within the dry atmosphere of air conditioned and/or overheated rooms, and adequate protection must be taken. Similar precautions are necessary in very hot or cold climates.
 Hot showers: The friction and heat of hot water remove sebum from the skin’s surface, inviting capillary damage and dehydration. Always wash the face separately using lukewarm water only.
Diet: An excessive intake of table salt (sodium chloride) can have a dehydrating effect. It transfers water from the interior of the cell to the interstitial fluid, creating water retention and bloating at the same time. Coffee, in addition to other negative effects, can also contribute to dehydration. Alcohol is singlely the biggest culprit.
Did anything ever good from drinking anyway? I can’t recall too many stories from drinking that resulted in a positive outcome. You don’t hear, because I was drunk I was able to achieve my goals often or ever. May be best to stick to a glass of wine now and then, granted it’s not always easy just to have one glass.


Although sufficient water intake is critical in maintaining metabolism, it will not by itself correct existing surface dehydration


  • Water intake to at least two litres of water a day. You know you have had enough when your urine is clear and not yellow (bright yellow urine can indicate vitamin intake). Introducing water to the tissue by internal means and reducing the chemical and physical dehydrating factors.
  • Serum application, serums have smaller sized molecules and penetrate, hydrating skin cells prior to moving up ladder. Because upper epidermis has no blood supply this is vital in making sure the skin cells are hydrated so that your skin appears bright and healthier.
  • Exfoliation, but make sure that you do not exfoliate too much otherwise reverse is achieved.
  • EFA, are essential as your body does not make these naturally and are only obtained through foods. This can begin with supplements like evening primrose oil or 2 tablespoons of safflower oil a day. Not getting enough EFA’s compromises the health of the keratinocyte cell membrane thus resulting in low epidermal lipids. Corrections are made of these extrinsic (developed) causes by changes in the client’s work/play lifestyle.
  • Protective creams with a High Lipid content: are the true protectives. They are chemically similar to the skin’s own surface film and only small quantities need to be patted on (not massaged in). Inferior creams must be avoided, though, because their low quality raw materials may be comedogenic and cause harm, particularly on oily skin. Vitamin E cream generally contains less than 1% vitamin E oil!




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