Dry, scaly skin is not on our skin wish list, and neither is a tired, dehydrated look. Dehydrated skin can often be itchy and dull and can even make lines and wrinkles stand out (no, thanks!).

You can most likely plump your skin back up by making a few simple changes to your routine. Here’s how to quench your thirsty skin.

You’re born with a skin type — such as dry, oily, or combination — which can change with age and season (otherwise, you’re stuck with it). Dehydrated skin, on the other hand, is a temporary condition. All it needs is a little TLC!

Your skin is 64 percent water, so when water is lacking, your skin gets thirsty. Dehydrated skin can happen to anyone. The symptoms include:

  • itching
  • sunken eyes
  • dullness
  • increased visibility of lines and wrinkles

Dehydrated skin can appear dry, but the two conditions are not the same. Dry skin lacks a natural oil called sebum, while dehydrated skin just needs some hydration. When your skin is dehydrated, that tends to mean the rest of your body is too.

You’re likely dealing with dry skin if you’re noticing:

  • skin tightness (especially after showering)
  • skin that feels and looks rough
  • redness
  • flaking or peeling

Dry skin can come along with other skin conditions, including psoriasis, eczema, or dermatitis.

Skin issueDry skinDehydrated skin
Tightness or toughness✔️
Flaking or peeling✔️
Redness or irritation✔️
Sunken eyes✔️
More noticeable lines and wrinkles✔️

Even when your skin is thirsty, it doesn’t stop producing oil. It may even overproduce oil to make up for the lack of hydration.

If you’re dealing with oily, acne-prone skin, chances are you’re treating it. The problem is that acne- and oil-banishing products can be harsh. Potent acne treatments can damage your skin barrier, making it unable to hang on to moisture and keep your skin hydrated.

There’s a simple test you can do anywhere to see if your skin is dehydrated. The “pinch test” checks your skin turgor (aka elasticity).

Pinch a small area on your cheek, abdomen, or chest or the back of your hand and hold it for a few seconds. If your skin snaps back into place quickly when you let go, you’re nice and hydrated. If it takes its sweet time going back into place, you’re likely dehydrated.


What better way to rehydrate yourself than by drinking water? According to the Institute of Medicine, men should drink at least 131 ounces (about 13 cups) of water per day, and women should drink at least 95 ounces (about 9 cups).

A 2015 study found that drinking water helped keep skin looking younger and healthier by acting as a lubricant between all the fibers in the skin.

Eat hydrating foods

Water isn’t the only thing that keeps you hydrated. Research suggests we can get 20 to 25 percent of our daily water intake through food.

Fruits, vegetables, and broth-based soups are some of the most hydrating foods.

Get a skin care routine going

A skin care routine with the right products will help your skin look and feel its best.

Moisturizers can help rehydrate the top layer of your skin and seal in water. Look for moisturizers containing ceramides, hyaluronic acid, or linolenic acid. A cheap option is petroleum jelly!

If you’re dealing with breakouts, over-the-counter products containing salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are essential acne fighters. But be careful when choosing a product, because these ingredients sometimes go hand in hand with others that can aggravate your skin, making the situation worse.

Avoid using harsh scrubs and products that contain alcohol, fragrance, retinoids, or alpha hydroxy acid.

Keep it misty

In certain environments and seasons, the moisture in the air is limited. The ideal humidity level for your skin is between 30 and 50 percent. If the humidity is too low, you may experience dry, itchy skin.

If necessary, invest in a humidifier to create the humidity your skin needs. All you need to do is add distilled water to the device — the water vapor will increase the moisture level in the air.

A small 2007 study found that participants in a room with low humidity had a decrease in skin elasticity and an increase in fine wrinkles compared with participants in a room with high humidity.

Make some lifestyle adjustments

What you do from day to day can impact your skin and the hydration it needs. Here are some ways you can treat your skin well:

Schedule a derm appointment

Dermatologists are pros, and it’s likely they’ve treated folks in a similar situation to yours.

If you’re making adjustments and just not seeing any changes in your skin, schedule an appointment. You might have thought you were dealing with dehydrated skin only to find out it was dry skin all along.

Skin is so complex and can be affected by many factors, but dehydrated skin is easily treatable. Remember to drink your water, moisturize, and make small lifestyle changes. Your skin will thank you!