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Natural skincare solutions: Dry skin vs dehydrated skin

Updated: Feb 27, 2023

Dehydrated skin is often confused with dry skin - however, dry and dehydrated skin are two

different phenomena. Dehydrated skin lacks water - dry skin lacks natural oils or sebum. Therefore, dry skin is a skin type, while dehydration is a condition.


Dehydration happens when you use or lose more fluid than you ingest, and your body doesn't have enough water or liquids to carry out expected functions. If you don't replace lost fluids, you will get dehydrated. Besides not drinking enough water, you can dehydrate when you urinate more from caffeine or diuretics or lots of sweating from exercise.

When dehydrated, you can expect these symptoms:

  • sunken eyes

  • increased appearance of fine lines and surface wrinkles

  • "shadows" around the face (especially under the eyes and around your nose)

  • itchiness

  • dullness

  • darker under-eye circles

Dehydrated skin can be managed.

Dehydrated skin can be complex but can be treated once diagnosed correctly. On the other hand, dry skin has similar symptoms but can't be treated with lifestyle and diet changes.

If you make lifestyle changes, but your skin dehydration does not improve, you may have dry skin. I recommend that you see a specialist to assist you.

How to treat dehydrated skin

Improving your hydration is the first important step, so drinking enough water is essential.

You can start with the old rule of eight glasses of water per day, OR you can use the following to calculate your ideal water intake:

Water (in litres) to drink daily = Your Weight (in Kg) multiplied by 0.033.

You may need to drink more than this. Ideal water intake can vary depending on your body weight and activity levels. You can ask your doctor what amount is recommended specifically for you.

Drinking too much water can also be an issue, leading to a loss of minerals.

Eating water-rich veggies and fruits, such as celery, and watermelon can also help increase your intake.

The following lifestyle changes can also improve dehydrated skin:

  • Reduce or eliminate alcohol intake

  • Drink less caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea.

  • Stop smoking.

  • Exercise regularly.

  • When working out, take a few sips of water every 20 minutes at a minimum).

  • Replenish fluids after you work out.

  • Get adequate sleep.

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.

We also get dehydrated when sick due to a loss of fluids. So drink plenty of water, electrolyte beverages, and broth-based soups.


Dry skin is more challenging to treat. If your skin has always naturally been dry, you'll need to take extra care to keep it moist during dry and cold weather. A moisturiser formulated for dry skin is key to hydrating your skin without making it too oily. More water won't relieve dry skin, but it's good for your overall health and prevents dehydration.

Skin types

Skin types are:

  1. normal

  2. dry

  3. combination, and

  4. oily.

We are usually born with one skin type, but it can change with age and season. Dry skin occurs when your sebaceous glands don't produce enough natural oils and are often associated with skin diseases such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne breakouts.

These forms of dry skin are not the same as having d "dry skin type" nor the same as dehydrated skin.

Signs of dry skin include:

  • scaly skin

  • white flakes

  • redness

  • irritation


Essential oils are not moisturisers within themselves but help create the action in the skin to create balance. So you can almost see natural, 100% pure essential oils as an active ingredient in your skincare routine.

The definition of an active ingredient in skincare is:

A biologically active substance that can have a physiological effect on the skin.


We need three types of moisturisers for plump, moist, healthy, and happy skin:

  • EMOLLIENTS – Fills in and smooths the skin

  • HUMECTANTS – Draws water from the air to the skin

  • OCCLUSIVES – Forms a protective layer on top of the skin to seal water in

Combine emollients with humectants and occlusives for the ultimate skincare treatment if you want a dewy, glowing complexion and baby-soft skin.

The Best Emollients to Use in Natural Skincare

Emollients help soften and smooth the scales of the skin by filling in tiny gaps where skin may be flaked or cracked.

Some of the best emollients come from plants in the form of many oils and butters like coconut oil, sesame, sweet almond, apricot kernel, sesame, coconut, and olive oils and butters from shea and cocoa. I recommend plant-derived emollients.

Other emollients like lanolin are extracted from the wax found in sheep's wool, and alcohols like stearyl alcohol and cetyl alcohol can be plant-derived.

Other well-known synthetic emollients in commercial skin products are mineral oil, petroleum jelly, and synthetic silicones like dimethicone and Cyclomethicone. Many of these are derived from petrolatum.

Plant-based emollients

Plant oils are great emollients, soften the skin and help with getting that gorgeous skin glow.

Plant oils extracted from plants are liquid at room temperature. They are pressed from seeds, nuts and fruits. They are a mixture of several natural fatty acids. The specific blend of fatty acids makes some oils better suited for different purposes and skin types and uses.

Many of these fatty acids in plant oils, such as oleic, linoleic and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), are great for the skin.

Best plant oils emollients for dry/mature skin

Plant oils high in oleic acid are great for dry, ageing skin. They replenish the lost moisture that naturally comes with age by easily penetrating the skin's surface. Oleic acids are perfect for night creams by helping to seal in moisture and make oils richer and heavier.


  • Sweet almond oil with up to 86% oleic acid

  • Olive oil with up to 85% oleic acid

  • Avocado oil with up to 80% oleic acid

  • Argan oil with up to 55% oleic acid

Sensitive or inflamed skin

GLA-rich (Gamma Linolenic Acid) oils may be the answer you've been waiting for to treat inflammatory skin issues such as eczema, psoriasis, or atopic dermatitis; science has found a solution that may help tame the redness and itchiness.

Researchers found Borage oil to be an effective treatment for atopic dermatitis with no side effects in a 2007 double-blind clinical trial.


  • Evening primrose oil up to 10% GLA

  • Borage oil up to 25% GLA

Best for oily or acne-prone skin

We often think we should not be using oils on acne-prone skin. Excess sebum (the oil your skin produces naturally) can cause breakouts, but not all oils are equal. Even oily or acne-prone skin needs proper hydration. Without enough moisture, our sebaceous glands can go into overdrive and produce more sebum, leading to breakouts to help quench the dehydrated skin.

Dehydrated skin can also create fine, almost invisible cracks in the skin, the perfect home for bacteria. In addition, it can contribute to breakouts.

Using oils high in linoleic acid is ideal for people with either acne-prone or oily skin. The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology published a study that found that acne patients have low levels of linoleic acid in their sebum. Another study found rubbing 2.5% linoleic acid on it helped relieve people with mild acne symptoms.

If you have oily skin, linoleic acid makes for a lighter oil with a thinner consistency. However, these oils will still adequately nourish and protect the skin with a light feel.


  • Safflower oil up to 80% linoleic acid

  • Evening primrose oil up to 75% linoleic acid

  • Sunflower oil up to 75% linoleic acid

  • Red raspberry seed up to 52.1% linoleic acid

  • Argan oil up to 37% linoleic acid

  • Rosehip seed oil up to 40.9% linoleic acid

Plant butter

Plant butters are similar to plant oils but are solid at room temperature.

Cocoa butter melts in your mouth but also on your skin, as it has a melting point very close to our body temperature.

The higher level of saturated fats in plant butters causes them to have a more solid consistency at room temperature. It is easy to remember because butter used in cooking behaves the same way even though the fats come from animal sources. This is due to the composition of fatty acids present in the plant.

Plant butters are excellent emollients and help thicken creams and lotions, giving them a more decadent and smooth, luxurious feeling on the skin.


  • Shea butter up to 55% oleic acid)

  • Cocoa butter up to 35% oleic acid

Butters are excellent emollients for dry or mature skin due to their thicker consistency.

There are great butter options for more oily or acne-prone skin too.


  • Mango butter up to 13% linoleic acid

  • Kokum Butter up to 0-8% linoleic acid


This emollient has the specific ability to penetrate our skin and help to increase the absorption of other active ingredients, including essential oils.

In the past, squalane was harvested from the livers of small, deep-sea sharks, but it can also be derived from plant sources, like olives, sugarcane, and amaranth seeds.

Squalene and squalane (hydrogenated) are rich in antioxidants and make great skin moisturisers. Either can be used, but squalene is heavier and more helpful for dry or mature skin. Squalane is excellent for acne-prone or oily skin. However, always check that it is plant-derived.

Humectants to Use in Natural Skincare

A humectant is a type of moisturiser that works by drawing moisture in the air to your skin. Humectants are the proteins in the skin that bind water. When skin is lacking, you get dry skin.

Including natural humectants when making moisturisers or lotions is always a good idea.

Because they're rich in natural humectants, Aloe plants are rich in natural humectants and pull in moisture from the air all day long. This is why they can thrive in dry and hot conditions and their leaves are soft and juicy.

Humectants are proteins. Humectants bind water molecules to themselves and then to the skin. It is called the hydroscopic effect.

The human body contains some humectants like hyaluronic acid in the deep layers of our skin. Humectants are sometimes used to keep our skin and hair healthy and moist. Aloe vera gel, honey, glycerin, sorbitol (from sugar cane), lactic acid, hydrolysed wheat, baobab, and rice proteins are natural humectants.

You may see either nature-identical or synthetic in store-bought products like lithium chloride, urea, glyceryl triacetate, propylene glycol, hexylene glycol, and butylene glycol.

The best natural humectants

Aloe Vera Liquid

Aloe vera in all forms is an excellent humectant to use. It penetrates the skin quickly and moisturises deeply.


Glycerin is a humectant and somewhat of an emollient, which makes it very beneficial. Glycerin comes in many store-bought healthcare products.

Researchers found that glycerin helps skin cells mature and function properly. This is because glycerin pairs with an enzyme, phospholipase D, in our body. Together this creates a signal that helps direct the cells through their lifecycle, enabling new, young skin cells to reach the surface. Instead of replicating, they hang around and mature, secreting lipids that help protect the skin's surface.

Glycerin comes in synthetic and natural forms, such as vegetable glycerine. This is what you want to use in your natural skincare recipes.

Glycerin can be sticky. Do not add more than 5% of your product's total weight in glycerin to prevent a sticky feeling product.

Raw Honey

Raw honey comprises fructose, glucose, proteins, amino acids, vitamins, enzymes, and minerals. In addition, it is an excellent source of alpha-hydroxy acids, which help remove the top layers of dead skin to encourage additional moisturisation.

Honey is self-preserving, but this changes when we introduce other ingredients. The sugar content makes it ideal for microbial growth.

So when using honey, use the product immediately or keep it in the refrigerator.

Hydrolyzed Wheat/Baobab/Rice Proteins

Wheat proteins supply an amino acid called glutamine. This vital ingredient specialises in the regeneration of cells. So if formulating for skin with signs of ageing, these proteins will fight on your behalf.

Calendula extracts are also good humectant options for additions to skincare solutions.

Occlusives to Use in Natural Skincare

Occlusives seal moisture into the skin.

Occlusives work with emollients and humectants to keep skin hydrated, glowing and soft. They create a physical barrier or seal on the outer layer of the skin to prevent trans-epidermal water loss or (TEWL) and seal moisture in.

Occlusives work best to treat dry, tight-feeling skin, especially with fewer oil glands on the body. They help prevent water from evaporating or being drained from the skin by wind, dry air, or skin injury.

About occlusive agents

Occlusives also come from plant sources, like macadamia, palm kernel, castor oil, cocoa butter, candelilla wax, and carnauba wax.

In store-bought products, we often see mineral oil, petrolatum, and paraffin come from refining crude oil., which is not what we want to be used on our skin. We also see allantoin, which can be found in many natural sources. It can be produced in a lab for cost and sustainability reasons.

Examples of occlusive products are barrier creams and foot balms. The most well-known is probably Vaseline, made from 100% petrolatum — an ingredient derived from crude oil.

Occlusive ingredients often feel greasy and heavy, so it's best to include them with lighter-feeling ingredients when moisturising skincare products.

Natural occlusives


Beeswax contains monoesters, diesters, triesters, hydrocarbons, hydroxy polyesters, and free fatty acids. These are moisturising and soothing, so it's an excellent option for moisturiser use. Beezwax is often used for psoriasis or eczema and baby bum creams.


If you prefer an alternative to animal products, some great vegetable waxes are Carnauba wax (Brazil wax) and palm wax. Palm kernel oil and Candelilla wax are also good options.


Most plant oils are considered emollients, but they can also be used as occlusives when they are high in oleic acid. They have a thicker, greasier consistency. Examples are macadamia oil, castor oil, shea and cocoa butter, olive, avocado, rice bran, and soybean oil.

Cocoa butter is approved as an active ingredient for skin protection when included at a rate higher than 50% of the total formula.


Lecithin, a fat, is essential in the cells of the body. We find it in foods like egg yolk, chickpeas, and soybeans. It helps plump up the skin's barrier function and emulsifies oil in water emulsions. Thus, it helps with very dry skin and eczema. Lecithin is found any many plant sources, such as sunflower and soy.


Cocoa butter is a popular occasion with all the necessary moisturising components and excellent skincare options.

Cocoa butter has a high tocopherol content. It contains a lot of Vitamin E and is suitable for the skin as it has antioxidant properties. It offers protection from UV rays and provides firmness and a healthy look.

Vitamin E boosts collagen and skin free of age spots, lines and wrinkles.

Mixing up a moisturising product might add Vitamin E to your chosen carrier oil.

Natural, Plant-based Occlusives vs Non-Natural Occlusives

Finding plant-based products that work well as humectants and emollients is easy. However, occlusives provide more of a challenge.

Doctors and scientists value silicones, petrolatum, and mineral oils as very effective methods to prevent skin water loss.

In many commercial products, even those promoting natural healing benefits, you still see these non-natural occlusives as top ingredients.

Non-Natural/Synthetic/Petroleum-based Occlusive agents

The good news is, there are many great plant-based or natural occlusive.

Still, some occlusives ingredients most popular with dermatologists and professional formulators are derived from petroleum products or made with synthetic ingredients. Whether you choose to use all-natural ingredients or synthetics, it's essential to understand the available options before applying them to your body.


These are the most popular occlusive substances. They are inexpensive to produce and are effective occlusive agents.

It's generally believed when properly refined, these products have no known health concerns and are safe to use. However, another concern is the environmental impact because both are derived from crude oil.

Top-rated products like Vaseline, Le Mer's Crème de la Mer, Glossier's Balm Dotcom, CeraVe Healing Ointment, and Kiehl's Lip Balm #1 are petrolatum-based.


Dimethicone is one of the most popular synthetic occlusive ingredients because it is inexpensive and easy to produce and excels at forming an excellent moisture barrier over the skin.


Homemade skin care is now a booming trend, and you’ll find homemade skincare DIY-ers keenly sharing their recipes and results on social media.

Here is an outline of the most important steps and things to consider when making your cosmetics at home to get the best out of your natural cosmetic ingredients and to ensure you are creating safe cosmetics.

1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT HOMEMADE SKINCARE FORMULA Find a suitable formula that nourishes the skin and remains safe and stable while you’re using it. Take into consideration the ingredients and also how they interact with each other.

You want to choose the finest and most wonderful botanical ingredients and find a professional formulation.

Not all skin care formulations can be made at home. Some need technical and cosmetic science expertise to be made safely and in line with various regulations and guidelines, such as those stipulated by the EU and FDA.

2. ADD A NATURAL PRESERVATIVE Adding preservatives avoids microbial growth and prolongs the shelf life of your product. The majority should include a preservative system to guard against contamination from yeast, mould and bacteria.

Is there water in your formulation? Is it likely that water will be introduced into your homemade skincare product during its use? Then add a preservative system! Be careful with formulations that contain water, clay, honey and fruits, as these spoil quickly and require a suitable and strong natural preservative system to ensure safety over their desired shelf life.

Anhydrous products are less likely to develop microbial growth. Anhydrous formulations are prone to oxidation and rancidity. It’s advisable to add an antioxidant such as Vitamin E to your formula to slow down oxidation.

If you don’t wish to add a preservative to your formulation, you should create anhydrous products only.

In summary: 1. Water-containing products are prone to contamination and usually require a preservative system. 2. Anhydrous products are prone to oxidation and usually require an antioxidant.

3. THE CORRECT CONTAINER The correct, hygienic container can help keep your formula safe and stable for longer. Formulations stored in open jars are more likely to be contaminated than formulations dispensed from air-tight containers. Choose pump or spray valves that dispense your formula without opening the product container. If a pump or spray container isn't practical, use a dropper, drop dispenser, or spatula.

4. MAKE SMALL QUANTITIES It is very hard to determine the likely expiration date of homemade skincare products, so making small amounts is best. This will give you the freshest product and allow you to play around with different ingredients more often.

5. MEASURE CORRECTLY Be exact with your measurements using a digital scale for solid, dry or liquid ingredients. Finding a good scale as a measurement in weight is the most accurate method and will allow you to have the best balance of ingredients in your formulation.

Always write down your formula and work with percentages to reproduce your batch or scale it to larger amounts.

6. FOLLOW USAGE RECOMMENDATIONS When using active ingredients, essential oils and other ingredients, strictly follow the dosage recommendations to be safe and effective.

Essential oils and natural preservatives are among those ingredients that may cause sensitisation in some people. Therefore, it is imperative that you follow recommended usage limits from the supplier or manufacturer.

7. MEASURE AND ADAPT pH Managing the pH of a product is important for the safety of the product. The pH of a product will influence many important characteristics of your formulation. pH also impacts a product's look and feel, colour and scents. You can use pH strips, which are easily available and inexpensive as you start formulating homemade skin care for personal use.

8. CLEANLINESS AND HYGIENE Routinely disinfect and clean equipment, workspaces, containers, and hands and use lab gloves.

This post gives you a peek into the practices, procedures, ingredients and equipment needed to make your natural skin products. This should set you up to start exploring your natural skincare options.



All these toxic chemicals have been banned by the European Union and many other nations, and many have been slated for removal:

  • Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

  • Paraformaldehyde, a type of formaldehyde.

  • Methylene glycol, a type of formaldehyde.

  • Quaternium 15, which releases formaldehyde.

  • Mercury, can damage the kidneys and nervous system.

  • Dibutyl and diethylhexyl phthalates, disrupt hormones and damage the reproductive system.

  • Isobutyl and isopropyl parabens, disrupt hormones and harm the reproductive system.

  • The long-chain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances known as PFAS, have been linked to cancer.

  • M- and o-phenylenediamine, used in hair dyes, irritates and sensitises the skin, damages DNA and can cause cancer.

Some of the chemicals included do not have to be disclosed on the package because they are fragrance components, so they are exempt from federal labelling requirements in the USA and other countries.

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