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Hydrating vs. Moisturizing: What's The Difference?

If your skin feels like the Sahara Desert, it’s easy to assume that it’s dry, and just leave it at that. But just because your face is peeling or feels tight doesn’t mean it’s simply dry. Your skin might actually be dehydrated. Dehydrated skin lacks water and needs to be hydrated, whereas dry skin lacks oil and needs to be moisturized. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference though, so allow us to further break it down for you.

Dehydrated Skin

Dehydration is a skin condition that can be experienced by anyone, with any skin type, even if your skin is also dry. The same way your body can be dehydrated from a lack of drinking water, your skin can be dehydrated from a lack of water-rich products. Over half of your body is made of water, so if the water levels are depleted on the inside, it’s sure to show on the outside as well. Your skin cells will shrink and become brittle when they are dehydrated, which makes them more prone to bacteria and toxins which can affect skin health.

How can I tell if my skin is dehydrated?

  • Your skin feels oily and dry simultaneously

  • Your skin tends to change texture based on your environment, the products you use, and your diet. 

  • You tend to break out occasionally, and unexpectedly. 

  • Your skin is dull, congested, and flakes easily. 

If you’re still not convinced — try the pinch test! Pinch your skin between two fingers. If it bounces back (meaning it lays flat again) right away, you’re hydrated. If it takes longer to fall, it’s likely you’re dehydrated.  Also, it’s important to note that your skin doesn’t have to be dry to be dehydrated. Combination and oily skin types can also experience dehydration.

How can I treat dehydrated skin?

For starters, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water each day. Avoid washing your face with extra hot water, which can dry out your skin because it opens your pores and allows moisture to escape your body. Stick to a comfortable luke-warm temperature so that you're not stripping your skin of its natural moisture. Then, make sure you’re utilizing water-rich topical products to hydrate that complexion — in addition to your usual moisturizers. SLMD's Hyaluronic Acid Serum is a great combination hydrator, made with Hyaluronic Acid and Squalane, which are ideal ingredients when it comes to treating thirsty, parched skin. Hyaluronic acid is a humectant ingredient, meaning it binds and retains moisture to the skin. 

Dry Skin

If you have a dry skin type, this is likely something you experience all over, from your face, to your scalp to your lips. Having dry skin is a skin type, whereas any skin type can become dehydrated. If you are susceptible to dry skin, it’s likely what you were born with (thanks mom & dad). Dry skin lacks oil and soaks up whatever you apply to it very quickly, leaving you feeling dry again almost instantly.

How can I tell if my skin is dry?

  • Your entire body feels dry, and you constantly need moisturizer
  • You’ve got no natural sebum (oil)
  • Your skin feels dull, flaky, itchy, and tight

How exactly do you tackle dry skin?

People with dry skin are more susceptible to signs of aging, so it’s extremely important to keep your body, head to toe, moisturized! Be strategic in how you are moisturizing. Our founder Dr. Sandra Lee’s best skin hack is keeping body lotion in the shower and applying it while skin is still damp. This helps lock in moisture right away, before that water evaporates. SLMD’s Glycolic Acid Body Lotion has Glycolic Acid that also exfoliates and helps quickly remove the dry dull dead skin layer that can make our skin appear more “ashy”,  and moisturizing ingredients like Shea Butter. On your face, using a moisturizer like SLMD’s Facial Moisturizer, which contains antioxidants like Vitamin C, will benefit your overall complexion, boosting collagen production and protecting it from environmental stressors. 

In addition, be sure to layer on plenty of SPF (regardless of the season and whether the sun is out) as sun exposure can further irritate dry skin. SLMD's Daily Moisturizer with SPF 15 is broad spectrum and easy to incorporate into your daily routine.


Drinking plenty of water will help your skin shine from the inside out, regardless of whether your skin is dry or dehydrated. Consuming healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, salmon and nuts, which are high in omega-3, also improves the overall health of your skin, and should be something you’re doing regardless of whether you’re feeling extremely dry or dehydrated!

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Daily Moisturizer with SPF 15
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Daily Moisturizer with SPF 15Regular price$30oil-free broad-spectrum spf

Facial Moisturizer
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Facial MoisturizerRegular price$30lightweight hydrating lotion

Glycolic Acid Body Lotion
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Glycolic Acid Body LotionRegular price$35for bumpy or uneven skin

Hyaluronic Acid Serum
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Hyaluronic Acid SerumRegular price$50hydrating treatment

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