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Dehydrated skin is a common yet widely misunderstood skin concern that occurs when the surface and layers of the skin are lacking adequate water content. Dehydrated skin can feel uncomfortable and cause visible signs that can leave you wondering whether you’re looking at dehydration lines or wrinkles. Not to be confused with smile lines, dehydration lines are a key symptom of skin dehydration that can be confusing to identify and manage. 

That’s one of the reasons why we’ve put together this guide to the causes and symptoms of dehydrated skin. Keep reading for the answers to all your questions like ‘what are smile lines vs dehydration lines’ and more. We’ll also share some hydrating skincare product recommendations from the CeraVe experts.

What is dehydrated skin?

The term ‘dehydrated skin’ refers to skin lacking in water. This often-misunderstood skin concern can cause a variety of uncomfortable signs and symptoms as well as visible signs such as dehydration lines on the forehead. Dehydrated skin can be easy to miss due to a lack of awareness compared to similar issues like dry skin, but once identified this concern can be managed via simple skincare and lifestyle adjustments.

Dry skin VS dehydrated skin

Dehydrated skin and dry skin are sometimes confused for the same issue because they have some (but not all) similar signs and symptoms. Dehydrated skin is often mistaken for dry skin because the former is more well known, but it’s important to know the difference because each issue needs to be managed differently.


Dry skin: Dry skin is a skin type, meaning it’s how your skin naturally is all the time. With a dry skin type, the sebaceous glands don’t produce enough sebum (oil) to keep the skin moisturised.

Dehydrated skin: Dehydrated skin isn’t a skin type, it’s a skin concern. This means it’s an issue that’s usually temporary. Dehydrated skin happens when the skin is lacking in water content.

Signs of dehydrated skin

Now you know the difference between dry skin and dehydrated skin, how can you identify common signs and symptoms of dehydrated skin? What do dehydration lines look like? These are the signs to look for:

  • A dull-looking complexion.

  • Dark areas or ‘shadows’ on the face due to constricted blood vessels.

  • Dehydration lines. These lines can look like fine lines caused by ageing, but dehydration lines vs wrinkles are caused by different things. Dehydration lines under eyes are particularly common, but these lines will disappear once the skin is rehydrated.

Dehydrated skin causes

Dehydrated skin has several contributing causes, rather than a single defining factor. Here are a few factors you should consider:

  • Inadequate water intake: If your body is dehydrated this will translate through to your skin.

  • A compromised skin barrier: If your skin’s natural moisture barrier doesn’t have enough of its natural building blocks (known as ceramides), this can contribute to moisture loss. Read our guide learn more about ceramides.

Increased transepidermal water loss (TEWL): A compromised skin barrier also leads to higher-than-average levels of TEWL – where water particles evaporate through the skin’s surface. This further decreases water content in the skin.

How to manage dehydrated skin

If the signs and symptoms are suggesting that you have dehydrated skin, the good news is that this skin concern is very manageable. There are a multitude of ways to help increase the water content of your skin, including both internal and external approaches. Read on to discover some key skin hydration tips from the CeraVe skincare experts.

Apply ceramides

Applying skincare products enriched with barrier supporting ceramides is a key way to help your skin get and stay hydrated by minimising TEWL. Start from the beginning by choosing a hydrating facial cleanser with ceramides like our CeraVe Hydrating Foaming Oil Cleanser. Follow up with a facial moisturiser containing ceramides like our CeraVe AM Facial Moisturising Lotion with SPF 15. Last but not least, hydrate the skin on your body too with our CeraVe Moisturising Cream, a rich body moisturiser.

Apply vitamin C

Aside from its most well-known antioxidant and anti-ageing properties, vitamin C also has distinct benefits for dehydrated skin. Research has shown that vitamin C can help minimise TEWL, which is why we recommend using a vitamin C facial serum like our Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum. Introduce this powerful serum into your skincare regime slowly for optimal skin benefits, to give your complexion time to adjust.

Apply hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid is a sugar found naturally in the body and in high concentrations within the skin. Because hyaluronic acid is responsible for skin’s plumpness and volume, using skincare products formulated with this ingredient is highly efficacious in minimising dehydration lines on the face. 

We recommend using our CeraVe Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum to provide much needed moisture for dehydrated skin. Hyaluronic acid can hold up to 1000 times its own weight in water, attracting these molecules to the skin’s surface and making this serum well suited for dehydrated skin.

Increase your water intake

Maintaining hydrated skin means ensuring your whole body is hydrated from the inside out. If you don’t drink enough water, that internal dehydration will eventually be reflected in your complexion. If you struggle remembering to drink your eight glasses a day, we recommend carrying a decent sized water bottle with you as a reminder.

Eat water-rich foods

Did you know your choice of snacks can also help you stay hydrated? Try introducing more fruit and veggies into your diet, as many of them are packed with water.

 Now that you know the difference between smile wrinkles and dehydration lines, as well as how to manage dehydrated skin, why not read our next article? Our guide What Ingredients Can You Mix with Ceramides in Skincare? will help you build your skincare routine.


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