Ask a Dermatologist: What's the Key to Keeping My Skin Hydrated?

The answers we've all been waiting for.

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Understanding your skin can be difficult, especially when it comes to hydration versus moisture and dry versus dehydrated skin. And when there are so many product options on the market, it's even more arduous to figure out the best products, ingredients, and techniques to keep your skin properly taken care of. Luckily, we're here for you. We spoke with Dr. Adriane Pompa, a Miami-based dermatologist and Clinique's Global Derm Pro, to answer all your questions.

Below, Pompa breaks down the key ingredients, definitions, and explanations to help you better understand your skin's needs—as well as how to keep it healthy and happy. Keep reading for more on moisture.

Meet the Expert

Dr. Adriane Pompa is a board-certified dermatologist trained in medical dermatology, dermatologic surgery, and cosmetic dermatology. In addition to her general practice, she specializes in anti-aging skincare, skin cancer prevention and treatment, and laser use in dermatology.

Dry Versus Dehydrated Skin

Dry skin isn't a temporary condition, but rather speaks to your skin type. It's categorized as "a lack of sebum, or oil production, in your skin," explains Pompa. For those with dry skin types, making sure you have a moisture component (like a good moisturizer) and a product specifically for barrier repair is key.

Dehydrated skin, on the other hand, can happen to anyone—regardless of skin type—and can be treated with hydrating skincare products and a little TLC. "Dehydration is purely a loss of water content," Pompa notes. In fact, oily skin types can get dehydrated just as often (if not more) than dry skin types, depending on your lifestyle and routine.

The Most Common Causes of Dehydrated Skin

"Dehydrated skin happens when our skin loses water faster than it should," notes Pompa.  This happens mostly commonly due to the following factors.

  • Skin-barrier damage: Your skin's lipid barrier can get stripped or damaged (depending on the formulas you use and how often), which can cause dehydration, flaking, and redness.
  • Taking very hot showers: Hot water strips your skin of moisture—which can result in dehydrated skin and can lead to a damaged skin barrier. This is why it's best to wash your face in lukewarm water (and, if you can, skip washing it in the shower).
  • Cold and/or dry weather: Dry heat in your home, as well as the extreme temperature changes when you step outside, can cause your skin to dehydrate. This is why it's important to use a moisturizer that packs a super hydrating punch.

The Most Effective Ways to Moisturize Your Skin

There have been a lot of conversations around the order in which you're supposed to apply your skincare products. Think: it's generally thin to thick, with an occlusive product being your last stop. "Use your moisturizer after applying any topical actives on your skin," Pompa explains. "It should be the last thing you do at night (unless you use a facial oil on top), and the last thing you do in the morning, before your sunscreen application."

That said, different skin types need personalized formulas. Pompa explains, "Gel-based moisturizers are often better for oily skin types, but depending on the ingredients, can work for everyone." Just make sure to apply on slightly damp skin to trap water in the skin and prevent transepidermal water loss.

Key Moisturizing Ingredients

  • Hyaluronic acid is a molecule naturally found in your skin as well as the connective tissue in your body. It keeps your skin moist and lubricated. "With the right formulation, hyaluronic acid can keep your skin hydrated and plump for extended periods of time," Pompa says.
  • Aloe Vera has been used to soothe skin for generations, and for good reason. "On the skin, aloe vera is an incredibly effective hydrator, as it attracts water. It has antioxidant properties that can help prevent skin aging, and has been shown to help calm irritated skin," explains Pompa.
  • Glycerin works as a humectant, so it attracts water from the air to the top layer of your skin. It moisturizes and smoothes your skin, gives it that lovely dewy look.
  • Ceramides are part of this family of fats, or lipids, and they're incredible for your skin. Ceramids help to rebuild and restore your skin's protective barrier, as well as work to retain moisture, improve visible signs of aging, and help block environmental damage.