Dry Skin vs. Dehydrated Skin: There is a Difference

Your skin is amazing. It does all kinds of cool stuff, all on its own, without you even knowing. When it is in balance and in the groove, the result is smooth, clear, glowing skin.

Your skin is SO amazing, that it will let you know it is out of balance by showing you - displaying certain characteristics such as redness, tightness, flaking, breakouts - or all of the above. Unfortunately, your skin does not come with an owner's manual, so it is sometimes hard to decipher exactly what it is trying to tell you and what it needs. 

One of the most frequent skin concerns that my clients ask me about is dryness.

Why am I still dry, even when I'm moisturizing like crazy?

Why am I breaking out, even though my skin is dry?

While there are many factors that contribute to skin concerns, you can begin to address dry skin by understanding the difference between DRY and DEHYDRATED skin.

What is DRY SKIN?

Dry skin is a lack of oil and lipids in the skin and is largely related to your skin's uniqueness and the body constitution you were born with. It is caused by a lack of natural oil production in the sebaceous glands within your hair follicles. It displays itself as rough, dry and flaky skin. 

Dry skin needs moisture - oil and protective lipids to function properly. By adding nourishing oils, like Gilded Camellia Luxury Beauty Oil, your skin is able to remain properly lubricated and is able to protect the skin's hydration by decreasing Transepidermal Water Loss (loss of moisture through the surface of the skin that leads to impaired barrier function of the skin). 

But I keep applying facial oils and moisturizer and I'm still dry. What am I doing wrong?

It could be that your skin is also dehydrated. If your skin is dry AND dehydrated,  applying moisturizer is only part of the solution. You need to address both the lack of hydration (water) AND he lack of moisture (oil).


Dehydrated skin is lacking water. This can be due to lack of fluid intake, weather, medications or using products that are not right for your skin. Dehydrated skin presents itself as tight, dull and lacking a healthy glow. 

Dehydrated skin is also a common culprit for breakouts. Your skin realizes that it is dehydrated and out of balance. In an effort to bring itself back into balance, it will increase it's natural oil production to compensate. This influx of oil can lead to breakouts.

Dehydrated skin needs water in the form of both drinking more fluids, but also with skin care ingredients that help to bind water into the skin (humectants). Ingredients to look for are hyaluronic acid, glycerin and honey. All of these help skin to retain much-needed hydration

One of the best ways to hydrate the skin and keep it there is to apply a hyaluronic acid serum, such as Skin Script's Ageless Skin Hydrating Serum, followed by a layer of moisturizer, such as Cacteen Balancing Moisturizer  or Acai Berry Moisturizer to maintain a proper balance of both lipids and hydration and to protect skin's barrier function.

I already have oily skin, so I must not need to add any more oil.

Yes and no. If you have oily skin, you may be able to maintain a proper oil/water balance by simply using a hydrating serum. However, while it may sound counterintuitive, adding a facial oil or additional lipid based moisturizer appropriate for your skin to your skin care routine can help to actually regulate and balance out your skin's natural oil production. 

If you are unsure about how to treat your dry skin, it is always helpful to see a trained skin care therapist to help determine a skin care routine that would benefit your unique skin.

The Oil Cleansing Method: Are You Doing It Right?

In recent years, the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM) – cleansing the skin with oil, in lieu of a traditional soap or cleanser, has gained quite a bit of momentum. If you haven't already heard of it, the concept is that by using oil, you are dissolving and removing dirt and oil, while not stripping your skin with a harsh product.

For normal, dry and mature skins, the OCM is intended to gently cleanse the skin, while encouraging the retention and proper balance of moisture. For oily or acne prone skins, it is touted as a way to balance skin’s oil production and clear up breakouts by using the “like cures like” philosophy.

Although the OCM has many devoted followers that claim it has improved their skin, just like any skin care approach, it does not work for everyone. The best way to know if the OCM will work for you is to give it a try for 28 days. 28 days is a good length of time to determine if a new skin care approach is going to work for you.

If you have already tried the OCM and it didn’t work out for you, you may just need to tweak your method a bit. Here are a few tips based on my experience using the OCM on myself and clients. This information may differ from some of the more widespread OCM advice out there, but it is what I have found to be most effective.

Choose the best oil(s) for your skin type.

Traditionally, the OCM oil contains a portion of castor oil, combined with a portion of another single (or blend) of carrier oils. However, castor oil is not necessary unless you want to have a more drying effect on your skin, therefore, if you already have dry skin, I wouldn't necessarily recommend including it at all. 

You can also choose to add essential oils as a cleansing booster (more details on all of this another day).

Oily and acne prone skin types will want to stick with lighter oils, such as hazelnut, apricot kernel and grapeseed, or antibacterial oils such as neem and tamanu. Coconut oil is drying and can work for some with oily skin, but it can also have a tendency to clog pores in some individuals that already have acneic skin.

Dry, sensitive skins sometimes do best with a bit heavier, protective oil, such as avocado, olive or argan oil.

Normal skin can do lovely with jojoba and can consider adding in some of the other oils above based on the season (adding heavier oils in the winter/lighter in the summer).

Experimenting with different oils and their proportions you use in your oil blend can help you to find the right ratios to suit your skin.

Apply and remove the oil properly.

While some folks recommend applying your cleansing oil to damp skin, I prefer applying it to dry skin, allowing it to more effectively dissolve makeup, dirt and debris. Oil cleansing is best done at night, since your face needs the funk of the day removed. In the morning, splashes with water, followed by toner and moisturizer/sunscreen are usually sufficient.

Massage the oil gently into dry skin for about a minute. Place a warm (pretty darn warm - but not yet scalding hot), wrung out, damp cloth over your face and allow to sit for about a minute. Rinse the cloth again with warm water and thoroughly remove the oil from your face without tugging, rubbing or scrubbing.

Follow with a gentle exfoliation a few times a week. 

This is where I have seen the OCM go awry. Introducing an oil cleanser to the skin every day without properly, regularly exfoliating is a recipe for a breakout and congested skin. Dry, flaky skin can get in the way of the OCM working properly. Be sure to exfoliate 1-2 times a week. I prefer to use a daily herbal face polish following my oil cleansing that is gentle enough to use everyday for a thorough cleanse.

Tone and moisturize.

This is a step that is often forgotten, but is still important, even with an oil cleanse. Apply your favorite toner with a cotton pad or spray bottle and finish with a light serum or a few drops of your cleansing oil.

As with any skin care routine, you may need to make adjustments along the way to achieve your desired results. I'd love to hear how these tips work for you!

The Boring Disclaimer: The Plant Glamour Blog™ is based on my own personal experiences as a licensed aesthetician, aromatherapist and herbalist. The content is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any particular skin care or medical condition. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Please follow the information presented at your own discretion and risk, as this blog (and I, Camille Leinbach) will not be held responsible for any adverse reactions or any other situations that may occur or arise. Please see a qualified doctor or dermatologist if you are having any serious or chronic skin care issues, are pregnant or have any other conditions present. Please take responsible care when following any of the recipes on this site, as some individuals may be allergic or sensitive to some of the ingredients included.


Natural Solutions for Adult Acne

I have struggled with acne most of my life and still have to manage it on a daily basis, even now in my 40s. It is one of the main reasons that I became a skin care therapist. I wanted to know more about how I could resolve my own skin issues and help other people resolve theirs, too. Acne is one of the skin care issues that affects people deeply, both physically and emotionally.

It sucks.

In my skin care practice, probably over half of the clients I see are managing acne. While some of them are in their teens, most of them are in their late 30s and 40s. Some of these clients had acne when they were younger and it has returned. Many of them are getting acne for the first time in their lives as an adult.

There are many reasons acne can return (or appear) as an adult. A likely reason is due to hormonal shifts (such as pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause) that are taking place that cause changes in how skin regenerates itself. Sebum, the substance produced by the sebaceous glands that keeps skin from drying out, can increase. The skin cells that shed mix with the increased sebum, clogging the pore with an oily sludge. Changes in hormones can also cause an increase in the likelihood of bacteria that cause acne on the skin.

Shifts in hormone levels can also contribute to increased inflammation in the body, which is a known contributor to acne, as well as other inflammatory skin conditions (and aging). Inflammation in the body can also be caused by a diet that contributes to inflammation - things like processed foods, sugar, alcohol, red meat and refined grains.

Stress is another major offender that can lead to breakouts in adults. Managing the root of things that are stressing you out can help a great deal in relieving acne and other chronic skin conditions. Our emotions are reflected in our skin. It is important to connect with them and explore how they could be contributing to skin issues.

While no one skin care approach works for everyone, here are some natural solutions to consider trying if you are experiencing acne flareups as an adult. It may take some experimenting and time to find the approach that works best for your skin. And, please, always keep in mind any known allergies, contraindications or sensitivities that you may have when making any changes in your skin care routine (both internal and external).

  • Remove all processed foods, food additives (artificial flavors, dyes, etc.), caffeine, alcohol, sugar, red meat and refined grains from your diet. You may also want to consider removing or decreasing your dairy intake, as this is often a major culprit.
  • Incorporate a green smoothie into your daily diet. Smoothies containing fresh fruits, vegetables and greens (like kale and spinach) help your body to naturally cleanse itself. To jump start your green smoothie routine, try Body Enlightenment 3-Day Green Smoothie Challenge, a free service that guides you through 3 days of smoothie recipe planning and preparation. 
  • Drinking fresh juices containing beets, burdock root, celery, grapefruit, carrot, parsley and nettles are also wonderful for helping to clear skin. You can also drink skin-clearing teas such as burdock root, red clover, dandelion root and milk thistle.
  • Consider adding an internal supplement containing skin-clearing herbs, such as Herb Pharm's Dermal Health™ Compound. I use this tincture whenever I'm going through periods of flareups and it has been helpful.
  • Eat plenty of salmon. The omega-3s in salmon help to reduce inflammation in the body. If you don't like fish, you can take fish (or flax) oil.
  • Incorporate yogurt and other fermented foods, such as kefir and kimchi into your diet. Fermented foods help to keep healthy bacteria in the gut, balancing the intestinal system, which promotes clear skin. You can also consider a daily probiotic supplement.
  • Consider getting tested for food allergies. I have had several clients that were able to link their acne to an allergy they had developed as adults. Dairy was often the allergy.
  • Consult a qualified naturopath or herbalist who could customize a plan of herbal supplements to help manage hormonal fluctuations. I'm not at all suggesting that you don't see a doctor or dermatologist (please, do if you have a chronic or severe skin condition that isn't responding to other treatments), but it is likely that they would address any hormonal issues with synthetic hormones, like birth control, which I don't feel is really a solution. An herbal care plan customized to you can offer a more gently effective approach.
  • Remove makeup every night and follow a consistent daily skin care routine.
  • Care for skin gently, using a cleanser twice daily that will provide thorough cleansing without stripping skin. Look for ingredients like glycolic acid (derived from cane sugar) and willow bark, which will help to effectively exfoliate dead skin cells and keep pores from clogging in the first place.
  • Look for products with ingredients such as tea tree oil, that offer antibacterial properties and chamomile, calendula or kelp, which help to soothe irritation and inflammation from breakouts.
  • Avoid products containing benzoyl peroxide. This chemical is harsh on all ages of skin and can excessively irritate and dry out skin. While it may begin to clear blemishes, you are left with raw, red, itchy, dry, scaly skin. This dryness can kick your skin's oil production into overdrive to compensate, perpetuating the breakout cycle.
  • Do not use physical, granular scrubs on active breakouts. These irritate skin that is broken out and can actually make acne worse. Also avoid scrubbing skin harshly with a washcloth or any other tool. For gentle exfoliation, use an enzymatic mask containing ingredients such as papaya enzymes. These types of masks exfoliate skin by unsticking the "glue" that holds on to dead skin cells. This allows the dead skin to be removed, revealing fresh new cells below, rather than clogging pores.
  • Just like mom always said - avoid picking, as it can lead to infection and scarring.
  • Be sure to wear sun protection regularly, as the sun can cause red marks from breakouts to remain long after the breakout is gone.
  • After cleansing, use a gentle toner, such as rosewater and glycerin or orange flower water to add a boost of hydration and keep your skin at the proper ph level.
  • Use a moisturizer regularly on clean skin to keep skin hydrated. Adult acne can be unique in that the skin tends to be drier overall to start with. When skin is stripped from cleansing and not properly nourished and moisturized afterward it can easily dry out further. When the skin dries out, it begins to freak out and pump out more sebum (oil) to compensate. This increase in sebum, mixed with dry flaky skin is a recipe for a breakout.
  • Don't obsess over non-comedogenic or oil free products. These have been hyped all over the place. All types of skin need a protective moisturizer and even those with acne can use a product with oil in it. Preposterous, you say!?! Yes. I know. It sounds crazy. But for some (not all), a little bit of oil can actually keep skins oil production in check, helping to decrease breakouts. Just stick to lighter moisture formulas that contain oils like hazelnut or grapeseed, which are lovely for oily or acne skins. Moisturizing gel formulas with hyaluronic acid can also be beneficial.
  • Use a night treatment to keep pores clean a few nights a week. Look for formulas, again, containing glycolic or willow bark. 
  • Consider getting regular professional facials. It can make a big difference in improving acne. Even getting facials at the change of each season can help.
  • If you are unable to get a professional treatment, perform a weekly at home mini-facial with a thorough cleansing, followed by a face mask using fruits containing beneficial acids and enzymes that will help remove dead skin and sebum - any combination of pineapple, papaya, cherries, kiwi, lemons, limes and grapes (and more!) can be blended together. Leave the mask on for 20 minutes, remove with a warm, damp cloth, rinse with lukewarm water and finish with a toner and moisturizer. 
  • Find a personal, meditative or spiritual practice that helps you to unwind and let go of the issues you are holding on to emotionally. This could be a regular yoga practice, exercise, journaling, walks in the woods, taking long, cleansing baths, energy work, massage, spending more time for yourself - whatever feels right to you to connect with those emotions that can be showing up as acne on your skin's surface.
  • Drink plenty of water, get plenty of rest and exercise, spend lots of time outdoors in fresh air and surround yourself with love and loving people. 
  • Be good to yourself. You are a good person. :)