Your Fine Lines May be Caused by Dehydrated Skin (+ other symptoms)

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Have you been noticing fine lines start to pop up (and maybe even faster in the summer)? Don’t worry—fine lines have a grace period before they become wrinkles, and there is plenty that you can do to maintain a youthful glow!

If you’re dealing with lackluster skin, start with the easiest culprit: you might be dehydrated. 

Signs of Dehydrated Skin 

Close up of a young freckled woman's eye area with fine lines
  1. Fine lines - When your skin is dehydrated, it can lose volume that was keeping everything smooth. This may show up as tiny creases and fine lines in the skin; they are not always caused by facial movement!
  2. Loss of elasticity - Without proper hydration, the skin can feel looser or sag. If you are concerned about your skin elasticity, try “the pinch test” by giving your face a gentle pinch. Hydrated skin should bounce right back, whereas dehydrated skin might retain the imprint a bit longer.
  3. Congestion - Our skin is always trying to help us balance. When the skin is dehydrated, your body will respond with overproducing oils to triage the situation. This can lead to congested pores, if the dehydration isn’t addressed in a different way!
  4. Under-eye circles - Loss of elasticity can be more apparent in our under-eye skin, which is naturally thinner and more delicate. Dark circles can also appear with lack of healthy circulation, which your body needs hydration for. If your eyes look tired or have more pronounced under-eye circles than normal, consider if dehydration is the culprit.
  5. Product Absorbs Too Quickly - If you notice that your skin has started to need a larger amount of product than usual, it might be trying to lap up that extra moisture. Think about a dried out plant when the water runs right through the soil!
  6. Dullness or itchiness - Though this can also happen with dry skin too, dullness and itchiness are signs of dehydration.

What is the difference between dehydrated skin and dry skin?

Dehydrated skin is specifically caused by a lack of water in the skin, and it can happen to anyone with any skin type. This means that even if you consider your skin to be oily, it can still become dehydrated in some conditions. Dehydrated skin can be caused by dehydration throughout the body or by skincare practices.

Dry skin, on the other hand, is a skin type that usually refers to a consistent state of lack of lipids in your skin barrier. These lipids, or natural oils, are the part of your skin barrier that prevents water from evaporating off the surface of your skin. Without enough lipids, the water evaporates into the air, leaving your skin flaky, red, lackluster, and irritated.

Both dry skin and dehydrated skin can contribute to the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, but fine lines are more likely to be caused by dehydration than by your skin type. Read on to learn how to restore your skin to its happy, hydrated state!

What causes my dehydrated skin? 

A cocktail containing alcohol on the countertop

If you are aware of some health habits that might be contributing to your skin’s dehydration, look to these first, since you may need hydration in other places too. Here are a few examples of dehydrating habits:

  • Not drinking enough water: This one is obvious, and that’s why we are reminding you. It’s so easy to overlook the obvious solutions because we’ve heard it so many times! Water-rich foods like watermelon and soup can also count towards your water intake, as well as other watery beverages. 
  • Alcohol consumption: Alcohol uses up water when your body breaks it down, but did you know it also suppresses the hormone you need to rehydrate (vasopressin)? Be conscious of consumption if hydration is your goal.
  • Sodium and sugar: These ingredients use extra water to break down, so hydrate more when you have a big serving.
  • Sun exposure: This can cause both body and skin dehydration, so use SPF and stay hydrated!

 Once you assess your water intake, next look to skincare habits that might be causing this. Keeping your skin barrier intact is essential for having hydrated skin. Watch out for the following:

  • Over-cleansing: That tight, “squeaky clean” feeling is not necessary for your skin to be clean. If your cleanser strips every bit of moisture and oil from your skin, it will not have the ability to protect its water content from evaporating, leading to trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). That's why we avoid harsh detergents in our products. 
  • Harsh exfoliation: The best exfoliating habits are to use gentle exfoliators on a consistent basis, rather than to let your skin accrue build-up until you scrub it raw. Exfoliation should not sting or leave you red for hours! Regular use of gentle chemical exfoliants with 2-3x a week of gentle physical exfoliation is a sweet spot. 
  • Not knowing your products: Some active ingredients complement each other, whereas others cause irritation when combined. Take a second look at your routine to make sure you aren’t stacking too many strong ingredients together. 

How can I treat fine lines and other signs of dehydration?

A hand holding a honey dipper over a jar of raw honey

To combat dehydration with your skincare routine, you want to look for ingredients that are specifically hydrating, which can be different from moisturizing. These are also known as humectants (hydrators) versus occlusives (moisturizers). Humectants absorb water from that atmosphere or your skin and hold it in place—ADDING moisture—whereas occlusives create a moisture seal to prevent evaporation—RETAINING moisture. Depending on your overall skin needs, you may want to layer a hydrating product underneath your moisturizing product. 

Here are some examples of hydrators compared to moisturizers. At Apoterra, we use plant-based ingredients as well as vitamins and minerals.

Hydrating Ingredients:

  • Hyaluronic acid 🌈

  • Honey 🐝

  • Aloe 🌿 🌍

  • Glycerin 🌈

  • Citric acid 🌈

  • Niacinamide 🌈

  • Hydrosols  🌿🌍

Moisturizing Ingredients:

  • Plant oils (like jojoba) 🌿 🌍

  • Plants butters (like shea) 🌿 🌍

  • Waxes (like beeswax) 🌿/🐝 

  • Squalane 🌈

  • Lecithin 🌈



Key: 🌿 = derived from plants  🐝 = derived from bees  🌍 = vegan  🌈 = derived from multiple sources*

*These ingredients can be derived from plants, animals, or fungus. Here at Apoterra we derive these ingredients from vegan sources. 

You’ll notice that many moisturizing products contain a mixture of hydrating and moisturizing products—this is not a bad thing! But if you’re looking for targeted relief, focus on hydrating ingredients to address dehydration and moisturizing ingredients to address dryness or compromised skin barrier. 

If you are using both in separate steps of your routine, layer the hydrator underneath the moisturizer so that your skin benefits from the added water underneath the moisturizing barrier, instead of being sitting on top of it.

Fine lines tip: Restoring your skin to its hydrated state will improve the signs of dehydration, including fine lines. But for fine lines in particular, include gentle exfoliation to improve and maintain skin texture. 

 Practice Picking Products! 

A variety of skincare products on a windowsill

Check out the hydrating and moisturizing ingredients across these products—which skin condition would they help you treat? 

Example 1

Vitamin C Regenerative Balm


Vitamin C Regenerative Balm, containing shea butter, jojoba oil, rosehip oil, and beeswax

Q: Hydrating or moisturizing? 

A: This product would be moisturizing because it is rich in plant oils, butters, and waxes. Shea butter additionally has emollient properties, so it acts as a softener as well as a moisturizer. This balm would form a great protective barrier for nighttime moisture retention, especially in dry skin.

Example 2

Rose Hydration Mist

Rose Essential Hydration Mist, containing aloe, niacinamide, hydrosols, and hyaluronic acid

Q: Hydrating or moisturizing?

A: This product would be a strong hydrator due to its humectant ingredients that will absorb water and add it to your skin. Use a humectant product to draw moisture into your skin when it is dehydrated.

Example 3 

Vetiver Illuminating Oil Cleanser

Vetiver Illuminating Oil Cleanser, containing meadowfoam oil, tamanu oil, vetiver essential oil, and black cumin seed oil

Q: Hydrating or moisturizing?

A: This product would be a good cleanser to preserve your moisture levels, since it contains plentiful plant oils. Meadowfoam oil and black cumin seed oil also have emollient properties, which means they can form a protective layer on the skin to hold moisture inside. Use a gentle cleanser to prevent stripping your skin barrier.

Now go out there and treat your dehydrated skin to push back against fine lines and other signs of dehydration!


Written by: Brianna Riggio

Reviewed by: Licensed Esthetician Hayley Wood

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