All of us have felt the discomfort of tight, parched skin when we've been out in the sun for too long. That's what experts call skin dehydration. "When there is an imbalance between the intake of water and the amount of water required by skin cells to stay healthy, it results in a dehydrated condition," says Dr Chandy George, Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant at Balance Wellness Club in Oasis Centre, Dubai. Skin feels tight and is incessantly itchy after losing the comfortable elasticity that comes from moisture infusion. "Our body naturally loses a lot more water than usual in a hot climate and you must replenish the water loss promptly, or you risk skin fissures and premature wrinkles," he says.
One important thing to remember is that there's a difference between dehydrated and dry skin, although the symptoms are similar. While dehydration is a deficiency of water in the skin, which can only be supplanted with products that infuse the skin with water, dryness is the result of a loss of oil in the skin and should be treated with a dose of oil-based emollients/creams. "And don't mistake oily skin for being moisture-loaded," says Dr Chandy. "Oily skin has more open pores and this can lead to greater water loss," he says.
While ageing is one of the unchangeable factors behind our skin losing its moisture and suppleness, a lot of it is due to environmental and external aggressors as well as faulty fluid-deficient diets - things we can easily fix with minor lifestyle changes.
What follows are our five top moisture-retaining dos and don'ts.
Don't: Forget about your five a day
Increasing the amount of fresh fruits, fresh juices and veggies in your diet is an easy way to up your fluid intake.
"Focus on fresh fruit and veggies that are high in water content such as watermelon, pomegranate, cucumber and berries," says Dr Chandy.
Oranges, grapes, avocado, tomatoes, lettuce and celery are also great thirst-quenchers.
Dr Chandy also warns you should restrict consumption of coffee, tea, alcohol and cigarettes as these are considered the worst offenders when it comes to skin-cell moisture drainers.
"Too much caffeine has a drying effect and drains all the water out from the cells, putting the skin under undue stress," Dr Chandy says.
A good idea would be to substitute caffeine-laden drinks with green tea. This relaxing beverage with anti-oxidants isn't just good for anti-ageing, but is also great for staying hydrated. Plus it's low in caffeine, and when unsweetened, calorie free too.
Do: Be careful at night
"Aircons aren't as cool as they are made out to be, especially when it comes to the health of our skin," says Dr Chandy.
Skin regenerates itself at night and when you sleep in a strongly air-conditioned room, all the moisture is instantly sucked up, leaving it deficient.
"Having a humidifier in the room helps and won't strip your skin of its moisture," he adds. Alternatively, you could keep humidity levels up by placing a large bowl of fresh water in your bedroom overnight.
Do: Layer up
Just like you layer your fragrances, you can layer your moisturiser. Immediately after cleansing your face, use your moisturiser and then a few minutes later, once that layer has been absorbed, apply another layer. This will keep you looking fresh and hydrated throughout the day.
When moisturising after a bath, slather on the lotion while the skin is still damp to lock moisture in.
Don't: Have long, hot showers
Exposing skin to very hot water disrupts the protective skin's acid mantle and strips the skin of its natural moisture, making it prone to dryness and premature ageing, so avoid long hot showers or baths.
Overcleansing with harsh cleansers or abrasive scrubbing methods leaves skin overly dry and tight. Always look for gentle, pH-balanced formulations to cleanse the face or the body and don't scrub too hard.
Do: Drink up
When it comes to plump, hydrated skin, your diet matters way more than hydrating topical aides.
"To retain that youthful suppleness in your skin, keeping skin constantly hydrated is a must," says Dr Chandy.
To up your water intake, you first need to change your mindset, he says. "Stop waiting to feel thirsty before you drink water. Watch the clock and drink it every time it strikes the hour. Resolving to actually drink up those 2.5 litres of water a day will show up in your skin as increased suppleness."
Having a glass of water before stepping out into the sun arms your skin for the loss of fluids during exposure. You further replenish the excessive fluid loss when you reach out for that glass of water after being in the sun.
Plain water can be a bit boring to drink in large quantities, so add a dash of flavour by serving with a slice of fresh lemon or mint leaves every now and then. You can also make your own calorie-free iced tea - simply steep herbal tea bags and refrigerate.
Four of the best
1. Phytomer Hydra Originiel Ultra-Moisturising Fluid, Dh195, The Spa at The Hilton, JBR When skin feels tight and uncomfortable as a result of moisture loss, this ultra-light non-sticky fluid delivers long-lasting hydration, thanks to its blend of marine algae extracts.
2. Clinique Turnaround Overnight Radiance Moisturizer, Dh255, Areej The best time for the skin to renew itself is during its nightly sleep cycle, but this is also the time it ends up dehydrated due to strong air conditioning. This overnight moisturiser replenishes the skin's moisture loss through its sodium hyaluronate (hyaluronic acid derivative) ingredient which acts as a binding agent between water and skin.
3. Sodashi Balancing Face Mist, Dh248, Talise Spa, Madinat Jumeirah This pH balancing face mist from Sodashi is a refreshing spritzer option which is natural and free of parabens and pthalates.
4. Champneys Mediterranean Bliss Body Hydrator, Dh85, Boots When it comes to hydration needs for the body, you can trust UK spa brand Champneys to deliver the goods. This heavenly-smelling hydrating body cream is rich in moisturising ingredients like fig milk, olive leaf, and green tomato and helps you lock the bathtime moisture in.