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Dehydrated Skin Characteristics

By Roger Perez ; Updated August 14, 2017

Dehydration of the skin occurs by exposure to elements such as wind or sun, contact with drying chemicals and allergens, or by water deficit through profuse perspiration or insufficient fluid intake. Dehydrated skin makes the face appear older and wrinkles more pronounced through a "pruning" effect. Dry skin can also lead to itchiness or irritation, as well as flaky, scaly skin patches. Knowing some of the characteristics of dehydrated skin allows you to take steps to prevent further drying and more serious conditions.


One of the most recognizable characteristics of dehydrated skin is itchiness, which can be accompanied by a white, ashy appearance on its surface. Drexel University's College of Medicine suggests avoiding scratching or rubbing, and instead using cold compresses, hydrocortisone creams, and oatmeal or cornstarch baths. Apart from dehydration, itchiness of the skin can also be caused by insect bites, contact with irritants, sunburn, rashes, parasites and medicines. If itching is severe, a medical professional should be consulted for relief and to rule out allergies or other medical conditions.

Loss of Elasticity

Loss of elasticity in the skin can be a symptom of dehydration. According to Drexel, this condition, also known as skin turgor, is characterized by the skin's inability to change shape and return to normal. Health-care providers grasp skin on the back of the hand, lower arm, or abdomen between two fingers so that it is tented up, and then release it. If the skin remains elevated and returns to its normal position slowly, this is a sign of moderate to severe dehydration in the entire body. Fluids should be ingested and a physician consulted if this condition is prolonged or fluid loss is severe, Drexel advises.

Rough Patches

Dehydrated skin often has rough, red patches. These patches can become very itchy and are frequently accompanied by flaking skin cells. The University of Illinois' McKinley Health Center states that the most severe form of dry skin is nummular eczema. This is characterized by rough circular patches of pink or red skin, mostly on the arms and legs. Treatment might be as simple as decreasing the frequency of showering, avoiding harsh soaps or applying moisturizing lotions. Consult with your doctor or a licensed dermatologist for treatment if your condition gets worse or if you experience discomfort as a result of dry patches on your skin.

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