Hydrating vs. Moisturizing: What’s the Difference?

Most of you have heard the phrase, “Beauty is more than skin deep.” In truth, the skin not only contributes largely to your outward appearance but also reflects your inner health and vitality. Keeping your skin moisturized and hydrated ensures it looks it best and you are at your most beautiful. Often used interchangeably, moisturizers and hydrates actually provide different benefits to your skin.


You can think of moisturizers as products that aim at water loss prevention. They are comprised of humectants and emollients. Emollients, which often include oils like almond, cocoa, or shea, trap moisture against the skin. Humectants include substances like colloidal oatmeal, propylene glycol, and hyaluronic acid, which attracts water to the outer layer of the skin or epidermis. Healthy skin produces its own moisturizers with an active lipid barrier. Lipid cells are essentially fat-based messengers that tell the sebaceous glands how much oil to secrete.


Moisturizers are not ideal for attracting moisture the skin does not already have. Its main role is protection and support to the epidermis, preventing or treating dryness. Maintaining the health of the outer layers of your skin is the best means to prevent skin conditions associated with a compromised lipid seal. This barrier can prove instrumental in deterring opportunistic organisms like yeast and bacteria which cause blackheads, eczema, and other ailments.


Hydrators use hygroscopic compounds, like humectants, to help the skin absorb water from surrounding areas. This can be from the air or blood supply via capillaries. Glycerin and honey are a couple of commonly used humectants. Hydrators work synergistically with moisturizers, enabling you to moisturize beyond an outer couple of epidermal layers.


The other crucial, often overlooked means of hydrating your skin is through your fluid intake. According to ASEA, drinking water is associated with improved immune system health, better inflammatory response, stronger cardiovascular performance, regulated hormonal balance and more. Hydrated skin will be plump and supple. Notice humectants are in both moisturizers and hydrators. They are usually not prominent enough in moisturizers to penetrate deeply.


With any skin regimen, first, determine your skin’s condition. You may need to enlist the help of a cosmetologist to know with certainty. If your skin is dry, you need a moisturizer. If it is dehydrated, you need both moisturizing and hydrating. The best option for your optimal skin health is to use a combination of both a hydrator and a moisturizer in your skin routine.
Apply the hydrator first and then your moisturizer. According to Bee Naturals, hydrating products will make your skin more receptive to the absorption of a moisturizer. Your moisturizer then ensures your skin care lasts several hours. Hyaluronic acid is excellent for dehydrated skin, while oil-based creams or serums are best for moisturizing. Products that facilitate quicker skin cell turnover, like Redox, can help hydrate the skin from the outside in. Remember to drink plenty of water.

You can control a large part of your skin’s healthy functions by moisturizing and hydrating it. Since the skin is the body’s largest organ, ensuring its health leads to inner vitality and well-being.