Well we know that water plays a core role in ensuring our skin stays healthy, smooth, and radiant, so it's no surprise that every skincare aisle is lined with products that promise to hydrate and moisturize the skin. But what many of us may not realize is that although they are often used interchangeably, moisturizing and hydration are not exactly the same thing. While both are essential in providing skin with much-needed nourishment, knowing the difference will help you make the best choice when targeting your skin’s specific needs.
What’s the Difference Between Hydrating and Moisturizing?
Moisturizers and hydrators both address the importance of making sure the skin is getting all the water it needs to fight dryness and dehydration, premature signs of aging and environmental damage. The difference, however, lies mostly in how they go about achieving these results.
“Hydration refers to the water content within the cells that prompts them to swell and become plump and bouncy, thus reflecting light well AKA glow. "If water flows out of the cells and the cells are dehydrated, they can become shriveled, which leads to lackluster skin,” explains Dr. Anna Guanche, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles. This means that when you’re using a topical hydrator, you’re infusing your cells with water and improving your skin’s ability to absorb moisture and nutrients.
On the other hand, moisturizing is about trapping and sealing in the above-mentioned moisture to build the skin’s protective barrier, preventing water loss and keep the skin soft and smooth, says Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, M.D., F.A.A.D.
“Hydration” is the absorption of moisture from the air and then infusing your cells with water to improve your skin's ability to absorb moisture and nutrients. “Moisturizing” is about trapping and locking in the moisture to build your skin's natural protective barrier.
How to Know if You Need a Hydrator, Moisturizer or Both
If your skin tends to be on the dry side, it’s easy to assume that a healthy dose of moisturizer is all it takes to restore its plump appearance and youthful glow. While this may be true at times, it’s also possible that your skin may not, in fact, be dry but dehydrated. And if the latter is true, then a hydrator or hydramist is what you need to get the job done.
To know if your skin is dry or dehydrated, it’s important to take note of your skin’s condition. The skin has a natural lipid (oil) barrier that protects itself from damage and water loss. If you’re prone to having dry, flaky skin, it’s a tell-tale sign that it’s not producing enough lipid cells to form a protective barrier, making it unable to lock in moisture. And that’s where moisturizers come in.
“A moisturizer’s job is to reduce the amount of water that evaporates off of the skin to minimize trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). They lock in and seal in moisture,” explains Dr. Guanche. Moisturizing is particularly helpful for skin that is dry and peeling or flaking after undergoing a chemical peel, using acne medication or during winter or dry seasons.
Meanwhile, if you’re dealing with a dull and lackluster complexion with fine lines and wrinkles becoming more noticeable, your skin may be battling dehydration. “Dehydrated skin means the cells are parched and starved of water. When this happens, they are not plump and volumized and appear shriveled collectively,” explains Dr. Guanche. “People can have hydrated but dry skin or dehydrated but moisturized skin. Ideally, we want hydrated, bouncy, swollen cells that have topical moisture locked into them,” she explains.
How to Pick the Right Hydrator or Moisturizer
Drinking plenty of water is still the optimum way to hydrate your skin, but people with dehydrated skin may want to supplement with a topical hydrator that binds and draws water into the cells. In comes the word 'humectant' which is an ingredient that hydrates the skin by attracting water molecules like a magnet pulling in water. Brilliant!
Natural humectants allow the skin to improve its ability to hydrate itself over time, so look out for products that contain organic hydrosol, niacinamide, propanediol, panthenol, hyaluronic acid, aloe, honey, alpha hydroxy acids, and marine extracts. Synthetic humectants are one to not use eg. butylene glycol, sorbitol and urea.
“Hydrating ingredients are generally appropriate for all skin types. They are water-soluble, won’t clog pores and should be devoid of alcohols so they don’t actively dry out or irritate the skin surface,” adds Dr. Shainhouse.
As for moisturizers, there is a wide variety of options in terms of formula and ingredients. “Moisturizers can be lighter or heavier and formulated for different seasons and different skin types,” says Dr. Shainhouse. “Warm, sweaty spring and summer months may call for a lightweight gel serum and facial oil serum or light body lotion, while dry, cold and autumn/winter weather may require heavier products with richer facial oil serums, herbal actives with mucilage properties (Marshmallow Root), body butters (shea or Cocoa).
These ingredients are known not only for their moisturizing and nourishing effects but also for their ability to counter the signs of aging and free radical damage.
Our philosophy is The Power in Simplicity. Minimal high quality skincare is more effective than a quantity of inferior products.
And let's face it (excuse the pun), our time is precious, and lathering on 10 different products every morning can be exhausting before the day has even begun. Skincare products are far more effective when we utilize our valuable time to apply fewer, high-end products with intention, love, and care.
Our skin is also a complexed living organ who's not a great friend of overloading, overlaying, and suffocation. It needs to breathe. Another benefit of using a hydrating mist and oil combo is — more control. On dry parched skin days more Hydra Mist is in order and on days needing more feeding you can add another drop or two of nourishing facial oil.
Now to choose which type of moisturizer is best for your skin type
For acne-prone skin, a blemish-targeted hydra mist & oil serum combination such as the Silver Lining range works best. The daily Dermal Strengthening and Night Restoring Serums are super lightweight and absorb quickly into the skin.
Combination skin and urban lifestyle stressed skin: The Waymaker range is the way to go. Waymaker Hydra Mist as the hydrator underneath the day Ozone Protection and Night Recovery serums are our immediate go-to's, combating UV damage, pollution, and everyday stress that take their toll on the skin causing pigmentation, fine lines, and dullness.
For dry skin that may be showing signs of aging, fine lines, lack of elasticity, and collagen loss due to maturing— the Awaken range is absolutely ideal. Awaken Hydra Mist is filled with humectants that will plump up the skin cells. To seal the hydrator with Awaken Collagen serum in the morning and Night Replenishing Serum at night will nourish and strengthen any dry skin back to a wonderful glow.
In essence, the best hydrator for the skin is pure H2O internally and most of us will need topical hydrators and moisturizers at some point in our lifetime. For best results, hydrators and oil serums should be applied morning (before sunscreen) and night.