I can confidently say that the day I realized there’s a difference between hydrating and moisturizing, my skin was saved. I think because we see these terms being used interchangeably by cosmetics companies, we are lead to think that they are one and the same thing. Personally this misconception has caused my skin a lot of distress and I wish someone had told me there’s a substantial difference between moisturizing and hydrating. But now that I’m wiser, I want to pass the knowledge off to you lovely readers!
Although companies aren’t lying when they claim that their product is both moisturizing and hydrating, this does lead to the misconception that they are the one and the same to the consumer.
Some moisturizers contain both moisturizing and hydrating ingredients, but they’re not the same thing. Hydrating agents add moisture to the skin, while moisturizing agent lock moisture into the skin. See it like this, hydration is like a glass of water for your skin, but the water will evaporate if there’s nothing keeping it locked in. Moisturizers form a barrier on the skin to prevent this water from evaporating into thin air.
Hydrating agents are called humectants. Humectants attract water from the nearby environment (humid air) or from deeper layers of the skin and draw moisture towards the surface of the skin. Commonly used humectants in skincare include:
-Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA’s)
-Pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (PCA)
Hydration is best done right after cleansing, when the skin cells are still filled with water.
Moisturizing agents include emollients and occlusives (occlusives are higher density emollients). These cover the surface of the skin and create a thin hydrophobic (oil-loving) film over the skin that prevents water from evaporating, thus keeping moisture in. The skin naturally has such a barrier, but it’s fragile and is easily broken down by harsh winds, sun damage, and a lack of sebum. Moisturizers can temporarily replace this barrier and protect the skin while at the same time smoothing dry and flaky skin.
Commonly used moisturizing agents include:
-Oils (plant or synthetic)
-Silicones (e.g. dimethicone, cyclomethicone)
-Petroleum jelly (like Vaseline)
-Waxes (e.g. beeswax)
Do you need both?
All skin types need both hydration and moisturizing to be healthy and to look their best. But dry skin types can particularly benefit from moisturizers because they can replace absent natural skin lipids, reduce flakiness and they leave the skin feeling smooth and soft.
Most modern moisturizers contain both humectants as well as emollients. Just have a quick look at the ingredients of your moisturizer and you can tell if your moisturizer does both.
Personally I have oily skin so I can get away with using just a hydrating serum or just a moisturizer in the summer months. But now that the weather's getting colder, even my oily skin is getting a little flaky and my cheeks are a bit dry. So at the moment I am combining both a hydrating serum and a moisturizer, both from MISSHA’s Time Revolution line. The Time Revolution First Treatment Essence Intensive Moist and the Time Revolution Aqua Youth Cream. The Treatment Essence contains 90% fermented yeast plumps the skin and reduces pigmentation and is a cult favorite. The Aqua Youth Cream is lightweight and has a consistency somewhere between a gel and a lotion. It’s fast-absorbing and leaves my skin soft. Remember that my skin is oily, so this might be too light for someone with dry skin. If your skin is more on the dry side you might enjoy something richer like the MISSHA’s Time Revolution Nutritious Essence and Nutritious Cream a little more.
If you decide to use both a hydrating serum and a moisturizer, remember to use the hydrating product first, since hydration adds water to the skin and moisturizers lock moisture in. It wouldn’t make sense to do the opposite. And of course don’t forget to drink lots of water to replenish the skin with water from the inside!
I hope this has cleared up any confusion or misconceptions around moisturizers and hydration.
Do you use both a hydrating serum ànd a moisturizer or does one product suffice for your skin? What are your favorite hydrating and moisturizing products? Please share!