Hydrating Vs Moisturizing Skin Care


Many see “hydration” and “moisture” as interchangeable words that describe the same thing, believing a skin hydrator is the same as a moisturizer. It is a common misconception, and an easy mistake to make.  In reality, however, these are two very different types of products specifically formulated to serve a different purpose for the skin.  Believe it or not, hydrator and moisturizer are not just synonyms written on products as part of a clever marketing scheme to make you buy more than you really need.

Skin Moisturizers:


Queen Bee Facial Nectar Moisturizer

A moisturizer’s main responsibility is to reduce transepidermal water loss (TWEL) by forming a barrier over the skin’s surface.  These types of products work to retain what moisture is present on the skin at the time of application.  By forming a protective seal on the skin’s surface, moisturizers are able to reduce the risk of the evaporation of existing moisture throughout the day.

Healthy, normal skin, is able to produce lipid cells.  These cells trigger the skin’s natural ability to protect itself from moisture loss, communicating to our sebaceous glands to produce more oil, or sebum.

Evaporation of water from the skin

Evaporation of water from the skin

Those with a disrupted lipid barrier often suffer from dry skin conditions, as the skin is unable to coat the skin’s surface with the appropriate amount of sebum, causing a loss of hydration.  Essentially, a moisturizer should aid in correcting the lipid barrier so that the skin is able to regain healthy moisture balance.  The key word here is “aid,” as these products are only a part of a solution, and are not a fix all to every skin condition on their own.

Skin Hydrators:

While moisturizers are formulated to seal moisture into the skin, hydrating products are designed to increase the water content of the skin.  This is typically achieved by utilizing the powers of various hygroscopic ingredients, like humectants.  A Hygroscopic substance has the ability to attract water from its surroundings through absorption or adsorption.  Glycerin, honey and hyaluronic acid are great examples.  As humectants, they absorb water from the air and bind it to the skin, facilitating hydration.

Hydrating Facial Freshener

Queen Bee Hydrating Facial Freshener

Some moisturizers are infused with hydrating ingredients, like those mentioned above, but are not always able to penetrate skin as deeply.  As previously stated, moisturizers function to prevent water loss by forming a barrier over the skin, primarily through a mixture of occlusive and emollient ingredients.  Occlusives are your barrier forming substances, while emollients help with skin smoothness and sometimes enhance barrier strength.  Humectants can function within a moisturizer’s formula, but depending on the skin’s needs, will not supply the skin with a sufficient amount of hydration.

Long Story Short…

Remember to apply hydrating products first and a moisturizer second.  This way, you are adding adding moisture to the skin, and then ensuring it stays put throughout the day.  If you have dry skin and are only using a moisturizer, chances are you are feeling the need to apply it multiple times throughout the day.  While the moisturizing ingredients may appear to have helped smooth those dry flaky spots, they are not fixing the root of your condition.  Moisturizers are only masking the issue at hand.

Up the water content of skin by incorporating a hydrator into your daily routine!  Not only will will doing so help the skin regain its proper moisture balance, but it will also increase the powers of your moisturizer.  Hydrating ingredients make the skin more receptive to absorbing all the beneficial ingredients offered by a moisturizer.  A more powerful moisturizer means a little goes a long way, which has the added bonus of saving you money in the long run!







About Jordan Savage

Jordan Savage is a St. Louis-based beauty writer with a strong passion for natural skincare. Her years living in Boulder, Colorado, inspired her to study and research natural ingredients and the benefits they have on the skin, and to dabble in mixing up a few of her own skincare remedies. She has obtained a bachelor’s in English and Creative Writing from the University of Missouri St. Louis, and since then has had experience working in both sales and writing aspects of the natural beauty industry. Through her writing, she enthusiastically and honestly shares with readers the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to beauty products. Jordan strives to equip readers with the knowledge they need to make informed and healthy skincare choices.

6 thoughts on “Hydrating Vs Moisturizing Skin Care

  1. Diane Wright

    Normally I don’t read article on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very pressured me to try and do so! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thank you, very nice post.

  2. Anne

    SO helpful This explains why my skin that used to b very oily for years, which now is quite dry in my 50’s, never seems to change and why moisturizers aren’t helping that much. Thank you!

  3. John Mahoney

    I had no idea that moisturizers worked by creating a protective layer over your skin to prevent evaporation of existing moisture. My wife has been looking for a new type of moisturizer for her skin so I decided to look into it. It makes sense that taking the time to look for several types to keep your skin from getting dry can allow you to keep it looking the best it can.

  4. doretta

    I actually have a question. Are you saying that a quality hydrating product doesn’t only provide hydration independently, but it actually PULLS moisture from the AIR? Can it target spots on your skin that are particularly dry and pull more moisture to those spots? All day or for a few hours? And, if this is accurate, and moisturizers provide a block between your skin and outside elements, specifically to keep moisture in your skin, how would the humectants do their magic if you cover them with blocking moisturizer? I know this sounds like I’m trying to argue, but I’m genuinely curious about this concept. I just heard another skincare company bragging about their new hydrating product and the fact that the doctors who created this product invented a new molecule that absorbs moisture from the air and targets the dry spots on your skin. I’m trying to vet that information by asking an expert, and I found you. It sounds as though they may be exaggerating or overselling their new “invention”.

  5. deborah baldasarre

    Hi, thanks so much for helpful article. I’m translatin some cosmetic labels from italian to english and it’s a caos 😀 about translation of “idratante” word.
    So “idratante” can be translated by “hydrating” or “moisturising”, depending on cosmetic function, isn’t it?


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