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.
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.
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.
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.
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!