Difference between Hydrating and Moisturizing Skin
Many see “hydration” and “moisture” as interchangeable words that describe the same thing, believing a skin hydrator is the same as a moisturizer. This is a common misconception and an easy mistake to make. In reality, these are two very different types of products specifically formulated to serve a different specific purpose for your skin. Believe it or not, hydrator and moisturizer are not just synonyms written on product labels as part of a clever marketing scheme to make you buy more than you really need.
A moisturizer’s main responsibility is to reduce trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) by forming a barrier over the skin’s surface. These types of products work to retain any moisture remaining present on your skin at the time of application. By forming a protective seal on the skin’s surface, moisturizers reduce the risk of evaporation of your existing skin 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 (oil producing) glands to produce more oil (or sebum).
People having a deficient lipid barrier will often suffer from dry skin conditions. Unable to coat the skin’s surface with the appropriate amount of sebum, this causes a loss of hydration. A moisturizer is formulated to aid in correcting the lipid barrier so that the skin is able to regain its healthy moisture balance. The key word here is “aid,” as these products are only a part of a solution. They 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 (Hygroscopic substances have the ability to attract water from its surroundings through absorption or adsorption) ingredients, like humectants (Humectants absorb water from the air and bind it to the skin, facilitating hydration). Glycerin, honey and hyaluronic acid are great examples of humectants.
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 (barrier forming substances) and emollient (aid skin smoothness, and sometimes enhance barrier strength) ingredients. Humectants can function within a moisturizer’s formula, but depending on your skin’s need, may not supply your 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 moisture to your skin, and then ensuring it remains throughout your 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 skin’s condition. Moisturizers are only masking the issue at hand.
You can increase the water content of your skin by incorporating a hydrator into your daily routine! Not only will this practice help your skin regain its proper moisture balance, it will also increase the effectiveness of your moisturizer. Hydrating ingredients make your skin more receptive to absorbing all the beneficial ingredients offered by your moisturizer. A little will go a long way when your moisturizer becomes more powerful by applying the products in the right order. This gives you the added bonus of saving money in addition to having healthy, moist skin!