Hydrating vs. Moisturizing: What's The Difference?

July 14, 2021 3 min read

Hydrating vs. Moisturizing: What's The Difference?

Hydrating and moisturizing might sound like the same thing, but they are actually not. For some this is not a surprise, but for others it might have you scratching your head. I am going to explain the difference and then show you a list of ingredients that are great for each one.

Moisturizing addresses the outer layer of your skin and is what gives skin a soft feel. Hydrating goes beyond the outer protective barrier and addresses what’s underneath. Skin that looks moisturized can also still be dehydrated - which is why it is important to understand them both.

Now let’s get a little technical. Humectants are the “Hydators”. They LOVE water and work by pulling moisture from around them and drawing it to the surface of your skin. This gives skin that soft and supple feel. Occlusives (oil based emollients) are the “Moisturizers“ . They actually repel water and are what create a protective barrier on your skin trapping in moisture. This is what gives skin lasting and deep hydration.

Think of your skin and the environment around it. If your skin is dehydrated and your environment is dry, using only humectants (hydrators) will pull moisture from the deeper layers of your skin, causing further dehydration, and they won’t contribute to your skin’s outer protective layer that prevents moisture from escaping. Using only occlusives will repair your skin’s outer protective layer, but it will not help repair dehydrated skin which needs more water added to it. This is why many moisturizers have both humectant and occlusive ingredients, so that they can address both needs.

Some examples of natural ingredients that act as humectants include:

Aloe Vera
Hyaluronic Acid
Sodium Lactate

Some examples of natural ingredients that act as occlusives include:

Shea Butter
Cocoa Butter
Mango Butter
Jojoba Oil
Grapeseed Oil
Evening Primrose Oil
Olive Oil
Argan Oil

For dehydrated skin, focusing on providing your skin with more water. Below are things you can do to actively add water to your skin:

  1. Drink water! Hydration starts from within. You knew it was coming ;)
  2. Use a Toner or pre-moisturizing product that is heavy in humectant ingredients like aloe, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid that retain lots of water.
  3. Follow up with a moisturizer to prevent the hydration you’ve added from escaping.

For dry skin, focus on repairing your skin’s protective barrier which causes flakiness and dryness. Below are things you can do to help keep skin soft:

  1. Use products with heavy occlusive ingredients like shea butter, cocoa butter, and mango butter that work to lock in moisture and keep skin moisturized all day. Our lotions are great for this!
  2. Make sure to always moisturize after cleansing your skin. Water itself is a hydrator, but it is not a good moisturizer because it evaporates too quickly and does not keep skin moisturized. The more you wash your skin without using a moisturizer, the more dry your skin can actually become.
  3. Use a Toner or Mask before moisturizing to help prep your skin and receive maximum absorption from your moisturizer.

For oily skin, focus on balancing your skin’s natural oil production and repairing your skin’s outer barrier. Remember that oily skin can still be dehydrated and consequently it will produce more oils to compensate for lack of hydration! Below are things you can do to help oily skin:

  1. Choose ingredients that are non-comedogenic and water-based so that they feel light on skin and won’t clog your pores.
  2. Instead of a thicker moisturizer, use lightweight oils like jojoba, argan, and squalene that will restore your skin’s protective barrier while also balancing oily skin. Face oils are a great solution.
  3. Especially for oily skin, have a regular cleansing and moisturizing routine to give your skin consistency.

Not sure which products are right for you? We have face oil sample sets, lotion sample sets, and a build your own sample kit so you can find the right hydrator and moisturizers for your skin. 

Nicole P
Nicole P

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