Navigating the skincare world and all of its terms (actives, hydration, emollients, and skin barrier, for example) can be confusing and overwhelming. You might often see skincare brands or products use the terms "hydrating" and "moisturizing" interchangeably. But the truth is that these terms don't mean the same thing and that knowing the difference between the two can make a huge difference when it comes to the health and glow of your skin.
Ready to learn the difference? Let's get started.
What's the difference between "hydrating" and "moisturizing"?
Hydrating and moisturizing are two different skincare terms with a very similar goal: to help the skin have enough water to maintain a healthy skin barrier. Though they have a similar goal, the main difference between the two terms comes from how they work.
Hydrating products and ingredients add water to the skin to hydrate skin cells and boost their water content. When skin is adequately hydrated, it will be plump and bouncy. On the flip side, dehydrated skin (skin that lacks water) will look dull or even parched.
Moisturizing products and ingredients focus on reinforcing our skin's natural barrier through moisturizing dry skin and preventing trans-epidermal water loss. While dehydrated skin lacks enough water, dry skin lacks enough oil to moisturize the skin.
An easy way to think about the difference is to imagine hydration as filling an empty bottle up with water so you can stay hydrated. Moisturization is then the cap that seals the water in the bottle to prevent any spills or evaporation, ensuring that you (and your skin) get all the goodness of the water.
What types of ingredients hydrate the skin?
Hyaluronic acid is perhaps the best known and widely loved skin hydrator, as it is easy to formulate with, super gentle on the skin, and can hold up to 1,000 times its own weight in water.
Glycerin is another common hydrating ingredient that functions as a humectant, meaning it draws water into itself. So using skincare products with this humectant will help to draw water into the skin.
Lactic acid is a commonly known exfoliant (similar to glycolic acid), but it is also a humectant. As we know, humectants draw water into the skin, helping to keep it plump and juicy. While lactic acid shouldn't be your primary source of skin hydration (it is an exfoliant, after all), it's definitely a great ingredient to have in your skincare arsenal.
What types of ingredients moisturize the skin?
Ceramides are one of the best moisturizing ingredients used in skincare products as they work to hold the skin together and form a protective layer, preventing water loss and skin barrier damage.
Plant Oils and Fatty Acids
Used since the very first humans began experimenting with skincare, plant oils and their fatty acids function as emollients for the skin. Emollients lubricate the skin and form a protective, moisturizing layer that defends against water loss. Some of our favorite emollient oils can be found in Our Superfood Beauty Oil, including olive oil, safflower seed oil, and rosehip oil that support the skin with nourishing fatty acids (like linoleic and oleic acids) to moisturize and soften the skin.
Hydrate and moisturize your skin in the same routine:
Combining the benefits of hydration and moisturization into your skincare routine will ensure that your skin stays happy and healthy, no matter the season. When using hydrating and moisturizing products in one routine, start by applying the lighter weight, hydrating products first (such as a serum or essence). You'll then follow with a moisturizing product (such as a cream or facial oil) to lock in all of that hydration.