Moisturising Vs. Hydrating: What’s The Difference?

Written by Urvi ShahJul 28, 2022
Moisturising vs. hydrating: What’s the difference?

There’s one question that perplexes even the savviest of skincare enthusiasts — what’s the difference between moisturising and hydrating? And, no, they’re not synonymous. Think about it: why are certain skincare formulas labelled ‘hydrators’, and a few called ‘moisturisers’? Even though skincare isn’t exceedingly complex, you must familiarise yourself with as many details as you can to pick the correct product for your skin and reap its full benefits. Let’s find out what sets one apart from the other.


The difference between moisturising and hydrating

What if your skin is dry and dehydrated?

Let’s cut to the chase. Moisturising traps moisture from the surrounding air, seals it into the natural protective barrier of your skin and prevents water from escaping the skin. Hydration, on the other hand, refers to the absorption of moisture from the air, and the delivery of this moisture to your cells to increase the content of water within them.



Moisturiser vs. hydrator

What if your skin is dry and dehydrated?

Because there’s no clear distinction between the two, brands employ these terms in their marketing interchangeably. But each formula addresses a different need.

Moisturisers are oil-based formulas containing occlusives and emollients (agents that diminish the loss of water) that trap moisture to create a seal over the surface of the skin to prevent hydration from evaporating.

Hydrators contain humectants like hyaluronic acid that attract and draw water into the cells and make them plump and supple from the inside out. Hydrating ingredients include glycerin, urea, and alpha-hydroxy acids, etc. A few examples of moisturising ingredients include petroleum jelly, shea butter, lanolin, lipids, jojoba oil, castor oil, etc.

Hydration reinstates the softness of our skin. But if there’s no oil (or moisturiser) preventing the hydration from escaping, the effect will remain temporary, and you will end up struggling with deflated and lifeless skin. And if you slather oil on a dehydrated face, it’ll appear smooth, but it will lack the softness that comes from hydration.



So, which one must you invest in?

What if your skin is dry and dehydrated?


If your skin is dry, it’s because it lacks oil, and needs to be moisturised. And if your skin is dehydrated, it’s because it lacks water, and needs to be hydrated. Dehydration results in sagging, wrinkles, tightness, peeling, and dullness. And it’s a consequence of external factors like the weather, your diet, and caffeine consumption.

And dryness manifests as rough, flaky skin. It’s a result of the condition/type of your skin. If your skin doesn’t produce too much sebum (oil), your skin isn’t oily at all, and dryness is perpetual.

Remember that it’s possible for your skin to be dry but contain normal levels of water/hydration. So, in this case, your skin is dry but not dehydrated. And bear in mind that dryness and dehydration are two separate conditions, and both of them require different treatments.



What if your skin is dry and dehydrated?

What if your skin is dry and dehydrated?

These conditions aren’t mutually exclusive. They can co-exist. If your skin is dry as well as dehydrated, you can incorporate a hydrating as well as a moisturising product into your routine. A serum infused with hyaluronic acid like the Simple Booster Serum - 3% Hyaluronic Acid + B5 For Deep Hydration can hydrate your skin, and a moisturiser infused with petroleum jelly can moisturise your skin. Ensure that you’re always layering your face with lightweight hydrating products before diving into moisturising to lock it in. Since heavier moisturisers, if applied first, won’t allow hydrating formulas to penetrate the skin.


Urvi Shah

Written by

A professional writer by day, and a poet by night, I'm a journalism graduate with experience in the news, travel, and food sectors. A frantic compiler of excerpts from books I've read, you can count on me to incorporate quotes and phrases into everyday conversations without a warning. On days I'm not working, I station myself in front of my laptop, and try to work my way through month-old drafts of my writings.


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