As an esthetician, one of the most common questions I receive is, “What is the difference between hydration and moisture in the skin?”
This, my skin care enthusiasts, is a very important question!
Manufacturers of beauty products make claims on their labels about whether or not their products are hydrating or moisturizing. To ensure that you are choosing the right product and its function for your skin type, it’s essential to know the difference between the two.
Let’s begin with a basic chemistry lesson on both hydration and moisturization.
When you think of hydration it’s only natural to think of water. To hydrate something means to increase its water content. In relation to skin care, hydration means increasing the amount of water in your skin cells, which results in a healthy, smooth and plump complexion.
Think of a grape versus a raisin – I bet you’re leaning towards that juicy grape, huh?
When your skin is regularly hydrated, it keeps the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles at bay. In addition to appearing younger, your skin cells maintain their overall cellular functions when hydrated.
How to hydrate our skin
Drinking plenty of water will do the trick, but since our skin is the last organ to absorb hydration, using topical ingredients that promote hydration is beneficial as well.
These hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate, glycerin or honey, to name a few, are called humectants, which help to bind and retain moisture. Our Anti-Aging Serum contains both sodium hyaluronate and non-gmo vegetable glycerin to help keep your skin beautifully hydrated.
Ingredients that help
Aloe is another ingredient that promotes skin hydration. The National Center for Biotechnology Information published a study in 2006 that demonstrated the hydrating effect of aloe on the skin. The study seems to use the terms “moisturization” and “hydration” interchangeably, but what they measured was water content in the skin.
After two weeks, each varying concentration of aloe vera extract was shown to increase the water content in the skin. Just one more reason to love aloe! We use aloe vera juice as the base for both our cleansers, as well as both the Citrus Stem Cell Serum and Anti-Aging Serum.
Oil comes to mind when we speak of moisture. Sometimes cake does, too, but we’ll save that for a different day.
Attached to our hair follicles we have our sebaceous glands. These aptly named glands produce “sebum,” an oily substance that helps to protect, lubricate and nourish our skin, preventing it from drying out and causing premature aging. For those with clogged pores or oily skin types, there might be an overproduction of sebum, while those with dry skin types might have a lack of it.
Regardless of your skin type, moisturizing is an essential part of your daily facial routine.
What’s the difference?
So now that we have a basic understanding of the functions of both hydrating and moisturizing the skin, we’ll answer how, when, and how often.
Since the purpose of hydrating is to bind water to our skin and moisturizing is to prevent the water from leaving our skin, it’s important that hydration comes before moisturizing (when applying products topically).
Finding a balance
This is why serums are to be applied first, as most hydrating treatment serums contain a humectant. Once you get that layer of hydration on, you want to seal it all in with a lipid (facial oil). This combination creates a healthy balance.
For those with particularly oily skin, you may or may not prefer to moisturize as often. For you, applying just a hydrating product might sometimes be enough. Your skin naturally produces enough (in some cases, more than enough) oil to keep water from leaving the skin. (If you do find that your skin could use a little extra moisture, try something light like our Herbal Facial Oil for Oily Skin. The grapeseed and hazelnut oil base is non pore-clogging.)
Dry vs. dehydrated kkin
Dehydrated skin lacks water and dry skin lacks oil. So your skin could be dehydrated, dry, or both. This is why it is important to choose the right products and know how and when to use them.
Dehydrated skin tends to look dull and feel tight, even when properly moisturized. If you don’t already, use a hydrating serum with some of the humectant ingredients we mentioned above. Apply your serum before your oil to lock in the hydration.
With dry skin, lack of moisture (lipid content) can result in rough, dry or flaky skin. If this is your skin, make sure you’re using the right moisturizing ingredients. We recommend oils because they penetrate deep into the skin and allow the skin to breathe (rather than creating a barrier, which many facial lotions will do).
Ingredients that can help
Choose a rich ingredient like jojoba oil for its benefits or coconut oil if your skin is very dry. Our Anti-Aging Oil uses a jojoba base and contains other oils like carrot seed oil and chia seed oil for deep and healthy moisturization.
It’s often hard to distinguish between dry vs. dehydrated skin, so we do encourage you to see a professional if your symptoms are persistent.
Winter, Ruth. ‘A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, 7th Edition: Complete Information About the Harmful and Desirable Ingredients Found in Cosmetics and Cosmeceuticals’. Harmony; 7 Original edition (October 20, 2009)
Abby Stoecker is a Licensed Esthetician with 9 years of experience in the beauty industry. Her journey has led her to experience first hand the entire cycle of the esthetics industry—first working as a practitioner, then as an Account Manager/ Brand Evangelist at a skin care product company (ASC), and previously as an Educator at Cinta Aveda Institute where she originally studied for her Esthetics License almost 10 years ago. Currently, she is freelancing with start up skin care brands in the green beauty space. Her objective is simple—spread awareness, educate and make people feel their best when it comes to the decisions they make for their wellness and beauty. Abby finds immense joy in navigating clients through the world of skin, helping each person craft their own at-home rituals to achieve balance, inside and out. You can find her on most mornings with a face mask on, coffee in hand, listening to “The Daily” podcast.