A reader by the nick of ichigohime recently asked me what’s the difference between moisturizing and hydrating. I thought it’s an interesting question since both words are often used interchangeably and it would seem they are the same. But are they? Well, I had given her a brief answer that hydrating products are formulated to increase water content to plump up the skin while moisturizing products keep the skin soft and pliable by preventing water content in the skin from evaporating.
But I thought I’ll discuss a little more here and to begin, let’s look at what exactly is moisturizing and hydrating.
Moisturizing makes skin soft and smooth
Moisturizing aims to form a barrier film on the skin’s surface to prevent moisture loss. This makes the skin feel softer and smoother. Moisturizers generally work in two ways with two types of ingredients. First, you have the humectants, such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, sorbitol, propylene glycol, sorbitol, lactic acid, and colloidal oatmeal, which work by attracting water molecules to the skin. And second are emollients, like sweet almond oil, apricot oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter, which work by softening skin and forming a protective layer on top, to prevent water loss by coating the skin with an oil-based substance to trap moisture in. Generally, the drier your skin, the thicker the moisturizer you need as they can help banish dry patches, flakiness and even fine lines. And in theory, a moisturizer should protect your skin from water loss until you wash your face but we know this does not always happen for various reasons, one of which is environmental polllution.
Hydrating makes skin plump and supple
The upper layers on the epidermis needs a supply of water to make sure they are kept plump and smooth. Hence, hydrating facial products are designed for this purpose to increase the water content of the skin. They usually contain occlusive agents that keep moisture from leaving the skin and humectants that attract more moisture to the skin. So in a sense, hydrating products are often said to be moisturizing as well. However, to me, hydrating means the actual replenishment of moisture or water to skin cells. Therefore, you should replenish moisture to your skin first before you have your moisturizing skincare products applied.
Our skin needs to be hydrated and moisturized
Going by the structure of our skin, we need both hydrating and moisturizing products applied on our skin. However, does this necessarily means you need to apply two different products? Well, not so because many moisturizers these days are designed to be water-based, containing mostly water-binding ingredients such as hyaluronic acid with some oil. But say if your skin is very dry, it would be better to use two products, such as a hydrating toner or hydrating serum followed by a richer moisturizer.
Tip to apply moisturizer to increase hydrating benefits
Personally, I only use a hydrating toner prior to using my facial oil and moisturizer. I always ensure that I apply the products while my skin is still damp. You might like to know that applying moisturizer to a damp face helps to lock in the water from the upper layers of the skin, and prevents evaporation. The moisturizer will also help seal the hydrating benefits from the toner deep into the skin.
Hydrate from inside out
Finally, while topical application can help to keep your skin hydrated and supple, and protect it from environmental stress, it is more important to hydrate your skin from inside out. Drinking of water is rather important to help skin cells stay hydrated – experts seem to point otherwise but my skin generally feel dry and tight when I do not drink enough water. Eating food rich in the essential fatty acids such as walnuts, flaxseed, salmon, and olive oil will also help to keep our skin hydrated.
So do you have other hydration tips to share with us? Or perhaps a favorite hydrating product that doubles up in moisturizing too?
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