17 Feb 2020
What’s the difference between hydrating and moisturising? 

At a glance, hydrating and moisturising your skin might seem and sound like the same thing. After all, it’s about ensuring your skin cells have enough water in it right? Somewhat, but not really!

Although brands tend to interchange and use the words “hydrating” and “moisturising” liberally, there is a big difference in how they work. Hydrating products aim to increase the amount of water content in your skin cells whereas moisturising products improves your skin’s barrier to prevent moisture loss. In short, hydrating is for water going into your skin, while moisturising is to prevent water going out.

Dehydrated skin lacks water and you can identify signs of this by your skin becoming tight, rough or peeling in spots. In severe cases, your skin may even become sensitive or red which can be both unpleasant and uncomfortable.

However, dry skin occurs when your skin doesn’t produce enough oil, known as sebum. It’s entirely possible to have well-hydrated skin that is dry even if it doesn’t sound right! In some cases, your skin may even produce too much sebum to protect your skin which results in the epidermal surface becoming too oily and congested.

So what kind of products do you need? We recommend consulting an experienced dermatologist first to get an idea of what your skin requires, and to find out whether you need hydrating or moisturising products.

The common ingredients found in hydrating products include substances like glycerine and hyaluronic acid. These help to increase the amount of hydration as it binds moisture to your skin cells, ensuring that it retains enough water to give your skin that healthy glow. Some of these can also be found in humectant moisturisers and are explained in further detail below.

For moisturising products, there are three types to consider – occlusive, emollient and humectant. Occlusives help to form a protective layer on top of your skin to keep water from escaping, emollients fills in and smooths out your skin, while humectants binds water to your skin cells.

Examples of key ingredients include:

Occlusives – Lecithin, cocoa butter, allantoin, petroleum jelly, dimethicone

Emollient – Oleic acid, linoleic acid, shea butter, squalane

Humectant – Honey, glycerine, sodium PCA, aloe vera

Keep these ingredients in mind when you are looking out for a hydrating or moisturising product for your skin as they serve different purposes. And if you’re using both, remember to apply the hydrating product followed by the moisturiser to lock in the hydration. 

Caleb Khew
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