Hydrating VS Moisturizing: What’s The Difference?

by Gio

hydrating vs moisturizing difference

Raise your hand if you use the words hydrating and moisturizing interchangeably, as if they were synonyms?

*Raises hand high*

Yep, I do this all the time, too. We all do.

But should we?

Mmm, hydrating and moisturizing are often treated like they are the same thing, but they’re not.

Hydrating is all about infusing skin with moisture. Moisturizing is about locking that moisture behind bars and making it stay there.

Let me explain:

dr dennis gross hyaluronic marine oil free moisture cushion

Hydrating adds moisture to the skin

If there’s one thing that Korean skincare has taught us is that hydration makes all the difference when it comes to healthy and glowy skin.

The more hydrated your skin is, the happier it is. Hydrating skin looks plumper. The plumpness smooths out fine lines and wrinkles, so you look younger.

Hydrating skin gives skin a natural radiant glow. And makes every skin cell in your body work at its best.

Hydrating facial products infuse skin with a waterfall of moisture, replenishing all the water it has lost and adding in some more for good measure.

How? Humectants. A fancy word to describe ingredients that can attract moisture from the environment into the skin. Like glycerin. Or hyaluronic acid. Or sodium hyaluronate.

Best picks:

Shop Hyaluronic Acid Serums

avene hydrance rich hydrating cream

Moisturizing locks moisture into the skin

Hydration is a like a glass of water for your skin. But it doesn’t matter how many glasses of water your skin drinks every day. If there’s nothing keeping this water in, it’ll evaporate into thin air, leaving your skin as dry as the Sarah.

Our skin already has a shield that keeps moisture trapped into the skin. But this shield is fragile. Too much sun, not enough sebum, harsh winds, and even irritating skincare products create holes that let moisture slip away.

Enter moisturizing. Moisturizing forms a barrier on the skin that locks water in so it can’t run away anymore.

Usually, it’s oils that do this. Olive oil. Argan oil. Jojoba Oil. Mineral oil. And shea butter. Silicones too. I could go on and on but I don’t want to bore you.

Instead, I’ll just tell you what the best moisturizers (FYI, a moisturizer is anything that creates a moisture-trapping barrier on the skin) are below.
Best Picks:

Shop Moisturisers

Hydrating adds water into the skin. Moisturizing locks it in. Your skin needs both.Click to Tweet

Our skin needs both hydrating and moisturizing

But does that mean we should use two separate products, one for hydrating and one for moisturizing?

Most of the time, not. Most creams out there contain both humectants and occlusive emollients (that stuff that creates a barrier on the skin), so you can just get one of those and be done with it.

When it’s better to use two products

Ok, so you can use just the one. But, sometimes, that’s not enough.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that I’ve been nagging for months now about the winter London weather. It sucks all the moisture out of my skin and makes it flake real bad.

I usually use a cream with both hydrating and moisturizing ingredients, but that alone is not enough to save my skin in winter.

When the temperatures start to chill, I now have to bring in the big guns. That means adding a separate hyaluronic acid serum to my skincare routine (usually, one of the two mentioned above). Makes your skin all plump and soft in just a few days. That’s the power of hydration.

So, if your skin is dry, you’d want to consider using two separate products. At least in winter (I skipped the HA serum in the summer and my skin was alright).

By the way, if your skin wants you to use two products, apply the hydrating one first. Remember, hydrating adds moisture to the skin, mosturizing locks it in. So, it wouldn’t make sense to do the opposite.

The Bottom Line

Your skin needs moisture. And it needs that moisture to stay in. So, hydrating and moisturizing aren’t optional. Luckily, we don’t need to break the bank to take proper care of our skin. Plenty of creams do both these days.

Do you hydrate and moisturize your skin at the same time or do you need to go the extra mile and add a hydrating serum to your skincare routine? Share your thoughts in the comments below.



Hanna (@mascarasandmotherhood) September 28, 2016 - 3:14 pm

Okay guilty here! All this time I thought hydrating was just a fancy word for moisturizing. So I guess my current routine of applying Hydrating Lotion-then-moisturizer isn’t redundant?

Gio October 1, 2016 - 2:24 pm

Hanna, I thought the same too until a couple of years ago. Everyone is talking about like they were the same thing. And nope, it’s not redundant. You’re doing everything right. 🙂

audrey March 8, 2017 - 7:35 am

What about if I put hyaluronic acid and then seal it with moisturiser? Even with moisturiser i feel like my skin is still a bit dehydrated.

Gio March 10, 2017 - 8:17 pm

Audrey, that’s what I do in winter when my skin gets drier than usual. Works like a charm.

audrey March 11, 2017 - 10:19 am

Yay, I’ll try it ASAP then 😀

Gio March 12, 2017 - 4:47 pm

Let me know how it goes. 🙂

Hannah October 1, 2016 - 12:38 am

Mmmmm! Finally a blog post like this!

Kinda looks like the Drunk Elephant products might kind of act like a enzyme exfolient . Would it? Not sure but then I also haven’t really looked that much into it. I have just heard that it has like pineapple juice like in it.

Looks like there’s 2 Hannah’s! LOL!

Gio October 1, 2016 - 2:27 pm

Hannah, thanks for suggesting this idea!

I guess it could, if the pineapple extract is still stable. Enzyeme exfoliants are extremely unstable and not very reliable as exfoliants yet.

Hanna (@mascarasandmotherhood) October 3, 2016 - 1:30 pm

Oh hey Hannah! We are twinsies haha! BWB is a great blog and I’ve known Gio for years so rest assured you are reading quality blog posts here.
Anyways please check out my blog & let me know what you think. Thanks!?

Gio October 8, 2016 - 12:08 am

Hanna, you’re making me blush! Thanks for your kind words, hun! 😳

sanchita November 13, 2016 - 3:54 am

hi any other moisturizers you can sugegst that both hydrate and moisturize. i looked up the clinique one but it seems to have so many ingredients. r they okay?

Gio November 13, 2016 - 10:19 am

Sanchita, yes, they are ok. It has so many ingredients because it’s full of antioxidants. But if you prefer a simpler option, you can check out Paula’s Choice or Olay moisturizers.

sanchita November 14, 2016 - 5:54 am

Thank you. you’re blog is amazing was able to create a cheat sheet of what all to look for when buying skincare products. if i use olay then is that enough? does it have the occlusive emollients to lock the moisture ?

Gio November 14, 2016 - 10:02 pm

You’re welcome. I’m so glad you find this little blog helpful. And yes, that should be enough. Unless you have super dry skin. Then, you may need something richer or just add a facial oil to your skincare routine.

clulu October 20, 2017 - 8:18 pm

i really needed to read this. right now i guess im gonna use hyaluronic acid serum and then my combo of oils to hydrate and then moisturize. i had no idea!

Gio October 28, 2017 - 1:32 pm

Clulu, glad it helped! 🙂

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Kashif May 15, 2018 - 2:02 am

Hello , I have also the problem of dehydration and hyper pigmentation.which one is good for me and which olay moisturizer are you describing?

Gio May 19, 2018 - 6:35 am

Kashif, you can use both. Hydrating and moisturising go hand in hand and most people need both. Olay moisturisers are better at moisturising.

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