Hydrating vs. Moisturizing: Road to Healthy Skin

If you visit any beauty store (or its online counterpart), you are sure to find products that promise to hydrate and moisturize your skin. However, these products fail to disclose that hydrating and moisturizing are two different things. 

Knowing the difference between hydrating and moisturizing can help you pick products that target your unique skin concerns. To help you understand how they differ, keep reading this guide from Nourishing Biologicals

What’s the Difference Between Hydrating vs. Moisturizing?

Moisturizers and hydrators both address the same issue: dryness. The difference, however, lies in how the two product types achieve this result. 

Hydration refers to water content within the skin. The higher the water content, the plumper the skin looks. Water loss from the skin can lead the skin cells to shrink, accentuating the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Water loss can also make the skin feel tight and itchy. 

Moisture, on the other hand, refers to adding oil to the skin — or ingredients that resemble it. Oil sits on top of the skin, trapping moisture inside and keeping it from evaporating. Not only that, but oil can also contribute to a dewy appearance that gives skin a youthful glow. 

How Can I Know if I Need a Hydrator, Moisturizer, or Both?

If you have dry skin, it’s easy to assume that all you need to do is use more moisturizer. However, your skin may not be dry, but dehydrated — a condition requiring a different approach. 

Similarly, you may think that your skin is going through a bout of temporary dehydration, but the problem may actually be rooted in your skin type. Some people have a dry skin type, which may not be addressed with skincare products alone. 

To know if your skin is dry or dehydrated, it’s important to examine its texture and appearance. 

If you have dry, flaky, and sensitive skin, your skin might not produce enough oil to form a protective barrier. As a result, your skin may be more prone to water loss and external damage. This is referred to as dry skin.

To address dry skin, moisturizing products may be just what your skin needs. A moisturizer is occlusive, meaning it sits on top of the skin, sealing in moisture. Its main job is to reduce how much water evaporates from the skin. 

If you’re dealing with skin that looks dull and has prominent wrinkles and fine lines, you may be dealing with dehydrated skin. This simply means that your skin cells lack water. When this happens, your skin cells shrink, removing the plump appearance of properly hydrated skin. 

If dehydration is your main issue, it’s important to use a hydrating product with active ingredients that restore your skin’s water content. But a skincare routine on its own may not be enough: You may also need to increase hydration through lifestyle factors, such as upping your water intake. 

How Can I Pick the Right Moisturizer or Hydrator? 

Whether you suffer from dry or dehydrated skin, you can benefit from moisturizers and hydrators. 

If your skin is dehydrated, then — first and foremost — you want to up your water intake. This is one of the easiest ways to get water to your skin’s cells. However, you may also want to supplement with a topical hydrator, which binds water to the skin.

The best hydrators include a group of ingredients known as humectants. These substances attract water from the air or deep within the skin, bringing it to the surface. The result? A plump and dewy appearance. 

Some popular humectants include hyaluronic acid, glycerin, marine extracts, aloe, and honey. Aside from dehydrated skin, these ingredients can benefit virtually any skin type. They provide light hydration and won’t clog pores or irritate the skin — making them a safe choice for almost anyone. 

If your skin is dry, you want to look to moisturizers as the first solution. There are tons of options on the market which can fit anyone’s unique skin condition. For instance, you can get away with a lightweight lotion in the warmer months. However, you might want to go for something heavy when it gets colder. 

All moisturizers sit on top of the skin, locking in moisture and preventing water evaporation. Some of the best ingredients to accomplish this include oils, butters, and ceramides. 

Not all moisturizers are appropriate for certain skin types. For instance, heavy butters can be too much for those prone to acne breakouts. However, because of the various ingredients that moisturizers can use, it’s possible to find one that is ideal for your skin. 

What Are the Best Ingredients for Moisturizing and Hydrating Skin? 

Amongst the vast selection of moisturizing and hydrating ingredients, a select few have stood the test of time for producing plump and dewy skin. 

Here are seven favorites with clinically-proven benefits for your skin: 

1. Glycerin

Glycerin is a type of carbohydrate that acts as the backbone of some lipid molecules. You may recognize glycerin as an essential ingredient in soap. Well, it also happens to be an excellent way to hydrate and moisturize the skin.

Glycerin is a humectant, which means it draws water to itself — whether it’s from the atmosphere or deeper layers of the skin. In addition, it acts like an oil, sitting on top of the skin to seal in moisture. 

Offering the best of both worlds, glycerin is an excellent ingredient for both dehydrated skin and dry skin. 

2. Hyaluronic acid

One of the most powerful humectants on the market, hyaluronic acid is a molecule that can hold hundreds of times its own weight in water. It’s gentle, won’t clog pores, and can benefit virtually any skin type (but especially dehydrated skin). 

You can find hyaluronic acid in our Miracular Face Serum — in combination with many other nourishing ingredients. 

3. Ceramides

Ceramides are lipids that make up more than half of the skin barrier. This barrier is important for many facets of skin health, helping to prevent moisture loss while protecting skin cells from external damage. 

Dry skin lacks this naturally-occurring lipid, so it can greatly benefit from topical ceramides. However, because of how gentle ceramides are, many skin types can benefit from their protective functions. 

4. Squalane

Our skin contains a naturally-occurring oil called squalene. This oil may give the skin a greasy feeling, but it’s also excellent for keeping the skin moist while protecting it from external damage. 

Squalane is similar in its molecular structure, which means that it can provide many of the same benefits as our skin’s naturally-occurring oils. As a bonus, it’s easily absorbed by the skin. This means it won’t sit on the skin's surface and give an undesirable slick, shiny appearance. 

5. Fatty Alcohols

You might have received some advice to avoid alcohol in skincare. After all, alcohol can be very drying. However, not all alcohols are made the same.

Fatty alcohols are naturally found in the skin and help seal in moisture. Some popular fatty alcohols in skincare include cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol. Not only do they promote moisture, but they also help water and oil mix together — giving your skincare products the perfect consistency. 

Fatty alcohols are not irritating, which means they’re generally safe for even the most sensitive skin types. 

6. Jojoba Seed Oil 

There’s no shortage of options when it comes to natural seed oils. 

Jojoba oil is a favorite at Nourishing Biologicals due to its numerous benefits. 

Because it's very similar to the skin’s natural oils, it can provide superior moisture and hydration. Plus, it’s non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog pores. It’s also been observed to have soothing properties, making it great for supporting all-around skin health. 

6. Lactic acid

Acids are mostly known for their exfoliating properties. But did you know that they can act as humectants, as well?

Lactic acid is an amazing ingredient that’s typically used for brightening skin. However, it is also incredibly moisturizing — and maybe even as moisturizing as glycerin. 

However, because it may cause irritation, it may not be ideal for sensitive skin types. That said, it’s worth a try to see if this ingredient improves your skin concerns. 

Getting Supple Skin With Nourishing Biologicals 

Hydrating ingredients increase cell water content, while moisturizing ingredients lock moisture inside the skin. 

You can benefit from moisturizing ingredients such as ceramides, squalene, and fatty alcohols if you have a dry skin type. If you have dehydrated skin, you may need to use hydrating ingredients, such as glycerine, lactic acid, and hyaluronic acid.

Hyaluronic acid is a favorite at Nourishing Biologicals because it is superior for attracting water to the skin’s surface. In addition, it is a gentle ingredient, which means that it’s safe for all skin types. 

You can find hyaluronic acid — in addition to various other nourishing ingredients — in our Miracular Face Serum and Miracular Skin Essence. With dozens of clinical trials to back up its effectiveness, hyaluronic acid can give you the plump, dewy, youthful skin of your dreams. 



Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging | PMC

The structure, function, and importance of ceramides in skin and their use as therapeutic agents in skin-care products | Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology

Jojoba Oil: An Updated Comprehensive Review on Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Uses, and Toxicity | PMC

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