In the quest for healthy, beautiful and glowing skin we are often commanded to hydrate or to moisturise. Skincare companies use these terms in their advertising and we don’t give them much thought. Aren’t hydrating and moisturising one and same? In reality, their actions are different and so are their effects on your skin. Understanding the subtle differences between hydrating and moisturising may be just the key you need to understanding where to focus your skincare regimen and which products are best for your individual skin. Trial and error with skincare can be expensive, so we break down how hydration and moisturising are both essential if you want to have skin that gets you noticed in all the right ways.

Healthy skin moisture levels: A two-step process

Typical moisturisers act as a barrier on the surface of the skin to protect the moisture that already exists in the skin from evaporating. The barrier is generally formed by the oil or butter ingredients in the lotion – look specifically for ingredients like dimethicone, cocoa butter, and allantoin which have been shown to reduce trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). The oil locks in the moisture and stops it from evaporating or being lost through the pores.

If, however, the skin is lacking moisture in the deeper layers of the skin in the first place (dehydration), then the moisturiser will be less effective. This is why both hydrating and moisturising, in that order, are important parts of the skincare equation.

To hydrate or to moisturise? That is the question.

First, ask yourself  is your skin dehydrated and tight or dry and flaky?

If you are looking to combat that tight feeling then hydration is the key. Ingredients with hyaluronic acid, sodium PCA, sodium lactate and glycerine are the heavy hitters when it comes to replenishing moisture levels deep in your skin. These products are called humectants and they attract and hold moisture – drawing water from the atmosphere and binding it deep within the layers of your skin. They usually come in the form of a serum, toners, mists and essences. But don’t forget to lock it all in with a good moisturiser.

If you suffer from dry skin chances are your body’s natural moisture retention barrier is in need of some TLC with a rich, thick moisturiser or overnight treatment mask.

Still not sure?

The difference between dryness and dehydration is subtle and can be hard to pick, but there is no harm in starting with hydration. If you have acne or severe dryness, it may be worth seeing a skin specialist, as there may be an underlying issue that needs addressing first. For many of us, however, due to our modern lifestyles, we could do with keeping our skin plumped and hydrated with moisture from within. If you use products to hydrate your skin first at a deeper level, it increases the power of any moisturiser you use on the surface. That’s going to give you value for money and of course great results in the form of gorgeous glowing skin. Drink lots of water, try a hydration sheet mask once a week, and lock in the goodness with a rich moisturiser.

When it comes to hydrating and moisturising, both are your two secret weapons in the quest for great skin!


Nick said:

Wow, I never knew there was a difference. Great article!

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