A few months ago we posted a poll on our Instagram stories, asking:
Which one do you need more of—hydration or moisture?
33% said more hydration.
50%said more moisture.
17% said, “What’s the difference?”
With the results split across the board, we knew it was time to clear things up. Hydration and moisture are such similar terms and it can be really hard to keep up with the constant stream of new skincare products, trends, and lingo.
That’s why we’re writing this blog. It’s a handy guide to hydration vs. moisturizing and a love letter to both—because we all need both for glowing, healthy, long-lasting skin.
What’s the difference between hydration and moisturizing?
The question on everyone’s mind. Hydration and moisture share a common goal: to make sure your skin gets enough water. They work together to accomplish this goal. But the way they work is different.
Hydration is all about attracting water. A hydrator will increase the amount of water in your skin cells by absorbing moisture from the air.
Moisturizing is all about preventing water loss. A moisturizer will strengthen your skin barrier to help lock in all the moisture that the hydrator attracted. The goal is to prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and provide your skin with the oil and moisture it’s missing.
(Want to nerd out on skin science with us? You can learn all about TEWL and how to avoid it right here.)
How do I know if my skin is dehydrated or dry?
We know they sound the same, but dehydrated skin and dry skin are actually unique conditions.
Dehydrated skin is caused by a lack of water in your skin cells. This is often due to external factors, like weather, diet, poor sleep, air conditioning, or harsh skincare products. Dehydration makes any skin type look and feel dry, but it’s usually temporary.
Dry skin is a bit more of a complex, long-lasting issue. If your skin is dry, it means your body isn’t producing enough sebum—a natural oil that moisturizes the skin and protects you from toxins in your environment.
Sebum production is crucial for healthy skin, but unfortunately we can’t control it. That’s why people with dry skin (and inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis) need to use products that make up for all the oil their skin isn’t producing.
If your skin constantly looks and feels tight, flaky, itchy, ashy, etc., it’s most likely dry, not dehydrated.
Do I need both hydration and moisturizing?
Yes! Hydration will give your skin the water it needs, while a moisturizer will lockin that water and make your skin barrier stronger over time.
Every skin type and concern needs both hydration and moisturizing—even oily skin. In fact, oily skin is often a sign that your skin is dehydrated and is overproducing oil to compensate.
What are the best ingredients to hydrate and moisturize your skin?
Now that you know the difference between hydration and moisturizing, the next step is to recognize which ingredients will complete both tasks (and do the job well).
Really good hydrating ingredients are like water magnets. They attract moisture to thirsty skin without weighing it down. Common hydrating ingredients include hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, honey, lactic acid, and citric acid. Hydrators will often come in the form of a serum or facial mist.
Moisturizing ingredients are typically oil-based. Their job is to create a seal on the surface of your skin (you know, that skin barrier we’ve been going on and on about). Ingredients that make excellent skin moisturizers include shea butter, plant oils, and nut or seed oils. Jojoba oil, for example, is the closest natural replacement to human sebum, making it a powerful all-natural moisturizer. You can find it (and 8+ other plant-based oils) in our Restorative Facial Oil.
Some skincare products contain both moisturizing and hydrating ingredients, so they can tackle many responsibilities at the same time. This is especially helpful for skin minimalism or “skinimalism”—an approach to skincare that values qualityover quantity. Skinimalism is key for those of us who struggle with sensitive skin.
Looking for sensitive skincare products that hydrateand moisturize? We’ve got you:
- Soothing Lotion: Aloe vera and manuka honey hydrate while shea butter and beeswax help seal in moisture. Bonus: it also makes an incredible fine line eye cream, thanks to thecollagen-boosting benefits of African mahogany tree bark extract.
- All-Calm Facial Mist: More hydrating than hyaluronic acid, this calming facial mist is bursting with naturally hydrating ingredients like rose water, lavender water, and cucumber extract. Plus black oat extract and lecithin to support your skin’s natural moisturizing factor. (Learn more about the hydrating powers of black oat extractright here.)
- Protective Cream: A rich, nourishing lotion for dry and oversensitive skin. Ingredients like cocoa butter and avocado oil moisturize while palmarosa oil and rose oil quench thirsty skin cells.
Dry or dehydrated skin? You’re in good company.
Dryness and dehydration are incredibly common and totally normal. At least 81 million people in the US alone experience dry skin, especially in the winter months. At Iremia, we’re passionate about creating sensitive skincare products and providing education and community to remind you that you aren’t alone in your skin concerns. It’s baked into the DNA of our brand (and our founder’s own sensitive skin journey).
As you continue to learn about hydration and moisturizing, remember that everyone’s skin is different. What works for you might not work for others, and vice versa. When in doubt, talk to your dermatologist about your skin concerns and which products might be best for your unique skin.