Difference Between Hydrating and Moisturizing

Exploring the Difference Between Hydrating and Moisturizing Your Skin

Reference Lab

JUN 09, 2023

The words “hydrating” and “moisturizing” are often used interchangeably, but in fact they have a few key differences, which can become important when picking products for your skin type. Read on to learn more about the difference between hydrating and moisturizing your skin.

01 What Is the Difference Between Hydrating and Moisturizing?

Hydrating ingredients helps deliver more water molecules to the skin, while moisturizing ingredients helps fortify skin’s lipid barrier so less water can escape from the skin.

Ingredients that are moisturizing typically include lipids that help form a lubrication barrier on skin to trap moisture so it doesn’t escape. Moisturizing ingredients for the skin tend to have high water-binding capacities so that they can hold onto water molecules to provide a water source for skin. For your skin to achieve maximum hydration, you may consider using a product that provides both benefits or multiple products to hydrate and moisturize skin. And always remember skin hydration is an inside job! You must be sure to stay hydrated from the inside-out by drinking plenty of fluids and maintaining a diet full of foods that help your skin such as healthy proteins, fats, and antioxidants.

Distinguishing a hydrator from a moisturizer can be difficult, as some products achieve both functions, while others achieve only one.1 The best way to tell whether a skin care product is moisturizing or hydrating is by looking at its ingredients. Different ingredients deliver hydration versus moisture, and some provide both, including emollients and humectants.
Meet us at the corner of Skin Longevity and Science. Shop now!

02 Skin Hydration

Humectants increase the skin's hydration since they attract water from the environment to the skin. Humectants can also channel water from the deep layers of your skin and bring it to the outermost layer. Examples of common humectants include glycerin, hyaluronic acid, sorbitol, and honey. Note, that in order for hydrating ingredients to do their job, you must supply your body with adequate amounts of water by staying hydrated from the inside out. Otherwise, ingredients with high water-binding capacity may actually be pulling water content from the lower levels of skin, depleting them of their hydration.

Why Is It Important to Keep Your Skin Hydrated?

Hydration is a key pillar in maintaining healthy skin. Without adequate hydration, your skin cells won’t be able to function properly and your skin barrier can become compromised over time. When skin is equipped with the proper nutrients and adequate hydration, it can work for you, producing optimal levels of collagen, elastin, and oils to maintain a natural balance and healthy glow.

Signs Your Skin Is Dehydrated

Much like moisturizing and hydrating are used interchangeably, so are dehydrated skin and dry skin, but there’s a difference. While dry skin lacks oils, dehydrated skin lacks water and causes symptoms like:
  • Dullness
  • Itchiness
  • Darker under eyes
  • Sunken eyes
  • “Shadows” around the eyes and nose
  • Increased appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
You can test if your skin is dehydrated by pinching a small portion of your skin around the cheek area. If it doesn’t bounce back after you let go, your skin is likely dehydrated.

How to Hydrate Skin

In most cases, dehydration can be addressed with lifestyle changes. The first significant step is to drink more water. It is recommended to drink at least eight glasses of water a day, depending on your body size, and limit alcohol and caffeine. If you are wondering how to keep skin hydrated, you can also implement topical skin care products such as a peptide body lotion or peptide eye cream to boost skin’s natural hydration capacity.

In a 12-week clinical study, our peptide moisturizer, OS-01 FACE, improved skin hydration and skin barrier by an average of +15%. Additionally, cleansing skin with our gel cleanser, PREP, before applying OS-01 FACE was shown to enhance the hydration effects of OS-01 FACE, as shown by analyzing a key marker associated with hydration, AQP3, in lab studies on human skin samples.

03 Skin Moisture

Moisturizing products and agents include occlusives, emollients, and humectants.

Why Is It Important to Keep Your Skin Moisturized?

Adequately moisturizing skin helps ensure that the water molecules introduced to your skin, either through diet or topical products, get locked in a stay at your skin’s disposal. Moisturizers can be especially useful in drier climates, where your skin’s lipid barrier can become unbalanced and may need extra fortification.

Signs Your Skin Is Dry

Causes of dry skin are usually temporary and can be seasonal. Symptoms can be based on age, skin type, and environment. Look out for:
  • Tight feeling skin
  • Feels and looks rough
  • Flaking
  • Cracks
  • Itchiness
  • Reddish or grayish skin

Key Takeaways

  • Moisturizing aims to fortify skin’s lipid barrier to help lock in moisture
  • Hydrating aims to attract and hold onto water molecules, creating a hydration source for skin
  • Keeping skin both hydrated and moisturized is key to ensuring your skin cells have access to enough water to function properly
  • If you have dry skin, consider using a moisturizer
  • If you have dehydrated skin, consider using a hydrator
  • Some products can be moisturizers and hydrators, depending on their ingredients


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5849435/
Back to blog