Have you wondered what the difference is between a hydrator and a moisturizer and how to use them right for your skin type? Is it just cosmetic brand marketing terms? Here's how to choose the right skin care product for dry or dehydrated skin.
In fact, both cosmetics terms have the same fundamental role. They help the skin retain moisture to improve or prevent dry, dehydrated, tight, and premature skin. However, which moisturizing products you need and how they work to achieve the end goal vary a lot.
The hydrating ingredients are all about increasing the water content, which will make your skin plumper and more bouncy. Moisturizing products, on the other hand, try to improve the skin's barrier to trap and seal in moisture, prevent water loss, and keep your skin soft and smooth.
How do I know if the product is moisturizing or hydrating the skin?
Since many cosmetic brands use these skin care terms interchangeably, it is not easy to distinguish them just by product names or descriptions. However, you may have an idea by looking at the ingredient lists.
Simply put, moisturizers are oil-based ingredients including squalene, emollients, occlusive agents, and for hydrator, look for humectants that attract water from the top layer of skin or air.
By the time you start paying more attention to it, you may have noticed that there are tons of beauty products out there that do both. Many products contain more than one moisturizing agent.
Some even have all three different active functions (humectants, emollients, occlusive) in one bottle to help hydrate and moisturize your skin at the same time.
Often times, however, your skin can do better with just one hydrator or moisturizer, not both. Read on to find out what your skin really needs.
How do you know If your skin needs a hydrator, moisturizer, or both?
To determine what skin your skin needs, you need to find out if your skin is dehydrated or dry. In general, dehydrated skin is caused by a lack of water, while lipid dry skin is caused by a lack of oil.
How do you know if you have dehydrated skin and how to treat it?
If your complexion looks dull and lackluster and feels too tight and stretched, and fine lines and wrinkles become more visible, your skin may be struggling with dehydration. This means your skin may be lacking hydration, and this is where the hydrator comes in to increase the moisture levels.
You can use both hydrating and moisturizing products together to tackle these two skin problems, but make sure (water-based) hydrator come first, and then (oil-based) moisturizers.
A lightweight hydrating serum and ampoule can penetrate your skin a little deeper due to smaller molecule sizes, while a heavier face cream works on the outer layer of your skin, sealing both water and the benefits of your skin care treatment into the skin.
What are hydrators?
Typically, hydrators contain humectants and their purpose is to increase the water content of the skin's layers, resulting in supple and firm skin. Dehydrated and lackluster skin lacks water; Hence, it needs to be hydrated and hydrating ingredients are generally appropriate for all skin types.
Common humectants include:
- Hyaluronic acid
- Aloe vera
- Snail mucin
- Glycolic acid
- Sodium hyaluronate
- Lactic acid
- Citric acid
- Sodium PCA
- Marine extracts
Humectants are water-soluble and help increase the water content in the skin cells without clogging the pores. We advise you to avoid alcohol as it can actively dry out or irritate the surface of the skin.
How do you know if you have dry skin and how to treat it?
In the meantime, if your skin feels dry, itchy, and prone to flaky skin, and also has a slightly rough texture, your skin's protective barrier may not lock in moisture due to the lack of sebum and epidermal lipids. Apply a moisturizer or facial oil to restore the skin barrier and reduce further water loss.
What are moisturizers?
Moisturizers trap and seal in moisture to build the skin's protective barrier, prevent water loss, and keep the skin soft and smooth. Dry and flaky skin lacks oil and needs to be moisturized.
Moisturizers can be emollient, acting as protective, moisturizing, and lubricating agents, or occlusive, by creating a protective layer on the surface of the skin to prevent moisture loss.
The formulation can be lighter or heavier depending on the season and skin type. In general, you can use a light gel or lotion for the spring, summer months and a heavier cream for dry, cold fall, winter seasons.
If you have oily, acne-prone skin, choose a light, oil-free, non-comedogenic product, usually in the form of a lotion or emulsion.
For dry, sensitive skin, rich creams with emollients and occlusive agents work best for both the face and body, while combination skin can use a lotion or cream, depending on your skin needs.
Common emollients include:
- Cocoa butter
- Shea butter
- Jojoba oil
- Argan oil
- Fatty acids
Common occlusives include:
- Shea butter
- Mango butter
- Mineral oil
- Petroleum jelly (Vaseline)
- Soybean oil
- Castor oil
- Olive oil
Many emollient ingredients that are high in oils tend to have occlusive functions as well. Lanolin oil and dimethicone are the excellent example of an ingredient that ticks both the occlusive and emollient boxes. As a result, you’ll find this ingredient in many face and body care products.
Best Korean Hydrators for Dehydrated Skin
The Plant Base Hyaluronic Acid 100
Just a few drops of high-potent serum helps to increase water content and plump the skin, and make it look more youthful. This vegan ampoule contains 100% pure sodium hyaluronate, which thanks to its smaller molecule size penetrates the skin better than hyaluronic acid.
This product can be combined with any of your favorite skin care or makeup products to enhance the effects. Free from harmful ingredients like parabens, synthetic fragrances, and more.
👉 Shop for The Plant Base Hyaluronic Acid 100
Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel
This relieving product is FDA approved and dermatologist tested! Enriched with 80% aloe vera juice and 10% bee propolis extract to hydrate and soothe irritated and sensitive skin.
This non-greasy formula helps with the balance of oil and water and is great for all skin types including oily, combination, and blemished skin. It consists of a clean beauty recipe with no parabens, artificial preservatives or colorings.
👉 Shop for Benton Aloe Soothing Gel
Cosrx Propolis Light Ampoule
A highly concentrated ampoule with 83.25% black propolis extract, which has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
This soothing ampoule has a great moisturizing ingredient, sodium hyaluronate, to help restore moisture to your skin from the inside out. All ingredients are EWG All Green Grade and contain no harmful ingredients.
Aromatica 95% Organic Aloe Vera Gel
Infused with USDA-approved organic aloe vera extract to leave the skin of the face and body feeling moisturized, soothing and refreshing.
Aloe has powerful soothing properties that can be used on sun-stressed, irritated, reddened and sensitive skin. It's vegan, cruelty-free and made from EWG-approved ingredients.
👉 Shop for Aromatica Organic Aloe Soothing Gel
Elizavecca Hell Pore Control Serum
This Korean brand is known for their innovative carbonated bubble clay mask, but this dual-function serum can also be a great addition to your daily face care routine.
It contains 97% hyaluronic acid and allantoin to boost the skin's moisture levels and improve fine lines and wrinkles. The lightweight texture is easily absorbed into the skin without feeling greasy or heavy.
Best Korean Moisturizer for Dry and Flaky Skin
Urang Rose Ceramide Cream
Thanks to its worry-free formula, this dense cream consists of 99.81% natural and EWG green ingredients. Powered with high quality rose petal water and oil paired with ceramides to soothe, nourish, and seal in all of the benefits of your previous skin care steps.
This product is vegan and cruelty free and does not contain harmful chemicals such as parabens, synthetic fragrances, and preservatives.
👉 Shop for Urang Rose Ceramide Cream
Huxley Secret of Sahara Cream More Than Moist
If your skin is dry, thin, fragile, or sensitive then this is exactly what it needs. This deeply moisturizing cream helps strengthen the skin's natural barrier to prevent water loss by creating a smooth protecting layer of that sits on your skin.
The hero ingredient, organic prickly pear seed oil and cactus water, offer plenty of nutrients and antioxidant benefits and make your skin soft, supple and resilient.
👉 Shop for Huxley More Than Moist Cream
Pyunkang Yul Nutrition Cream
A rich, skin-protecting cream provides dry, depleted skin with intensive nutrients and moisture that lasts all day.
Enriched with EWG-approved ingredients that are full of skin-boosting botanicals and powerful antioxidants that fight free radicals and protect your skin from external stressors such as air pollutants and UV radiation. This thick cream is free from parabens, synthetic fragrances, or colors.
👉 Shop for Pyunkang Yul Nutrition Cream
Cosrx Balancium Comfort Ceramide Cream
Ceramide and Centella asiatica, two powerful main active ingredients, soothe, moisturize, nourish the skin, strengthen the skin barrier and retain moisture.
The softening cream has a buttery smooth texture that glides easily on your skin, making your skin relaxed and supple without feeling too heavy or sticky on the skin.
👉 Shop for Cosrx Balacium Ceramide Cream
Dr.Jart+ Ceramidin™ Cream
Powered by the 5 Cera Complex, a unique formula from the leading cosmetic brand specially formulated to improve the problems of dry skin.
This repairing cream strengthens the skin barrier and protects against water loss while smoothing the skin structure. Ideal for dry, rough skin that it would like to transform into a smoother, softer, plumper complexion.