How do you choose the best moisturizer and hydrator for your skin type?
What’s the difference between hydrating and moisturizing?
‘Hydrating’ or ‘moisturizing’ are commonly used words in various skincare products on the market from foam cleansers to creams to sheet masks; however, there is a lot of confusion between these two words.
In fact, both words have the same fundamental role. They help skin retain moisture to improve or prevent dry, dehydrated, tight, and premature skin. However, what moisturizer and hydrator you need and how they work to achieve the end goal are quite different.
Hydrating ingredients are all about increasing water content and that leads to your skin to be more plump and bouncy. Moisturizing products, on the other hand, try to improve skin barrier to trap and seal moisture, prevent water loss, and make your skin soft and smooth.
What are hydrators?
Usually, hydrators contain humectants and their purpose is to increase the water content of the layers of your skin which leads to skin that is supple and firm. Dehydrated and lackluster skin lacks water; therefore, it needs to be hydrated.
Use products that contain hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, honey, snail mucin, alpha hydroxy acids (AHA, lactic acid, citric acid), and marine extracts. They are water-soluble and won't clog pores. Avoid alcohol as it can actively dry out or irritate the skin surface.
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 lighter or heavier and formulated for different seasons and different skin types. In general, you can use a lightweight gel or light lotion for summer months and heavier products with ceramides, nut or seed oils (coconut, hemp, almond), plant oils (squalene or shea butter) for dry, cold, winter seasons.
How to Know if the product will moisturize or hydrate?
Since many cosmetics brands use these words interchangeably, it’s not easy to differentiate them by just looking at product names or descriptions; however, you might have an idea when you look at ingredient lists.
Simply put, moisturizers are oil-based ingredients, including squalene, emollient, occlusive agents and for hydrators, look for humectants which attract water from the upper layer of the skin or air.
When you start paying more attention to it, you may have noticed that there are tons of beauty products that do both. Many skin products contain more than just one moisturizing agent and some have all three different agents in a bottle to hydrate and moisturize at the same time. (Related: How To Find The Best Moisturizer For Your Skin Type?)
How to Know If Your Skin Needs a Hydrator, Moisturizer, or Both?
To determine which one your skin needs, you need to figure out whether your skin is dehydrated or dry. If your complexion is dull, lackluster with fine lines and wrinkles becoming more noticeable, your skin may be struggling with dehydration. This means your skin may lack water and here is where hydrator comes in to increase moisture level.
Meanwhile, if your skin feels dry, tight, and prone to flaky skin and it may also have a slightly rough texture, your skin’s protective barrier may not be locking in moisture due to a lack of sebum and epidermal lipids. Apply a moisturizer or face oil to restore the skin’s protection barrier to reduce further water loss.
You can use hydrating and moisturizing products together to fight both these skin issues, but be sure that (water-based) hydrators come first and followed by (oil-based) moisturizers. Lightweight hydration products can penetrate a little deeper into your skin due to smaller molecular sizes while heavier moisturizers work on the outer layer of the skin and seal in both water and the benefits of your serum or ampoule treatment.
Best Korean Hydrating Skincare Products for Dehydrated Skin
The Plant Base Hyaluronic Acid 100
This vegan-friendly ampoule contains 100% pure sodium hyaluronate which has better penetration into skin than hyaluronic acid thanks to its smaller molecule size. Just a few drops help hydrate and plumpen skin, giving it a more youthful-looking appearance.
This can be combined with any of your favorite skincare or makeup products to boost its effect. Free of harmful ingredients, like parabens, synthetic fragrance, mineral oil, and more.
👉 Shop for The Plant Base Hyaluronic Acid 100
Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel
This relieving product is FDA approved and tested by dermatologists! Powered with 80% aloe vera leaf juice and 10% bee propolis extract to hydrate and soothe irritated and sensitive skin.
This non-oily formula helps balance oil and water and is great for all skin types, including oily, combination, and acne-prone skin. It’s made of a clean beauty recipe without parabens, artificial preservatives, and colors.
👉 Shop for Benton Aloe Soothing Gel
Cosrx Propolis Light Ampoule
A highly concentrated ampoule that is formulated with 83.25% black propolis extract which has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Features superior hydrating ingredient, sodium hyaluronate, to restore moisture to your skin from the inside out. All ingredients are EWG All Green grade and do not contain any harmful ingredients.
Aromatica 95% Organic Aloe Vera Gel
Infused with USDA approved organic aloe vera extract to provide hydrating, calming, and refreshing feeling to the skin of face and body.
Aloe has powerful soothing abilities that can be used for sun-stressed, irritated, redness, and sensitive skin. It’s a vegan, cruelty-free, and made of EWG verified ingredients.
👉 Shop for Aromatica Organic Aloe Soothing Gel
Elizavecca Hell Pore Control Serum
This Korean brand is well known for its innovative carbonated bubble clay mask, but this double function serum can also be a great addition to your daily skin routine.
It contains 97% hyaluronic acid and allantoin to boost skin’s moisture level and deliver wrinkle improvement. It’s easily absorbed into the skin without feeling greasy or heaviness.
Best Korean Moisturizer for Dry and Flaky Skin
Urang Rose Ceramide Cream
Thanks to its worry-free formula, this dense cream is made with 99.81% natural and EWG green graded ingredients. Infused with high-quality rose floral water and oil paired with ceramides to soothe, nourish, hydrate, and seal all the goodness of your former skincare steps.
This product is vegan and cruelty-free and doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals such as parabens, synthetic fragrances, preservatives, and mineral oils.
👉 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 what it needs. This deeply moisturizing cream helps fortify the skin’s natural barrier to prevent water loss by forming a smooth moisture layer to sit on top of your skin.
The hero ingredient, organic prickly pear seed oil, and cactus water provide abundant nourishment and antioxidant benefits, leaving your skin soft, supple, and resilient.
👉 Shop for Huxley More Than Moist Cream
Pyunkang Yul Nutrition Cream
A skin-protecting rich cream provides the skin intense nourishment and moisture that lasts all day. Infused with EWG verified ingredients which are full of skin-boosting nutrients, luxurious compounds, and powerful antioxidants that fight against free radicals, protecting your skin against external stressors, such as air pollutant and UV exposure. This thick cream is free of parabens, synthetic fragrances or colors.
👉 Shop for Pyunkang Yul Nutrition Cream
Cosrx Balancium Comfort Ceramide Cream
Ceramide and centella asiatica, two powerful star ingredients team up to soothe, moisturize, smoothen skin while strengthening the skin barrier and retaining moisture.
It has a buttery smooth texture that easily glides on skin, leaving your skin feeling relaxed and supple without feeling too heavy or sticky on the skin.
👉 Shop for Cosrx Balacium Ceramide Cream
Dr.Jart+ Ceramidin™ Cream
Powered with Dr.Jart’s 5-Cera complex, a unique formula, which is designed particularly to improve dry skin’s problems. It helps strengthen the skin barrier and shield from water loss while smoothing skin texture. Ideal for dry, rough skin who want to transform it into a smoother, softer, plump complexion.