If you want youthful, glowing skin, then the question becomes, how hydrated do you keep your skin?  Who doesn’t want skin that is soft and supple and radiates beauty?  But that doesn’t happen with beauty products alone. 

That leaves you with two types of products when it comes to supplying your skin with adequate moisture and nourishing ingredients – a hydrator and a moisturizer. How do you know which of these skin-care products will best treat your skin and produce the best results for nourishing your skin? Are hydrators and moisturizers the same thing?  The advertising industry often makes us think these terms are interchangeable.   

“[Hydrator and moisturizer] are marketing terms and can be defined by the brands pretty much however they want,” said Perry Romanowski, cosmetic and co-founder of The Beauty Brains. 

But, in reality, a hydrator is very different from a moisturizer. They also each provide your skin with their own unique outcomes.  So, despite these two terms often being used interchangeably, they perform different functions for the health of your skin. 

Although a hydrator and moisturizer help your skin combat dryness and dehydration, and they supply your skin with nourishment, they achieve these results in different ways.

Hydrator & Moisturizer:  How They Compare

From a scientific standpoint, moisturizer is a general term that encompasses these moisturizer types: 

There is no agreed upon industry standard for how hydrators and moisturizers are defined. Brands usually use these terms to differentiate how your skin receives the moisture it requires. 

Put simply, hydration equals water, and moisture equals oil. 

If you have dehydrated skin, it needs water. But if your skin is dry, it lacks oil. 

What is a Hydrator? 

A hydrator, such as hyaluronic acid, assists in distributing water to the skin using humectants. The purpose of humectants is to collect moisture from the atmosphere and bind it to your skin. Examples of humectants are hyaluronic acid, and glycerin.

This biological process involving humectants allows the skin to absorb water. 

You can imagine a hydrator as a huge drink of water for your skin. Hydration is the main benefit of a hydrator. Regardless of your skin type, many skin conditions call for hydration. 

In essence, a topical hydrator infuses cells with water, which improves their moisture content and helps to smooth the appearance of wrinkles. The water content inside these cells enables them to expand, plump, and bounce back into form, which results in your skin having a more smooth, and a more youthful complexion.  Conversely, when the water level in your skin cells is low, your skin becomes dry, sunken or irritated.

What is a Moisturizer?

In short, a moisturizer contains oil-based ingredients that assist in locking in hydration and making your skin feel soft and smooth. Their ingredients include occlusive agents, like mineral oil or petrolatum, as well as emollients, such as esters and plant oils. They essentially create a seal on the surface of your skin, and that prevents the water from escaping.  This serves to strengthen the skin’s protective barrier and restore its natural hydration levels. 

Your skin already has a natural lipid – oil – barrier, however, when your skin is drier, or aging, that lipid barrier begins to break down. This causes your skin to lose moisture. This skin condition calls for the use of a moisturizer. 

“A moisturizer’s job is to reduce the amount of water that evaporates off of the skin to minimize transepidermal water loss.  They lock in and seal in moisture,” says Dr. Anna Guanche, M.D. 

You will find a moisturizer to be especially helpful for your skin if it is dry and peeling or flaking after undergoing a chemical peel, using Retin-A or during the colder, harsher weather of winter, Dr. Gaunche adds. 

How Do You Know If You Should Use a Hydrator or a Moisturizer? 

If you notice that your skin seems quite dry, then what you need is a healthy amount of moisturizer. This will restore your skin’s plump appearance and youthful glow. 

There might be other occasions when you think your skin is dry, but it in fact is dehydrated. If your skin is actually dehydrated, then it is best to apply a hydrator to your skin. 

You may be wondering how you determine if your skin is dehydrated or dry. You should observe your skin’s condition carefully.  Remember your skin’s natural lipid barrier that shields your skin from damage and water loss?  If you tend to have dry, flaky skin, then that is a clear indication that it isn’t producing adequate levels of lipid cells to create a protective barrier. This makes it impossible to lock in moisture. This skin condition calls for the use of a moisturizer. 

In contrast, if you have noticed that you seem to have a dull and lackluster complexion, that also includes fine lines and wrinkles, your skin is probably lacking hydration. What dehydrated skin translates into is the cells being parched and in dire need of water, according to Dr. Guanche.  

She adds, “People can have hydrated but dry skin or dehydrated but moisturized skin.  Ideally, we want hydrated, bouncy, swollen cells that have topical moisture locked into them.” 

When you are contending with dehydration, you won’t want to use a thick cream to resolve this issue. That’s when opting for hydration is the correct call.  For your hydrator, you want to search for a product that is expertly formulated with super quenching ingredients such as squalane, or hyaluronic acid to plump, smooth and restore. 

Keep this tidbit in mind:  If your skin is dry, then reach for a moisturizer, which will assist in reducing the symptoms of dryness. A hydrator, however, will work best if your skin is dehydrated. 

Agora — The Future of Skincare 

Agora has a vision to provide its customers with a quality alternative to skin-care products available on the market today. We set out to deliver high quality skin-care products that provide excellent results while utilizing outstanding customer service. 

Our products utilize unique and potent ingredients that make a revolutionary difference in the quality of skin that our customers enjoy. Our expert Cosmetic Formulation Chemist provides Agora with superior ingredients from around the world to produce the best skin-care products in the industry!  At Agora, we deliver the most effective and results-oriented skin-care treatments to our customers.