Raise your hand if you use the words hydrating and moisturizing interchangeably. Yes, a lot of us do that all the time.

When it comes to the beauty industry, there are a lot of terms to be learned. And the biggest culprits we’ve noticed falling into this category are the words ‘hydrate’ and ‘moisturize’. While they both address the importance of nourishing our skin, they should not be treated as the same thing.

Which is why we’ve put together a simple guide detailing the difference between the two, to ensure that you get optimum benefits out of both.

Dry versus dehydrated skin – is there a difference?


The term ‘dehydrated‘ is used to describe lack of water, while the term ‘dry’ loosely translates to lack of oil. Hence, dehydrated skin needs to be hydrated (as it lacks water), and dry skin needs to be moisturized (as it lacks oil).

Hydrating adds moisture to the skin

If there’s one thing that Korean skincare has taught us is that hydrating makes all the difference when it comes to healthy and glowy skin.

When skin cells are well hydrated they swell to be plump, bouncy and reflect light effectively. If water flows out of the cells they become dehydrated and can shrivel up, which leads to lackluster skin. Imagine your skin cells are mini water balloons. In their healthiest state, they are full of water, firm, bouncy, plump and reflect light.

Now imagine these mini balloons have a slow leak where the water is steadily escaping. What happens to the balloon? It loses its rounded plump shape, it is less bouncy and as the water gets low it shrivels up and becomes dull looking.

Even if we find the leak and patch it up, the skin still needs a fresh infusion of water to refill what’s been lost. In addition, it needs support to hold onto the water.

This is where skin hydrators come in. Hydration refers to the amount of water in the skin. And hydrator are products formulated with special ingredients to increase the water content of the skin.

And what are these special ingredients? Humectants. Humectants absorb moisture from the environment and deliver it down to the skin’s layers, facilitating hydration. Glycerin and honey are some great examples.

Therefore, hydration replenishes all the water that the skin has lost and adds some more for good measure.

So, up the water content of your skin by incorporating a hydrator into your daily routine and drinking enough water. A water-based daily cream like TATCHA Water Cream ( $20 ), hydrates the skin deeply while lending it a moisturized finish all through the day. Not only will doing so help your skin regain its proper moisture balance, but will also increase the powers of your moisturizer.

Moisturizing locks moisture into the skin

Hydration is a like a glass of water for your skin. It doesn’t matter how many glasses your skin drinks every day, if there’s nothing keeping this water in, it’ll evaporate, leaving your skin dry.

Enter moisturizing. Moisturizing forms a barrier on the skin that locks water in so it can’t run away anymore and works towards retaining what moisture is present on the skin at the time of application. By forming a protective seal on the skin’s surface, moisturizers are able to reduce the risk of the evaporation throughout the day.

Hence, moisturizing is non-negotiable (even if your skin is oily). For oily skin, choose a gel based moisturizer like KIEHL’S SINCE 1851 Ultra Facial Cream Mini ( $22 ) and ORIGINS GinZing™ Oil- Free Energy Boosting Gel Moisturizer ( $30 ). For dry skin, choose something that intensely hydrates like TATCHA The Dewy Skin Cream ( $68 ) and OLEHENRIKSEN C-Rush™ Vitamin C Gel Moisturizer ( $46 ). If you have combination skin, try FARMACY Daily Greens Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer with Moringa and Papaya ( $38 ), and TATA HARPER Hyaluronic Acid Gel Moisturizer ( $116 ).

What your skin needs

But you may ask if both moisturizers and hydrators provide our skin with moisture, how do we know which of the two our skin needs?

Well, the answer is both.

Dehydrated skin that is moisturized will still look dull and feel uncomfortably tight, without receiving hydration. And dry skin that is hydrated but not moisturized will still flake and have a rough texture. So, you need to stock up on both hydrators and moisturizers, or products that offer a combination of them together.

Hydrators and moisturizers are not just synonyms written on products as part of a clever marketing scheme, to make you buy more than you need. They really do have a purpose of their own and together, keep the skin looking plump and happy.

For best results, hydrators and moisturizers should be applied morning (before sunscreen) and night. You can apply moisturizing lotions or creams after applying your hydrator so it doesn’t peel.

Wait… here are 3 ways to hydrate your skin

DRINK PLENTY OF WATER. If you drink caffeine or alcohol drink that much more water. I find that I need an app to help me stay on track with my water consumption. Tracking my consumption and getting little reminders throughout the day has made a huge difference in the amount of water I drink. There are many water tracker apps that are free. For the ladies: Flo is a women’s health app, that supports women at each stage of their reproductive cycle. It tracks menstruation, cycle prediction, preparation for conception, pregnancy, early motherhood and menopause. And, you know what else it tracks? Water intake! Download Flo for free to start tracking.

MIST YOUR SKIN. Carry a small bottle of hydrosol in your bag or backpack to mist your face throughout the day. Look for with a hydrosol mist of aloe with floral or herbal infusions for the best overall skin pick me up. Try e.l.f. Soothing Aloe Facial Mist ( $8 ) which moisturizes and refreshes skin with invigorating scent. Perfect to start or end your day with, or even as a mid-day refresher. Like a cool glass of water for parched skin After Sun Soothing Aloe Mist ($20) provides breathable, lightweight hydration that skin will instantly drink up and MARIO BADESCU Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs and Rosewater ( $12 ) is another great choice! This floral face mist features complexion-loving rose and gardenia extracts, skin-softening bladderwrack (a type of mineral-rich seaweed) extract, and clarifying thyme extract to boost the complexion. Mist whenever, wherever for radiant and re-energized skin.

Note: Avoid any mists that contain alcohol. This can dry the skin and defeat the purpose of this hydration boost.] If you feel self-conscious misting yourself in public, you can always do it in the bathroom as a final refresher after you wash your hands.

APPLY SERUMS DAILY. Especially those that contain hyaluronic acid. I especially love to wear this in the morning to keep my skin supported throughout the day when it needs the most help staying hydrated. I rarely ever skip this step.

If you are in a hurry and need to cut down on your routine, find another way to shave off time in your morning prep and keep this step as a non-negotiable. Your skin will thank you today and years from now.

Choices of Serums: THE ORDINARY Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 ( $6.80 ), Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Serum ( $24.99 ), Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Serum ( $65 ), DRUNK ELEPHANT B-Hydra™ Intensive Hydration Serum ( $48 ), PAULA’S CHOICE Resist Hyaluronic Acid Booster Concentrated Serum ( $39 ), kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Vitamin C Serum ( $68 ), Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Face Serum ( $48 ), Juice Beauty Stem Cellular Booster Serum ( $80 ), Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex II ( $103 ), CeraVe Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum ( $18.99) and L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Hyaluronic Acid Serum ( $23.99 ).

Primp Tip: While you’re shopping, look for serums that have a one percent concentration of hyaluronic acid, as higher levels can cause skin irritation. And choose serums that have natural hyaluronic acid, plus vitamin C, without irritating ingredients, such as alcohol, sulphates, and parabens.

Have any other tips and tricks? I look forward to hearing how you get your daily hydration and moisture fix!


  1. That’s so interesting, I didn’t know the difference. I love hyaluronic acid too, I’m using a Guerlain one but I love the The Ordinary one too

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