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Hydration vs Moisture

If you are one of the many people who drown themselves in moisturizers or pure oils and STILL have flaky dry skin, you’re not alone. This is due to the common misconception that moisturizers are all we need if our skin is lacking moisture. Let’s talk about hydration vs moisture.


Let Start With a Few Definitions

First, its important to explain the difference between dehydrated and dry skin:

  • Dehydration is a lack of water in the skin.
  • Dry skin is a lack of oil in the skin.

You can tell your skin is dehydrated by pushing the skin together, and it looks crepe-y, or even looks like at rest. Both dehydrated and dry skin can have dry skin flakes. Dry skin is often characterized by small pores overall as well, so if you have large pores but flakey skin, you definitely have an imbalance in your skin and are dehydrated. Also, as we age, we lose hyaluronic acid in our skin, which lessens our ability to hold water and results in lack of volume and elasticity.

Secondly, its important to explain the difference between hydrating serums andmoisturizers:

  • Hydrators contain ingredients that hold onto water in the skin and/or help increase collagen and elastin growth, as well as usually containing a humectant (such as glycerin) that has the ability to attract water from its surroundings. Hydrators do not usually contain emollients or oils. Common hydrating ingredients are Hyaluronic acid and Sodium Hyaluronate.
  • Moisturizers ‘seal’ the skin against TEWL (Trans-epidermal water loss), aka the skin’s water evaporation, so you hold onto your moisture better and they also assist in repairing a damaged lipid barrier. Additionally, it softens the top layer of the epidermis, so it looks smoother by using emollient substances. Moisturizers usually contain oil of some sort. Oil free moisturizers use a different occlusive ingredient such as waxes or glycerin.

And lastly, its important to understand the science behind why each one is important to use in your routine:

  • Moisturizers are thicker and contain larger molecule ingredients. This means they physically cannot sink into the skin and they sit on top of the skin, to protect it.
  • Hydrators are thinner and contain smaller molecule ingredients that are made to penetrate deeper to actually plump the tissue itself with its water-grabbing attributes.

What that means is, your skin will never get a tall drink of water from just moisturizer. It needs the ingredients that actually increase the water content INSIDE the skin. But likewise, hydrator alone wont help lock things in or make your skin feel as soft as it can.

So in review: If you have truly dry skin, you need both a hydrator and a moisturizer. If you have oily or normal skin that is dehydrated or if you are using harsh exfoliants…You need to be using a hydrator as well to repair that tissue. In my opinion, I think all skin types benefit from hydrators and everyone could improve their skin from them, and yet they are often the least used product and often not something you can find over the counter, due to the fact they affect skin at a deeper level.

When applying these products (or any products for that matter), the rule of thumb is always thinnest to thickest. So always apply your serum first, then moisturizer. I personally prefer to give my serums a minute to sink in as well before the next step.


How Much Water Do You Need?

Drink water for hydration vs moisture.If you want to get into the REAL science of hydration vs moisture, lets talk about water intake. I’m sure you’ve heard you need to drink 8 glasses of water a day. You may have also heard the formula of “Divide your weight by half and thats how many oz a day you need” and many of those ‘experts’ saying that, say it must be actual water, not any other fluids, which is also false, and not backed by any scientific study.

In general, to remain healthy we need to take in enough water to replace the amount we lose daily through excretion, perspiration, and other bodily functions, but that amount can vary widely from person to person, based upon a variety of factors such as age, physical condition, activity level, and climate. The “8 glasses of water per day” is a rule of thumb, not an absolute minimum, and not all of our water intake need come in the form of drinking water.

8 Glasses per Day?

The origins of the 8-10 glasses per day figure remain elusive, but most point to a 1945 Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council statement, that wasn’t founded by any particular study or research.

Kidney specialists do agree on one thing, however: that the 8-by-8 rule is a gross overestimate of any required minimum. To replace daily losses of water, an average-sized adult with healthy kidneys sitting in a temperate climate needs no more than one liter of fluid, according to Jurgen Schnermann, a kidney physiologist at the National Institutes of Health. One liter is the equivalent of about four 8-ounce glasses. According to most estimates, that’s roughly the amount of water most Americans get in solid food.

If you haven’t tuned out by now with all this research talk, and have googled studies and are saying, “But wait!! I have seen the studies saying increased water consumption helps just about everything!” Well, I am not here to completely discount those studies, however, I will point out you should always look at who ran them. Take this one for example. Scroll down and guess who funded it? Oh, its Nestle, the world’s #1 distributor of bottled water, with quite a shady history in false studies to push their products. (Feel free to look up their past “studies” on how breast feeding is bad so they could sell powdered formula to 3rd world countries, among other things.) Hmmmmm… Im the last person to cry shill or (ew) “Big Pharma”, but thats just something to keep in mind.

So in short, absolutely yes, water is important for healthy skin, and many anecdotal accounts swear higher water intake helps their skin, weight loss, and other things. But overall, it can be obtained by multiple sources. So as long as you have a healthy diet of moderation, in additional to topically taking care of your skin, you’re probably doing just fine. Now you know all about hydration vs moisture.


Recommended Products:
  • Skinceuticals B5 Hydrating gel
  • Skinceuticals Phyto Corrective Gel and Phyto+ serum (calming & lightning ingredients as well)
  • Skinceuticals HA Intensifier (NEW) (Boosts your natural HA as well as supplies more)
  • Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Repair cream (Rich, soothing moisturizer for dry/aging skin)
  • Skinceuticals Metacell Renewal B3 (Light moisturizer with tightening capabilities for all skin types)
  • Societe Transforming Skin Complex (Rich moisturizer with retinols for aging skin)
  • Skin Scripts Light Aloe Moisturizer (Very light oil-free moisturizer for oily skin)


Lindze Merritt is a Licensed Esthetician and Formulator for