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How to choose a Hydrator and a Moisturizer? What is the difference between them?

by Amanda Chen |  | 77 comments

1) What's the difference between moisturizing and hydrating,

and why does it matter?

Many bloggers or aestheticians talk about the difference between these two categories. They are all true. However, they didn’t mention the difference in details from a scientific perspective.

In fact, from manufacture / labaes·the·ti·cian perspectives hydrating and moisturizing are defined very clearly.

Hydrating means that this product contains less than 5% lipid ingredients. It usually uses glycerin or polymers that have hydrophilic side and lipophilic to attach on the skin and catch the water meanwhile. But it doesn’t not have full lipid to seal and protect the skin. This kind of products look clear and like gel or jelly, ie. serums, gels, toners…etc.

On the other hand, Moisturizing products contain at most 25% of lipid. Moisturizers can provide certain lipid to protect your skin. The lipid only stays atop the skin, instead of being absorbed by the skin, to form a transparent layer to prevent water loss. At the same time, the hydration permeates into skin. The products tangibly look white or creamy.

Now you may think about facial oil. We categorize it as oil or nourishments. They contain less than 1% of hydrophilic ingredients. Lipid, aka oil, can only stay atop the skin, especially plant oil, like Jojoba oil, Marula oil, Shea butter…etc. They are used to formulate a film out of your skin, like human beings’ sebum to protect and prevent water loss in an extremely dry weather. They are usually presented in oil or balm phase.


2) How do you choose the best moisturizer and hydrator for your

skin type?

The answer really depends on the skin type and the weather. It could be divided in a simple way like the table shows below:

Skin type


Product selection

Oily skin

Spring / Autumn

Toner with serum




Toner with moisturizer

Normal skin

Spring / Autumn





Toner with Moisturizer

Dry skin

Spring / Autumn

Toner with Moisturizer


Toner with Serum


Toner with Facial oil

Sheet masks are the best hydrator for at least once a week. Sheet masks cover the whole face to increase the temperature at least 1 Celsius degree, depending on how well the mask covers, to open the pores and feed the skin hydration. Sheet masks force the skin to be soaked with the essence and to absorb hydration.

Ps. Here we don’t discuss sensitive skin since sensitive skin should be diagnosed if it is really sensitive to products / ingredients, or just too dry.


3) What are the key ingredients you should always look for in a

moisturizer? What about in a hydrator?

There are many good ingredients for hydrating and moisturizing. The most economical ingredients for hydrators are Sodium hyaluronate and Allantoin. Also, you can easily find them in normal products and function well. Here please notice that it is Sodium Hyaluronate, not Hyaluronic Acid. Because Hyaluronic acid is much bigger than the skin grooves that can’t really function well for the skin.  

For moisturizer, ceramide is a very good ingredient because it exists naturally in your skin. It is natural barrier for your skin and strengthens the connections among Keratinocytes, reducing the peelings. Meanwhile, it attracts water particles beneath the skin to keep the skin hydrated. On the other hands, it only needs a small amount to function well and is very economical. So, you can find it easily in the products.

Of course, evaluating a product is not that easy from just checking in one or two ingredients. Here I just provide leads for selecting a product.

Pohto: @zukellogs & @rclayton

Comments (77)

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