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Moisture vs Hydration - why your skin needs both

September 11, 2018

Moisture vs Hydration - why your skin needs both

Moisturising & Hydrating – Find the Balance

Moisturising cream or hydrating cream – it’s the same thing right, we just use different names?  No - not so simple, they are very different in what they mean and how they work on our skin. It’s not the case of different words, same thing.  And our skin actually needs both hydration and moisture to look plump, smooth and to reduce wrinkles.

How to Hydrate Skin

One way to think about it is that: hydration is the amount of water in the deeper layers of your skin (in the Stratum Corneum). This hydration comes from the water we drink after it’s processed through our system. Our skin needs this hydration to stay plump and function properly.

What is a Humectant?

Water reaches our skin cells internally through our systems, or water molecules can also be drawn from the atmosphere into our skin by specific ingredients called humectants, found in most hydrating creams.

Natural Moisturisers

Moisture on the other hand is the protective layer that coats the very top surface of our skin. This moisture is called a lipid barrier. It seals the water into our skin to reduce evaporation or Trans epidermal Water Loss (TEWL).

  • So basically you need both hydration deep in your skin and a protective moisture coating on the surface of your skin to maintain plump, smooth, healthy skin. Here’s how to find the perfect balance for your skin.

Skin Dehydrated or Lacks Moisture- Both?

It’s sometimes hard to know which one, hydration or moisture your skin needs. You’ll get the best results by balancing both. Applying a layer of moisture to skin won’t stop it looking dull and feeling tight if it’s dehydrated (in the deeper skin level). And skin that is hydrated but not moisturised will still feel rough and have a flaky texture.

Here’s what to look out for in skin that needs to be re-balanced:

  • Skin is irritated, itches or is sensitive
  • Skin feels tight and pulled
  • It’s rough and coarse
  • It’s dull and flaky
  • Skin has fine lines

At its worse it becomes red, cracks and sometimes bleeds

How does our Skin Dehydrate?

Our skin naturally loses water everyday through evaporation. This increases when we sweat, or are exposed to hot/cold dry weather, sun and chemicals.  As we age it also becomes harder for water to enter our cells, and it shows in skin that becomes dull and dry.

Oily Skin can be Dehydrated

Even oily skin can get dehydrated. Dehydration is a lack of water, not oil.  Your skin can have a normal oil coating (lipid barrier) or even be overactive in its oil production, but the deeper layers still lack water.

  • But re-hydrating skin is not as simple as drinking more and more water daily.

Skin Hydration

While drinking the right amount of water, about ‘8 ounces X 8 times ’ or 1.9 litres,  each day to stay hydrated overall is important, drinking lots of extra water won’t mean that it will find its way directly into your skin. A well hydrated person won’t benefit from additional drinking water.  But there are other ways to add water to your skin.

How to Hydrate Skin 

The best hydrating skin care ingredients (humectants) draw moisture molecules from the air into your skin. Many ranges use humectants that draw water from deep in the skin to the surface, giving you an instant ‘feel good’ look.  But with constant use these ingredients can actually make skin dehydration and damage worse.

Natural Rehydrating Skin Formulas

Look for ingredients like honey, aloe and hyaluronic acid that all draw moisture from the air. The last one sounds like an industrial chemical ingredient, but it’s not. Hyaluronic acid naturally occurs in our bodies. It lubricates and hydrates joints, eyeballs and skin. This has got to be the ‘super humectant’, with a capacity to hold up to a thousand times its weight in water. Glycerin is also another natural ingredient found in cells. It works to balance water in cells, and as a skin care ingredient glides on smoothly and locks in the water.

How Does Skin lose Moisture?

Our skin is coated in a lipid barrier (made up of natural fats and oils). It’s really important for stopping water loss (dehydration) and also keeping micro-organisms and irritant outs. It also keeps skin smooth and healthy.

Aging and Skin Moisture

As we age this lipid barrier begins to decrease. By the time we get to forty there is a pretty dramatic decrease in the production of this natural barrier. Part of this is a decrease of blood flow to the skin that contributes to a drop in sebum. It’s around this time when most of us begin to experience dry skin and fine lines.

How to Moisturise Skin

The best way to moisturise skin is to avoid stripping oil from your skin and replace the oil that is lost with a good daily moisturiser. 

Here are the most common moisture strippers:

  • Washing your skin often using harsh soaps
  • Hot water or steam
  • Chemicals, detergents and perfumes
  • Exfoliating too often
  • Environmental, like high heat, dry air or bitter cold and strong winds

Best Ways to Moisturise Skin

The best way to replace or enhance your natural lipid skin barrier is to use a daily moisturiser. Choose one that is similar to your skin’s own natural oils and fats. If you have sensitive skin, look for unscented formulas.

Good Skin Oils

Try ranges with almond, apricot, coconut or moringa. Cocoa butter is also a great. It comes from cacao beans, which are fermented, roasted, and then separated from their hulls and the butter extracted. Like the antioxidants you get from dark chocolate, cocoa butter is also rich in antioxidants for your skin.

Jojoba Protective Skin Moisturiser

Jojoba oil stands out here because it’s the only oil that has a molecular structure very similar to the sebum on our skin. It mimics our own oils so is able to penetrate deeply. Jojoba is also naturally high in A, D and E (skin healing vitamins), and essential fatty acids omega 6 and 9.

No Blocked Pores

Many of us avoid moisturisers because they can block pores and cause breakouts. Look for ingredients that are ‘non-comedogenic’ (don’t block pores). You get all the benefits of moisture without the spots. 

Hydrating & Moisturising Facial

It can get confusing, so here it is, a simplified routine for a perfectly balanced skin that is plump, smooth, healthy and happy.


Apply a hydrating cream (enhances water in deep skin layers)

Apply a SPF with a moisturiser (coats skin to lock in water and protects from sun)


Gentle Cleanse – no harsh soaps or scrubs

Apply hydrating cream or serum (enhances water in deep skin layers)

Apply moisture cream, serum or oil (coats skin to lock in water and deliver nutrients)

Body Skin Care

The same routine is perfect for your entire body using body lotions. The best time to apply a moisturiser is straight out of the shower (coats skin to lock in water). If you’ve been swimming in chlorine or salt water make sure you rinse off first, or else you’re locking pool chemicals and salt into your skin.


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