Hydrating vs Moisturising: What’s the difference?

With the cold weather fast approaching, we are all starting to pull our out winter jackets/coats/boots etc. For me, this also means starting to incorporate more moisture in my skincare routine so that the cold weather doesn’t wreck too much havoc on my skin. Cue all the lotions and potions with ‘moisturising’ and ‘hydrating’ properties on them but these two terms actually mean two different things although they work hand in hand. I have been doing some research on them and hopefully, this post will shed some light on them and give you some direction on how to build your routine for the coming seasons. Dry skin types this one is for you but all skin types will benefit from adding more moisture/hydration in their routines too.


Hydration vs Moisturising

The main purpose of hydration in the skin is to increase water content.

The main purpose of moisturising is to seal moisture into the skin.

The skin is the largest organ and along with all organs in the body, it needs water in order to perform properly. When you drink enough water, you hydrate your skin from the inside out, leaving it soft and supple ( which is why it is always recommended you drink a lot of water to keep everything including your skin in check too) think of hydration as ‘working on the insides’ (although you can have topical hydrators too). Moisturising mostly deals with the topical application of oils or butters to help seal moisture (water) in and prevent its loss.

For instance

Dehydrated skin lacks water. Physically it looks dry and may be tight and itchy. Whilst drinking water may hydrate the skin internally you probably won’t see a huge difference until you put some cream on. Why? Because the skin needs both hydration internally and moisture externally working together to keep it healthy.

It’s the same with dry skin. Dry skin has little to no oil content hence water easily evaporates and it feels rough. Your skin may be hydrated but it’s lost its natural moisturisers. Think of when you come out of the shower, your skin is basically hydrated because it’s been in contact with water, but when you dry yourself with a towel you realise your skin feels dry and tight so you reach for your lotion etc.

Dehydrated skin needs water. Dry skin needs moisturisers but both hydrators and moisturisers are needed to keep a good moisture balance.

Products & Ingredients

skincare ingredients aha bha

Hydrating products have ingredients that increase water content in the skin. Humectants attract water from the environment into the skin. Examples are aloe vera gel, AHA like lactic acid. Hyaluronic acid is by far the gold standard as this molecule can hold 1000 time its weight in water. It’s also naturally present in our skin. Read more on hyaluronic acid in my previous post here

Moisturising products usually have rich butters like shea or cocoa butter or oils like jojoba, argan and olive. These will lock moisture into the skin

How to incorporate this into your skincare routine?

The trick with skincare is knowing which ingredients do what, the finding products with those ingredients then knowing which (best) step in your routine to use it for.

For instance, you want to start using hyaluronic acid because you want to incorporate more hydration in your routine. You can choose a hydrating face wash but think about it: how long do you actually spend washing your face? 30 seconds? 1 minute? The best way will be introducing it in products that stay longer on your face meaning you reap full benefits: face masks, serums (best choice) creams.

I love using hydrating serums in the mornings followed by my day cream with SPF. I have reviewed The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid & Boots Hydration Burst Serum on my blog. Be sure to check those out. I also love using thermal water face mists in the evenings after my acid toners to hydrate my skin.


Hydration/hydrators/hydrating- deals with water content in the skin. And will work to increase it. You can hydrate both internally by drinking lots of water and externally by topical application of humectants.

Humectants draw water/moisture from the air into your skin.

Hyaluronic acid is gold standard for hydrating the skin

Moisture/moisturising/Moisturisers- deals with sealing in moisture by preventing water loss from the skin. You moisturise skin externally by topical application of oils and butters.

Take home message- you need both hydration and moisture to keep the healthy skin balance and moisture levels in your skin.

I hope you have found this post helpful and hopefully you understand the difference between these two terms.

Skin Types & How Determine Your Skin Type


Is your skin dry or normal? And what the heck is combination skin? In my how to create a skincare routine post (shameless plug, I know) I spoke about how knowing your skin type really sets the tone for your skincare routine? Why? Your skin type plays a huge part in which products will work best for you (unfortunately your fav Youtuber’s holy grail moisturizer may not work for you, even worse break you out!) so knowing which type you have will not know save you money but time too.

Skin Types

There are five common skin types: dry, normal, oily, combination and sensitive. You can either have one ‘type’ all over your face or combination of 2 e.g. I have normal/combination skin i.e. my T zone gets slightly oily and the rest of my face is normal.

‘Blemish prone’ isn’t a skin type. Any skin type can be blemish/acne prone although for oilier skin type’s blemishes/acne is more common.

Normal skin – feels comfortable with little to no oil. Skin is soft and smooth

Oily skin – overactive sebaceous glands produce a lot of oil, especially in tzone. Large and easily clogged pores.

Dry Skin– low level of oil production. Feels tight with dry patches and flaky.

Combination skin– a mixture of 2 or more skin types.

Sensitive skin– easily irritated by heavy fragrances or allergens.

How to actually determine your skin type?

Tissue test or take a quiz? How about a little DIY experiment? There are lots of ways to figure out your skin type but it’s pretty easy and straight forward. I did a DIY experiment where I just took notes of how my skin was behaving at different points during the day. It matched up with the characteristics of normal & oily skin so I figured out I was normal/combo. I wasn’t extremely oily but I didn’t also have normal skin all over. There are a few resources online that can help (these helped me with my post)

E45- what’s my skin type?

Paula’s Choice Skincare

Ok, so which products do I use?

Once you got your skin type down, you’re ready to start playing around with some products! You can choose as much as you like as long as you cover your basics and tailoring the products to your skin type! In the How to Create a Skincare Routine post, I take you through the different types/categories of skincare products.

But basically, you need………………………………………..

A cleanser (& makeup remover for makeup), moisturizer (1 product for day& night plus SPF separately for day OR 2 products- day moisturizer that has and SPF and night cream)

It’s not that easy LOL, but if you have to strip it down to the bare minimum- these two types of products are what you need.

What about skin concerns?

A skin concern is an issue you want to fix e.g. dark spots from a spot you picked, large pores etc. any of the skin types can have skin concerns or you may be blessed to have perfect skin! It’s so easy to treat your skin concerns with so many products available for almost any skin issue you have! Please don’t waste money buying a dark spot corrector if you don’t have any dark spots but because your fav blogger mentioned it in her favs as leaving her skin soft. My main issues are dark spots so my skincare routine and products are tailored to help heal my skin.

Ingredient savvy?

Should you bother with the ingredient list? Yes! The 1st five ingredients on any product are mostly responsible for the product’s claims. The last few are ‘packing’ ingredients- preservatives/perfumes/colorants etc. It’s worth knowing which ingredients to be looking out for too, especially when searching for a product to treat a skin concern (and in general too). AND more importantly, if you are allergic to any ingredients, in particular, you can easily avoid them.

Garnier has a fabulous new collection called 96% Natural Origins. 96% of the ingredients used in the collection are from a natural source. The collection features 4 ranges which target different skin types. Find out more info on this here

That’s all folks! I really hope you found this useful and got you started on your every own & exciting skincare journey! I have a lot more posts on skincare on my blog make sure you check them out and please shout if you have any questions!

Note- it pays to invest in your skin and skincare routines takes time. Please don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results straight away. It will usually take 3 to 6 months to see solid and lasting improvements. You don’t have to have perfect skin to start a routine but know you will be working towards it and ensuring your skin looks even better as you age.

Follow me on Instagram so I post daily skin care info on there. Instagram- Sarah Fynn


I will see you soon!