Ask Dr. Parks, Skin Care

The Difference Between a Moisturizer and a Hydrator

No matter what skin type you have, you always want your skin to feel moisturized. You also want your skin to be hydrated. Are the terms interchangeable? Actually, no- there is a significant difference between using a moisturizer for your skin and using a hydrator for your skin. But what exactly is the difference? And is it significant enough to need two products?

What’s a Hydrator?

Hydrating your skin means the cells absorb moisture from particles in the air and deliver water to your skin cells to allow them to gather moisture and necessary nutrients.

What’s a Moisturizer?

Moisturizing your skin means to lock in the existing moisture and prevent further water loss in your skin cells to help build up your skin’s natural barrier. Moisturizing is what makes the outer layer of your skin feel soft and supple.

The Difference Between a Hydrator and a Moisturizer

Still not seeing the difference? Here’s a great analogy: If you’re in the desert and haven’t had any water, a hydrator would be like drinking a glass of water (hydrating from the inside – the hydrator will hydrate the lower layers of the skin but you won’t necessarily feel as moisturized on the surface layer) and a moisturizer would be like splashing a glass of water on your face (moisturizes the top layer of the skin, but does not go deeper than the surface). We want the skin to not only obtain moisture on the outer layer, but from the inner layers and cells as well. The skin needs moisture throughout, and pairing a hydrator and a moisturizer can give you that full hydration.

Do you Need Both a Hydrator and a Moisturizer?

The short answer is yes. It’s important to give your skin the hydration and nourishment it needs from the outside in with a hydrator, like the SkinMedica HA5 or ClarityRx Feel Better.  A hydrator may not make your skin feel as supple and soft from the outside layer, which is why it’s also important to lock in the skin’s moisture with a moisturizer, like the Elta MD Moisturizer or Obagi Hydrate Facial Moisturizer. A good moisturizer will prevent water loss from your skin and make it feel smooth from the outside. With both products working together, your skin can stay soft and nourished throughout the day.  

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About Dr. Alan J. Parks

Dr. Alan Parks is a board certified dermatologist. Dr. Parks founded his practice, Eastside Dermatology, in 1986 and has been practicing there ever since. In 2016 Dr. Parks launched DermWarehouse, an eCommerce website selling professional strength skin care products to customers across the United States.

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