Moisturizer vs. Hydrator: What’s the Difference?

By Chandra Pepino For Belo Medical Group on January 5, 2021

It’s no secret that Dr. Vicki Belo isn’t a fan of moisturizer. We’ve talked about it here and here, and publications have covered it numerous times, from here to here to here. If you haven’t read our article breaking down the reasons you should remove moisturizer from your daily routine, open this. We’ll wait for you to come back.

*waits*

Oh, you’re back!

Let’s move on. You might not know this, but a moisturizer is different from a hydrator, from the formulation to the effects they have on your skin. Here’s the difference between a moisturizer and a hydrator.

“Moisturizers […] are oil-based ingredients, including occlusive agents, such as petrolatum or mineral oil, and emollients like esters and plant oils. They work by creating a seal on the surface of skin which prevents water from escaping. They also make the skin feel smoother and less dry,” according to cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski. “Hydrators are ingredients called humectants, such as glycerin or hyaluronic acid, that absorb water from the atmosphere or your skin and hold it in place on your skin.”

Dr. Belo disapproves of moisturizers precisely because all they do is, in the words of Romanowski, ‘create a seal’ instead of providing real and sustainable moisture. Hydrators, on the other hand, work very differently. Hyaluronic acid, for example, is a gel-based water-binding molecule that can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water. This makes it an excellent hydrator, which provides moisture naturally from the inside (hyaluronic acid can be found naturally in the body). You get a glasslike glow to boot—take it from Dr. Hayden Kho: “Kaya ka nagkaka-glow is because pinupuno natin ng hyaluronic acid ‘yung skin. Now, if you shine light on a dark surface, ina-absorb ng dark ‘yung light. Pero ‘pag white, nire-reflect ‘yung light. The hyaluronic acid is a water molecule that acts like a mirror. So ‘pag pinuno mo ‘yung skin mo ng hyaluronic acid, ‘pag tumama ‘yung light, nagba-bounce ‘yung light, kaya nagkakaroon ng glow.”

If you’re looking for a beginner-friendly way to introduce hyaluronic acid as a special once-a-week treat, check out the FillMed Hyaluronic Youth Mask (P1,100) over at the Belo Shop.

For more potent hydration, there’s the FillMed Hydra-Booster (P8,800), designed for use over a continuous 10-day period. The formulation is activated by pumping the bottle for the first time (only then do the two ingredients mix, for maximum effectivity). This is perfect for a refresh if you’re skin’s been feeling extra dry lately.

Want something for your every day routine? Consider the FillMed HAB5 Hydra Serum (P5,980), which contains both hyaluronic acid and Pro-Vitamin B5 to enhance cellular hydric balance and regenerate the skin moisture barrier.

When it comes to skin health, prioritize teaching your skin to sustain and nourish itself, rather than piling on products that provide temporary but false relief. Remember: hydrators over moisturizers!

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