Hydrators vs Moisturizers: Understanding the Difference

The skincare universe is evolving by the day and we often come across terms/concepts that leave us confused. We’re here today to understand one such prominent concept that usually has us confused – Hydrators and Moisturizers. Although, these two seem to be the same and are often used interchangeably, both Hydrators and Moisturizers are different from one another and have specific roles and benefits. Understanding the difference between the two is imperative in helping you build an effective skincare routine. 

The Difference Between Hydrators and Moisturizers

Both Hydrators and Moisturizers work towards the goal of maintaining the water level in our skin cells while individually playing different roles. Hydrators use humectants that help absorb water from the atmosphere and infuse the same into the skin cells, while Moisturizers contain oils and occlusives that help in locking moisture into the skin cells. Let’s dive in to understand more about the two.

Hydrators: Quench Your Thirsty Skin

Hydrators bolster the water content in the skin making it smooth and bouncy. If your skin feels dehydrated, you should go shopping for Hydrators. Humectants in Hydrators are non-comedogenic and non-oily, meaning they are suitable for all skin types. Hydrators are considered to be a Dry Skin’s BFF but they can also turn out to be your worst enemy if overused. The skin’s barrier only requires a specific amount of water to optimally function, and with the gradual use of these products, you should be able to gauge how much hydration your skin would require. If you fail to understand the same and use more than what is needed, you’ll end up damaging your skin’s barrier.

Moisturizers: The Barrier Bosses

The predominant function of a moisturizer is to minimize transepidermal water loss. Moisturizers made of Emollients and Occlusives help in creating protective barriers, trap the moisture underneath the barrier and prevent it from escaping. They are thicker and heavier by nature compared to humectants. If you have been noticing your skin to be dull and want to plump and brighten it up, Moisturizer is your Jackpot! 

Best Skin Hydrators and Their Benefits

Keep a look out for these ingredients in your Hydrators:

  1. Hyaluronic Acid: This particular humectant is very good at retaining water content. 1/4th teaspoon of hyaluronic acid is equal to 1 ½ gallons of water. Hyaluronic acid works well with all skin types, including sensitive and acne-prone skin.
  1. Glycerin: Another star humectant! It attracts moisture from the atmosphere to the topmost layer of the skin and plays a sister role to hyaluronic acid. Helps in smoothening the skin texture and gives your skin great lustre.
  1. Propylene Glycol: At a low concentration level, Propylene Glycol exhibits excellent hydrating benefits with its moisture-attraction and moisture-trapping capabilities. In addition to making your skin look fresh, this also acts as a catalyst in making other ingredients in a product work better.
  1. Aloe Vera: The gel in the innermost layer of the Aloe Vera leaf is rich in water content that has the ability to help hydrate and trap moisture. Considered to be one of the best ‘Natural Humectants’, Aloe Vera does it all for that dehydrated and dull-looking skin of yours in addition to its soothing properties. 

Fawn Fact: Just topical treatments will not do it all! Maintaining a good water-intake level and introducing water-rich foods into your diet will solve the issue of dehydration both body-wise and skin-wise 😉

Best Skin Moisturizers and Their Benefits

Let’s take a look at a few oil-based ingredients and occlusives that you must keep a look out for in your daily-use moisturizers:

  1. Shea Butter: Consistent use of this exemplary ingredient will leave your skin feeling soft, smooth, and well-nourished due to its ability to retain the skin’s moisture. Shea Butter’s antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory agents help in keeping the skin supple. It’s an angel for those suffering from super-dry flaky skin!
  1. Lanolin: An oil that naturally occurs in sheep’s wool acts as an excellent moisturizer. Lanolin works like a powerhouse when combined with humectants like hyaloronic acid or glycerin as it prevents them from transpiring. Lanolin also helps in minimizing wrinkles and fading fine lines.
  1. Macadamia Nut Oil: Helps in keeping the skin moisturized and supple with its fatty acids – oleic acid, linoleic acid, palmitoleic acid, and palmitic acid. It helps regulate sebum production, penetrates easily into the skin, and has barrier-repairing properties.
  1. Jojoba: Helps in maintaining a healthy skin barrier and prevents Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL) from the skin. It also acts as a humectant by drawing in moisture content from the air to the top layer of the skin. It is non-comedogenic, works like an antioxidant, and is antibacterial.
  1. Petrolatum: As research has it, in a concentration of 5%, Petrolatum reduces the risk of Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL) by 98%. This is a magic ingredient for extremely dry and chapped skin when also coupled with humectants. Petrolarum will act as a protective topical shield over the skin but doesn’t have any penetrative properties.

Fun Fact: Fawwnity’s Soothing Moisturizer is formulated using both Shea Butter and Macadamia Oil, exhibiting its powerful moisturizing ability. With winters getting colder and our skin becoming dry, needing glow, and requiring moisture, you should check it out for sure!

Hydrator or Moisturizer: Which One For Your Skin Type?

Ah, the section we’ve all been waiting for! Which one must you opt for basis your skin type? Top skincare brands today produce products containing both humectants and moisturizing fatty acids that should do good for most skin types. However, let’s take a look at what would best suit each skin type:

  1. Dry Skin: Moisturizer is your best mate as it will help replenish your skin’s natural oils and prevent TEWL. People with extremely dry skin must look for products rich in Shea Butter, Macadamia Nut Oil, or Lanolin that exhibit powerful moisturizing properties. 
  1. Oily Skin: It’s often misunderstood that if you have oily skin, you don’t need Hydration. WRONG! People with oily skin have compromised and weak barriers due to which the skin fails to retain moisture and becomes dehydrated. The dehydration causes the skin to produce more oil leading to acne formation and skin irritation. A gateway from this loop is water-based hydrators with Hyaluronic acid as the primary humectant.
  1. Combination Skin: You must keep a check on the climate and your skin’s needs before you decide between the two. If it is on the dry/normal side, you must use moisturizer and switch to a hydrator if it’s dehydrated or on the oilier end.
  1. Sensitive Skin/Acne Prone Skin: Hydrators with Hyaluronic acid are your best bet! Hyaluronic acid won’t irritate your skin, clog your pores, or have any inflammatory effect as it is non-comedogenic and oil-free in nature. They serve as the best humectants for all skin types!


Well, understanding the difference between these two similar-sounding words must seem like a huge relief. This will help you in better navigating your skincare journey. Be it a moisturizer or a hydrator, we highly suggest you use only those that are non-comedogenic, biocompatible (ingredients that work well with your skin’s living tissue) and dermatologist-approved!

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