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Compare IT: Hydrating vs. Moisturizing—Is There Actually a Difference?

Confidence in a Gel Lotion Bottle With Water Droplets

The terms “hydrating” and “moisturizing” are often used interchangeably in the skincare world, but it turns out they’re not quite the same thing. Briefly put, the former refers to the amount of water in your cells, while the latter is all about locking in said moisture. 

Here’s the deal: you actually need to prioritize both in order to obtain a gorgeous, healthy, and glowing complexion. To help you accomplish that goal, we’re diving into the nitty-gritty details of the hydration vs. moisturization conversation and teaching you how to achieve both.

What Does “Skin Hydration” Mean?

When we’re talking about your skin, hydrating refers to the amount of water found within your cells. The more hydrated your cells are, the fuller they are. This creates a plumping effect on the skin, which can visibly minimize fine lines and wrinkles and improve the look of firmness. Basically, you’re talking about achieving a more youthful, bouncy, healthy appearance.  

To draw an analogy, think about your individual skin cells as water balloons. A balloon that’s not filled with water—or only partially filled—looks shriveled and limp. Conversely, a balloon brimming with water feels taut and smooth.

You can achieve face hydration in two different ways. One is by taking care of your body from the inside out. This is as simple as getting your daily recommended water intake, which is ideally about eight cups per day depending on your age, sex, and weight. You can also increase your water intake by consuming hydrating foods, such as fruits and vegetables.I

The second way is to apply topical skin hydrators—specifically, products formulated with ingredients that draw moisture from the air. One of the best ingredients for this is hyaluronic acid. (FYI: You’ll often see it listed as sodium hyaluronate in skincare products.)

This powerful ingredient attracts water to your skin. What’s even more impressive is its ability to hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water. We’re talking serious plumping abilities here. In fact, studies have demonstrated that with consistent use, hyaluronic acid offers a significant boost in hydration, as well as improved skin elasticity and texture.II

You’ll find this skin-loving ingredient in many of IT Cosmetics’ best face moisturizers for dry skin. For example, it’s a hero in Confidence in a Cream™ Hydrating Moisturizer, a quick-absorbing cream that's clinically shown to provide an impressive 24 hours of continuous face hydration. (Stay tuned to hear how this best-selling cream offers a double-whammy of hydration and moisturization.)

Hyaluronic acid is also a key ingredient in Confidence in a Gel Lotion™ Moisturizer. Our game-changing night cream smells like a lavender bouquet and works the night shift to ensure you wake up with beautiful, hydrated skin. If you have oily skin, we recommend using our water-based gel face moisturizer, which absorbs 

quickly and boasts 72 hours of hydration.

The hydrating magic doesn’t stop at moisturizers, though. We’ve also included hyaluronic acid in Bye Bye Lines Serum and Your Skin But Better™ Foundation + Skincare—a buildable, medium-coverage foundation that instantly blurs the look of imperfections. Your lips will love that this ingredient is utilized in Pillow Lips Solid Serum Lip Gloss, too.

To learn more about hyaluronic acid and other skincare ingredients your skin will love, check out this roundup of ingredients dermatologists swear by.

What Does “Skin Moisturizing” Mean?

While hydrating refers to plumping your skin with water, moisturizing is all about locking that moisture in. This is done with what the skincare biz refers to as “occlusive” ingredients, which include oils, butters, and lipids. Think rich and creamy shea butter, skin-nourishing coconut oil or squalane, and barrier-bolstering ceramides.

These ingredients essentially create a thin, protective seal over your skin. This curbs excessive trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL)—a.k.a. the process of water passing through the outermost layer of your skin and evaporating into the air. TEWL is a natural part of the skin’s regulation process, but if your barrier is compromised, then you’ll release too much water.III This can result in skin that looks and feels dry, flaky, dull, and rough. 

Let’s go back to that water balloon analogy: If the balloon was made from paper, it’d slowly seep water and eventually deflate. Improve the barrier, however, and that moisture is going to stay inside for much longer. That’s exactly what you want to do for your skin via those skin-loving, TEWL-regulating ingredients.

As promised, let’s discuss that powerful Confidence in a Cream formulation again. Once applied, it not only attracts moisture to your skin via hyaluronic acid, it also seals that moisture in with shea butter and the perfect amount of coconut oil. At the same time, ceramides—naturally occurring lipids—help further reinforce the skin barrier. This skin-changing formulation has made it the #1 anti-aging facial moisturizer in America.*

One reviewer says , “[Confidence in a Cream] makes my face feel so good. I love the way it hydrates and makes my face feel so fresh and healthy. Definitely a must-have in your skincare routine.” Another writes, “I’m 35 and have been using this product for about five years. I originally started using [it] because it was a Christmas present, but now I can’t go without it! It’s not heavy or greasy and your skin feels instantly like it just got a drink of water.”

For pillowy soft lips, swipe on the Je Ne Sais Quoi Hydrating Lip Balm Treatment. Not only does it seriously hydrate and moisturize, but it's formulated with anti-aging ingredients, too. Plus, the Vitality Lip Flush Technology™ reacts with the warmth of your lips to create a sheer, beautiful color that's customized to your skin.

So, Should You Hydrate or Moisturize? 

If you’re wondering which one you ought to prioritize, the answer is easy: make it a goal to achieve both

Skin that’s lacking hydration is dehydrated, which can result in an increased appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging. Skin that’s lacking moisturization looks dry, dull, and rough. It will also eventually become dehydrated unless you intervene with a moisturizer.

Keeping your skin both moisturized and hydrated is integral to ensuring your skin looks and feels beautiful, healthy, and radiant. To make your life easier, many IT Cosmetics moisturizers are formulated to do both. With daily use, you’ll notice a visible improvement in your skin’s radiance and vitality. We’ll clink a glass of water to that!

*The NPD Group, Inc./U.S. Prestige Beauty Total Measured Market, Skincare Product Dollar, and Unit Sales, January-December 2019.


I. Mayo Clinic Staff. “Water: How much should you drink every day?” Mayo Clinic. 2020, October 14.

II. S. Manjula Jegasothy; Valentina Zabolotniaia; and Stephan Bielfeldt. “Efficacy of a New Topical Nano-hyaluronic Acid in Humans.” The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 2014 Mar; 7. 

III. Anisha Sethi; Tejinder Kaur; SK Malhotra; and ML Gambhir. “Moisturizers: The Slippery Road.” Indian Journal of Dermatology. 2016 May-Jun.

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