Hydrating vs. moisturising your skin: what's the difference?

Written by: Madeleine White

A conversation we've been having a lot recently is about the difference between hydrating and moisturising the skin.

If you're diligently applying rich moisturisers, balms and oils, yet your skin still feels dry or looks dull, it may be that dehydration is actually the issue.


Carry on reading to learn more and discover the ideal hydrating skincare routine.

Person applying hydrating skin care

Dehydration - or transepidermal waterloss (TEWL) - is very common and can happen whether you have dry, oily or sensitive skin. There are a multitude of causes, from using products that aren't quite right for you to the change in seasons, etc.

Proper hydration improves elasticity and the circulation of vital nutrients and fluids allowing every cell to work at its optimal level. When skin is dehydrated, proper skin function and circulation are impaired.

Example of a hydrating skincare product

Once your skin is well hydrated, it's important to 'seal in' all that goodness with occlusive products, such as moisturisers and oils. These create a protective barrier and help to retain water within your skin.

The most effective way to ensure your skin is properly hydrated and protected is to layer multiple products. Always use your thinner, watery products first and finish with the thicker, oily ones.

Example of an occlusive skincare product

Step 1. Prep


After using a gentle cleanser, start the hydration process with a quick mist. These can also be used between each skincare step, or throughout the day, to top-up hydration levels.

Step 2. Hydrate


Whilst your skin is still slightly damp from misting, apply a lightweight, hydrating serum. Skin should immediately feel quenched and plump.

Step 3. Moisturise


Choose a moisturiser based on your skin type. Opt for something light if you're on the oily side, or go for a cream that's thick and rich if you lean more on the dry side.

Step 4. Nourish


If your skin is particularly dry, or as part of your evening routine, you may want to finish with a nourishing oil. Applying an oil is the ideal opportunity to give yourself a quick facial massage, stimulating blood flow and easing tension.