Water, water, water. It is a fundamental building block for our bodies, including (and especially) our skin. Which makes water an essential part of skincare. For all the cleansing and exfoliating and promoting collagen development we do to keep our skin looking its best—none of those treatments works without water.
And perhaps you’ve noticed this, because skincare companies know water is important, too. That’s why you’ll see words like “hydrating” and “moisturizing” used all over the place—and sometimes even interchangeably.
But while hydration and moisturizing are both very important parts of caring for your skin, they’re not actually the same thing. You do want your skin to be hydrated, and you also want it moisturized. Working together, hydration and moisturizing will help keep your skin fundamentally healthy. They are the yin and yang of water-centric skincare.
When it comes to your skin, “hydration” means the same as it does when you’re talking about your whole body. All of your body’s organs need water to function; skin is simply your body’s largest organ.
Simply put: Hydration comes from the inside.
When you drink water, your digestive system processes it and sends it to wherever in your body it needs to go. And obviously, your skin needs a lot of water. Which means you need to drink a lot of water.
There’s no shortcut to hydration. Just drink water.
When your body has enough water to hydrate your skin, all of its layers will be fuller and more supple. Think of your skin like a grape: All that moisture on the inside makes for smooth, supple skin.
Not enough hydration on the inside and that grape becomes a raisin.
So to hydrate your skin, just give your body enough water and it will do its thing.
And remember: Your stomach—not your outermost layer of skin—is your body’s best bet for absorbing that water, so be wary of any product that claims to “hydrate” your skin from the outside.
So if your skin isn’t absorbing water from the outside, what does moisturizer do?
Moisturizer can certainly play an important part in smoothing and soothing your outermost layer of skin—especially if it’s gotten dry and flaky from your environment.
But even more so, moisturizer actually protects your hydrated skin from losing so much of that precious hydration.
While your skin absorbs water from the inside, it’s also prone to losing it on the outside. Moisturizer mitigates your skin’s water loss.
That’s why both hydration and moisturization are important: They work together to keep your skin loaded with healthy water.