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Everyone is buzzing about difference in hydrating and moisturizing in skin care. Aren’t these things just about the same? And how about those hydrators? Moisturizers?
Yes, there is a difference between hydrators and moisturizers. Difference is in their structure and what they do to skin.
When we speak skincare, hydrators are hydrophilic products with less than 5% lipids in their content. Hydrophilic means it attracts water and binds it in skin layers to keep skin plump and hydrated. These products usually use glycerine and/or hyaluronic acid for their humectant properties. More on hyaluronic acid and why brands often combine it with vitamin B5 you can read here.
Hydrators come in different forms as toners, serums, gels and creams. Nice thing about hydrators is that they can be used as standalone step in skin care routine or as the buffering agent (mixing it with other skincare products) to prevent skin irritation when using retinol or other actives. Here’s more on that subject.
Moisturizers on the other hand are those products (usually creams) that contain more than 25% lipids. They moisturize skin with oily components and grease, or better said, lubricate skin to maintain its normal function.
I made selection of seven hydrators and ranked them by how I liked them criteria. I know, it’s subjective but this is how I ranked them from the least favourite:
- Garden of Wisdom for Victoria Health
Hyaluronic Acid Serum
This is hydrator in serum form and it contains 1% vegetarian based hyaluronic acid. Very light, translucent gel sinks into skin without any trace and/or sticky feel to it. But it is too light and provides no long term skin hydration. Just as a glass of water to a hungry skin. Ok, but not enough.
It also needs to be sandwiched between other skincare products to prevent it from drying skin out. You know that story about how hyaluronic acid attracts water. It does its job so well, that it attracts that water from the skin if it can’t find water anywhere else.
This little serum was something I used, finished and didn’t repurchase. It is not bad. Just ok. And that ok wasn’t enough for me.
- The Ordinary
Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
This one is already a classic. I reviewed it here. At first, my skin wasn’t really keen on it, but it accepted it later. This is stronger form of hyaluronic serum with 2% of it with added vitamin B5 to boost its action plus its additional skin soothing properties. I wrote about that combo here.
This serum is better than the GoW Hyaluronic Acid Serum for its ‘stronger’ hydrating effects to skin but also has that negative side it needs many other layers to actually work. Not enough for the skin to be used on its own. Just the opposite. It will most likely dry out skin and make it angry.
I had two bottles of this serum. Until I found the others…
- Drunk Elephant
Cult. Hype. Skincare community legend. Loved, hyped by so many. Raving reviews of it everywhere.
It is actually gel form hydrator, standard combo hyaluronic acid plus vitamin B5. Thin, elegant texture gel that absorbs into skin with no tackiness whatsoever. Great buffering agent. It can be mixed with pretty much everything.
Drying effect is not that prominent, but also hydration effect is not that dramatic. It really is just a hydrator and it needs other products to show its best. I personally like that watery effect but I miss that plumping and bouncy-happy-skin effect. B-Hydra is good, but not the best.
- The Lab by Blanc Doux
Oligo Hyaluronic Acid 5000 Da
Hydrator in toner form, typical for K-Beauty hydrators. Various sized hyaluronic acid molecules to ensure deep and efficient skin hydration. My absolute favourite hydrating toner. Immediate skin soothing and long-term (more than 6 hours) hydration. No drying effect.
Very watery, light, ideal for all skin types. Especially in summertime. Nice, bouncy effect. Beautiful as the first step, or any other step in skincare routine. Nice addition to your skincare when you feel the need for that extra watery, hydrating layer. This is it.
Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex (MMHC) II
Second generation of NIOD’s MMHC. Also various sized molecules of hyaluronic acid with more sophisticated formulation. Serum form for initial phase of skin care routine. I wasn’t very keen on the first generation of MMHC, but this one really is a gem.
Nice, sufficient, long term hydration. Thicker than the first version and easier to handle. Elegant, sophisticated, very efficient, self-sufficient, without any unwanted side effects. A little goes a long way. I am talking about 5-6 drops for the whole face is plenty. Nice, plump skin. Oh, yes I like it very much!
- La Roche Posay
Hyalu B5 Serum
And here we are at the top of the hyaluronic serums list! La Roche Posay Hyalu B5 Serum (full review here) is by far the best hydrator I have ever had. Complete action: long term hydration, skin soothing, smoothing, plumping, bouncing, no drying whatsoever. Immediate skin relief, beautiful younger looking skin.
Yes, you got it right. This serum is my favourite one.
- Peter Thomas Roth
Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream
Number one! Hydrator in cream form. Stand-alone or combined with other products always delivers. Ridiculously cloudy texture, so satisfying and rich. Almost decadent. Complete treatment in only one step, no side effects. Can be used in the initial phase of the skin care routine or in any other. Whatever pleases you. Full review you can find here.
Of course, I have had other hydrators in my skincare history, but these seven are the top seven. Other good hydrators in good memory but didn’t make it to this list: Kohakuhada Moisture Lotion, Hada Labo Super Hyaluronic Acid Mist, Medik8 Hydr8 B5 Skin Rehydration Serum, Paula’s Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster, Dermaceutic Hyal Ceutic.