Nowadays, with the vast majority of skincare products available on the market being indiscriminately labeled as "moisturizers," it is no wonder most people have no idea some of those "moisturizers" aren't really moisturizers at all! At least in my case, I didn't know there is a difference between a moisturizer and a hydrator until a few months ago!
It all started with my skin going bonkers since I got home from the vacation. It just got so dry! I wasn't surprised at all since I live in such a temperamental area. It can get disgustingly humid here in the summer, but as soon as the temperature drops, it would just flip into desert mode. I mean, I came home from my vacation in January and the hydrometer in my apartment read 9% (as oppose to the 80% in the summer)! And the several weeks I had just spent in a tropical environment only made it worse since I went from one extreme to another!
I really didn't know what to do at the time. I was already using a moisturizer I love, the Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream (hubby uses it now too!), and using more than the usual amount would only make my skin greasy. So then why did my face still feel so dry? In a panic, I thought about layering with a lighter moisturizer. See the disconnect there? If I couldn't put more moisturizers on because it would make my skin greasy, why would it help to layer on a lighter moisturizer? But I was too desperate to notice my ill logic, so I thought of the generous GWP sample of the Clinique Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief I got from late last year and started reading reviews. I will review this item soon myself!
So why did I think of the Clinique GWP out of the gazillion other samples and GWP items I have? Well, its gel-cream texture was super light and super attractive, simple as that. Little did I know it was exactly the thing I need, just not for the reasons I thought it would be. You see, reading the reviews for the Clinique Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief, especially this review by username Haruka, led me to more product experiments and further readings, and I finally concluded that my skin was actually dehydrated.
Dry VS. Dehydrated Skin
What is the difference, you say? In brief, your skin needs both oil and water to stay nice and soft. A moisturizer provides the oil, and a hydrator provides the water. Makes sense, right? It can get confusing too though, especially when everything you see at the store are, whether their names include "hydro-" or "hydra-" or whatnot, [sometimes mis]-labeled as "moisturizers." By the way, you can always Google this information yourself. I didn't provide any links for further readings this time because a lot of the websites where I read about this were pushing their own skincare products. So it's just best for you to research on your own :)
For now, here are some very basic information: because the skin produces its own oil to begin with, dry skin means your skin does not produces enough oil, making it a long term condition that will only gets worse with age. If you haven't noticed, it is time to think back to why those skincare products targeting older women are almost always very thick and greasy. This is because their skin needs lots of help as it has been gradually loosing its ability to produce oil over the years.
So, you get the oil part of your skin, yes? Now for water part: hydration is nothing your skin provides on its own. Actually, hydration is something your skin looses on its own due to evaporation and environmental effects (dry weather, pollution, etc.). This makes dehydration a temporary condition (versus long term with dry skin) that can be restored with proper treatment. You can probably recall during so-and-so celebrity interview, she was asked to reveal her secret for glowing skin and replied with a rather simple-sounding answer, "I just drink 8 glasses of water a day." But while that answer is over simplifying things a bit, it is not entirely untrue. You can help your dehydrated skin (and body!) by drinking plenty of water everyday. Then again, with most of us being rather forgetful busybodies (quite literally!) while often mistaking thirst for hunger, some skincare products can lend a helping hand for the facial skin. These products are what they called "hydrators."
Now the question is: how the hell do you tell if your skin is dry or dehydrated? I don't claim any expertise whatsoever (so don't sue me), but in my experience...
- If you use a "compatible" daily moisturizers ("compatible" as in it doesn't react to your skin and using too much of it will make your face greasy, precisely my case with Cetaphil) but your face still feels dry, then your skin is most likely dehydrated.
- If your skin is oily and shiny (I would assume you're not using a moisturizer in this case) but still feels dry, then most likely it is dehydrated.
- If you don't have any problem drinking plenty of liquid every day, but your face (and sometimes your whole body too!) is red, itchy, flaky with patches of dry skin, and you're not experience any sort of reaction to a product or seasonal allergies, then your skin is just plain dry.
- Keep in mind, too, that it IS possible to have both dry/combination-dry and dehydrated skin. In my case, I used to have oilier skin during my teenage years, but now it is combination dry with more-often-than-occasional dehydration, especially during the winter.
- Last but not least, it is also possible that your skin is neither dry or dehydrated because your skin produces just the amount of oil it needs and you are doing your part of keeping yourself well hydrated. If this describes you, you are one lucky butt and should continue to take good care of yourself and your skin!
Moisturizers VS. Hydrators
How the hell do you tell the true "moisturizers" from the "hydrators?" Again, from what I know (and I don't know everything, so don't bite my head off)...
- The best bet is to read the ingredients: if it does not contains ANY oil content (mineral, olive, castor, etc.), it is a hydrator.
- If an ingredients list is not available, then read the instructions: if it says to use "over/under/in addition to your daily moisturizer or makeup," it is probably a hydrator.
- If an ingredients list is not available but a tester is available, you can try guessing, sort of: most hydrators are gel-cream or gel or sort of runny in texture and will absorb so thoroughly you won't even feel like you've put anything on! Of course, this way of guessing isn't very accurate at all because some moisturizers out there do absorb completely too.
- Keep in mind too that hydrid, double-duty products do exist: wouldn't it be nice to stumble upon a lotion/cream/gel-cream/gel that both moisturizes and hydrates? Damn, it's definitely on my wishlist, that's for sure! I hate layering stuff on my face!
- Lastly, don't let the names confuse you. Most "water sleeping face packs" popular in Asia are hydrators, although some are hybrid products. Also, most "serums" and "essences" out there are "specialized" hydrators, tasked with specific ingredients to fight wrinkles, anti-aging, antioxidant, whitening, etc., the list goes on...
Anyhoo, this is all I know :) Comments, feedback, additions are most certainly welcome. If I am flat out wrong about something, please do point it out. Good information helps everyone, not just me!
Sweet September 2011 with Anna Sui GWP
1 year ago