Hydrating Vs. Moisturising: The Difference and Why It Matters

The terms “hydrating” and “moisturising” are often used interchangably, but they actually aren’t the same thing. Understanding the differences between them will help in determining the skincare product — and its ingredients — you need for your skin issues.

HYDRATING means increasing the water content in skin; and it’s dehydrated skin that needs to be hydrated, because dehydrated skin lacks water. Hydrating ingredients (also known as humectants) are those that draw water into the skin.

MOISTURISING means making the skin moist, and it’s dry skin that needs to be moisturised. Moisturising ingredients also create a barrier on skin to prevent water loss. 

In short, one attracts water into the skin, while the other prevents water loss from the skin; but both hydrating and moisturising ingredients aim for a similar end goal: to achieve skin that is healthy, plump, and smooth. 

To determine which you need, it comes down to whether your skin is dehydrated or dry, or both. Look at your skin — if it appears dull, is itchy, or has accelerated signs of ageing (such as increased fine lines and wrinkles), then chances are, it’s dehydrated. If skin appears dry and flaky, then it’s pretty straightforward — it’s dry.

These are some of the ingredients that are good skin hydrators. Look out for them when you want a product to tackle dehydration.

  • HYALURONIC ACID : This is a naturally-occurring substance in the human body and can attract and hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water. As we age, the skin produces less and less of this, so we can replenish it through skincare products that include this ingredient.
  • GLYCERIN : A colourless and odourless liquid from plants. It attracts water, acting like a sponge, pulling in water to the skin. It also helps slow the evaporation of water from the skin, maintaining hydration levels in skin effectively.

If you have dry or rough skin, these are some of the ingredients to go after.

  • SQUALANE : A naturally-occurring lipid in skin, this balances oil production in skin, keeping it well moisturised, helping to strengthen its protective barrier. 
  • VITAMIN C : This natural ingredient has the ability to increase collagen production in skin, which results in plumper, healthier-looking (and feeling) skin. Vitamin C naturally occurs in the dermis and epidermis layers of the skin, and infuses moisture that can act as a natural barrier to UV rays; and in this way, Vitamin C contributes to sun protection. It also stops the production of tyrosinase, which is the enzyme that makes dark spots in skin. 
  • VITAMIN E : This vitamin is the broad name given to a family of oil-soluble antioxidants. It helps to remove free radicals, protecting the skin from damage. It has moisturising and skin-healing benefits, and is anti-inflammatory.

There are many skincare products that contain both hydrating and moisturising ingredients. A good place to start is with Chanel’s new Hydra Beauty Camellia Water Cream.


This fresh water cream launched in April this year, and is a good moisturiser for prepping the skin before makeup. It has a light, fresh, watery-cream texture that spreads easily on skin, absorbs well, and dries down to a silky smooth finish with a radiance. It can be layered over other skincare without any pile up or pilling under makeup, and there’s a subtle floral scent that is refreshing and comforting, enhancing the whole experience of using this beautiful cream daily. 

Finish : Fresh, illuminated, dewy, with a natural glow
Texture : Fluid
Scent : Floral and fresh, mood enhancing

The active ingredients are Camellia and Blue Ginger. They are formulated together with other good standard hydrators and moisturisers including hyaluronic acid, glycerin and squalane, and antioxidants Vitamin C and E.

CAMELLIA FLORAL WATER : The camellia has always been a house symbol of Chanel, featuring in its fashion, jewellery, fine watches and beauty products. Its extract is the star ingredient in this new moisturiser, and has incredible moisturising properties. It stimulates the skin’s metabolism to produce natural moisturising factors, including loricrin and involucrin — proteins that help skin stay watertight; and lipids (skin’s natural fats), that help maintain the skin’s strength — its ability to hold moisture, and keep out impurities.

BLUE GINGER : This ingredient hails from Madagascar and is known for its energy-boosting and powerful antioxidant properties. In this cream, Blue Ginger acts to block and neutralise free radicals (toxic byproducts of oxygen metabolism that damage skin), and it activates the skin’s natural defense system anticipating stressors, so skin can deal with them before they can cause any damage. This ingredient works together with the Camellia Floral Water, by allowing it to be effective for a long period of time.


“Like all new skincare products, I introduced this moisturiser into my beauty regime for two weeks continuously to see what a difference it would make. I particularly liked that this cream sat well under makeup; it provided a smooth base for foundation, with an added “glow”. My skin didn’t feel tight throughout the day — considering I spend my working hours in a fully airconditioned office — and it really did look rather radiant (there’s Mica in the formula, but it’s listed last on the ingredients list on the box, which means there’s a very, very small amount of it — but just enough for a healthy shine!).

— Adele Chan, NYLON’s Editor-in-Chief

NYLON’s Deputy Editor, Amelia has been reviewing a month’s worth of Chanel’s Hydra Beauty skincare products, and that includes this new Camellia Water Cream (you can read her full review of the regime on nylon.com.sg).

“I like that it’s lightweight and absorbs quickly while still feeling quite rich — like it won’t just disappear after a couple of hours. And there are mini particles (very fine ones you won’t notice) that make your skin look glowing in the light.”

— Amelia Tan, NYLON’s Deputy Editor

Chanel Hydra Beauty Camellia Water Cream, $96, available at all Chanel beauty boutiques and counters.