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When discussing skincare products that keep skin from drying out, the words moisturizer and hydrator are often used interchangeably, but they are different. “Classically, moisturizers don’t moisturize. They hold in water,” says Dr. Rohan Bissoondath, medical director and founder of Preventous Collaborative Health and Preventous Cosmetic Medicine in Calgary. “For years, I’ve told people that the name is a bit of a misnomer because moisturizers don’t moisturize in the truest sense. They tend to be more occlusive.” In short, they maintain the skin’s barrier to stop moisture from escaping, which is why they are best applied to damp skin.

On the other hand, hydrating ingredients in skincare such as hyaluronic acid do bring water to the skin. “When we apply hyaluronic acid topically, it’s going to pull some water from the atmosphere around you and also potentially from the deeper layers of skin,” says Dr. Bissoondath. As a general product category, the moisturizer term has evolved to become a catch-all name for products that contain both moisturizing and hydrating ingredients. Dr. Bissoondath recommends seeking professional advice to find the most suitable hydrating and moisturizing products for your skin’s needs.

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Laneige Water Wonderland, $50 at Sephora.

Need some advice about your skin and hair care routines? Send your questions to ritual@globeandmail.com

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