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Hydrate versus Moisturize

Updated: Apr 21

In this blog post, I talk about:

Hydrate versus Moisturize

While moisturizers are the most used and prescribed product in skincare and dermatology, there is no consensus on the definiton of the word. Most people think of hydrate and moisturize in the same way: adding moisture to skin and hair. But moisturizer is actually a marketing term with no real scientific meaning. Dermatologists consider a moisturizer as being oleogenic (oil-based).

Here are the basic definitions I use:

hy·drate /ˈhīˌdrāt/

verb. To cause to absorb water

mois·tur·ize /ˈmoisCHəˌrīz/

verb. To prevent or decrease water loss

mois·tur·iz·er /ˈmoisCHəˌrīzər/ noun. A cream, lotion, or oil that prevents water loss in skin and hair

In the simplest terms - hydrate relates to water and moisturize relates to oil.

The chemical structure of squalane over a photo of an olive tree

Four Categories of Moisturizers

1. Emollient

it common to use emollients so we have softer skin and hair. Emollients are primarily lipids (fatty acids) and oils, which improve skin and hair's flexibility, texture, and appearance. But, they are much more important than merely improving texture. Emollients influence the cellular structure of our skin and hair and influence our skin's ability to protect our bodies.

definition of squalane

Squalene is one of the most common lipids produced in skin as a part of our sebum. Also called the acid mantle, sebum is the waxy, oily substance that creates the outer barrier of our skin and protects us from UV, toxins, etc.

Around age 30, our body's production of squalene starts to decline. Dry skin is the tangible result. This loss also leads to a weakened skin barrier, which makes us more susceptible to harm caused by environmental toxins, UV, and bacteria. Signs of a weakened skin barrier are adult acne, psoriasis, eczema, etc.

This is why it is so important that we apply topical emollients to protect our skin.

2. Humectants

Humectants attract water to the skin - either from our body or our environment. This helps prevent transepidermal water loss.

3. Occlusive

Occlusives physically block transepidermal water loss by forming a protective barrier on the skin.

4. Protein Rejuvenators

Just as we produce less sebum after age 30, we also producer less of the proteins that are the main stuctural elements of our skin (collagen) and hair (keratin). Protein rejuvenators replenish these lost proteins, thereby improving the elasticity of skin and hair.

The chemical structure of water on a photo of water

Rethinking the Relation Between Oil & Water

"They don't mix" is the first thing we think when we hear the words oil and water. At Deer Heart Solutions, I don't see oil and water as opposites that push each other away. They work together synergistically to keep our skin, body, mind, and heart balanced and healthy. Deer Heart Solutions primarily sells anhydrous blends of oils, essential oils, and other botanicals that provide many benefits to skin and hair - but they work best when we are well hydrated - inside and out, head to toes.

Graphic with statistic: seventy-five percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated

The human body requires an adequate amount of water in order to function properly. If we are not well hydrated, it can negatively impact:

  • our cognitive ability

  • our emotions

  • and the health & appearance of our skin and hair. (Premature aging is often caused by or sped up by dehydration.)

We can hydrate our skin and hair by drinking the right amount of water for our body size and activity level - which very few people do. And we can boost skin hydration by using toners. Applying your moisturizer after your toner will lock that moisture in.

Moisturizing is especially important if you are aged 30 or above and for people of all ages if you live in an arid, dry climate and during the Winter.

Additional Benefits of Topical Hydration

In addition to drinking enough water and eating hydrating foods, I'm a big fan of augmenting it all with a strategic use of toners. I have been developing a line of toners for Deer Heart Solutions that are blends of water and various plant-based, all-natural ingredients, such as:


Hydrosols (also called hydrolats) are the aromatic waters that occur during the distillation process when making essential oils. Hydrosols contain both microscopic particles of the essential oil as well as beneficial plant compounds that are water-soluble - so they are not found in the essential oil product. Or, they might have a larger molecular size than the constituents found in the essential oil.


Floral waters are water mixed with about 1% fragrance or essential oils and preservatives. These can be made with more than floral essential oils.


This might include Aloe Vera Juice or alcohol free Witch Hazel. It also includes liquid and powder botanical and fruit extracts. The powder extracts might be added to the formulation using glycerin or similar.

The Seven Skins Method 

I developed my toners based on the Korean "Seven Skins" method. The Seven Skins Method migrated to the United States around 2016. It's called the Seven Skins Method because toners and essence products are called 'skins' in the Korean cosmetics industry and they are applied as many as seven times in one session. This method allows for maximum hydration and can help balance pH levels and sebum production. You end up with plump and supple skin that is ready to take on the products to follow.

The beauty of this method is that you can incorporate multiple types of toners into your routine, which will allow you to expand the benefits you receive in one self-care session.

How To Apply Toners Using the Seven Skins Method

tips for toning skin

You can use this method with one toner or multiple. Start by using one or two toners and apply each a couple times. Work up to applying toner seven times using 1-3 different toners. Use less active formulas with a lighter consistency. If you use multiple toners, start by applying the thinner/lighter consistency toners first and work up to more viscous toners (such as ones with Hyaluronic Acid.)

The amount of toner you use can vary depending on how thirsty your skin is, the humidity levels where you live, etc.

Step 1: Method of Application

Don't use a cotton pad to apply - you'll just waste toner and create unnecessary trash. Put a dime-sized amount on the palm of one hand (or fingertips) or use a spray bottle (my preferred method.)

Step 2: Chin & Cheeks

Start my gently patting your fingers onto your chin/jaw line and cheeks.

Using the Korean Seven Skins Method to apply toner to cheeks

Step 3: T-Zone

Next, tap your fingers onto your forehead and nose..

Using the Korean Seven Skins Method to apply toner to t-zone

Step 4: Neck

Lastly, apply to your neck, brushing your fingers upward.

Using the Korean Seven Skins Method to apply toner to neck

Step 5: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat, Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Repeat that process two to six more times. My preferred method is using 2 or 3 toners, alternating their application.

Those gifs are from this video.


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