Hydrating Versus Moisturizing Lip Products: What’s the Difference?

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Hydrating Versus Moisturizing Lip Products: What’s the Difference? featured image
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At this point in my beauty career, I’ve tried just about every type of lip product you could dream of: hydrating, moisturizing, plumping, smoothing, soothing, color enhancing, pH balancing, you name it. While I love my tingly, plumping glosses and brightening tints, products that make my lips feel hydrated and lush have a special place in my heart.

Ever since I dealt with the actual unquenchable desert my lips became while on Accutane, I’ve been committed to finding lip products that provide long-lasting hydration, but have dealt with my fair share of lippies that feel great upon application but make me even drier hours later. That got me thinking: am I using the wrong type of hydrating product? Moreover, is there a difference between “hydrating” and “moisturizing” when it comes to lip balms? Have I been doing it wrong this whole time? Ahead, lip-care experts ease your (or my) fears and talk all things hydrating versus moisturizing lip products.

Featured Experts:

  • Ginger King is a cosmetic chemist
  • Amy Peterson is a medical aesthetician and founder of Miami-based medspa, Skincare by Amy Peterson 
  • Jeanine B. Downie is a dermatologist based in Montclair, NJ

What Is the Difference Between Hydrating and Moisturizing Lip Products?

While both hydrating and moisturizing products can reap benefits on dry, dehydrated lips, the small but significant difference in what hydrating formulas and moisturizing formulas provide can make all the difference. As medical aesthetician and founder of Miami-based medspa, Skincare by Amy Peterson, Amy Peterson explains, “Hydration in lip products is the ability to replenish water content in the lips. Typically, it is achieved through ingredients like hyaluronic acid or glycerin, which provide a plumping and supple feel to the lips. On the other hand, moisturization involves creating a protective barrier to prevent moisture loss, which is often accomplished with ingredients like shea butter or petroleum jelly which promote softness and prevent dryness. The key difference is hydration focuses on increasing water content while moisturization aims to lock in existing moisture, but both are crucial for maintaining healthy, nourished lips.”

What Is a Hydrating Lip Product?

Most simply, as cosmetic chemist Ginger King puts it, “hydrating lip products mean the product contains ingredients to boost hydration.” Montclair, NJ dermatologist Jeanine B. Downie adds that, “hydrating formulas typically have higher water contents, a higher amount of glycerin mineral oil, as well as ingredients that are supposed to make your lips look dewy.” What is a hydrating lip product good for, then? As Peterson notes, hydrating lip products help “lips feel more plump and refreshed and can help treat dryness and dehydration. Essentially, a hydrating formula focuses on enhancing the skin’s hydration and improving elasticity and comfort.”

What lips need hydration, then? As Peterson explains, “Dry, chapped lips are in need of intense hydration. Choosing hydrating lip products to help combat this is best, because they contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid or glycerin to replenish moisture levels.”

What Is a Moisturizing Lip Product?

“Products labeled as moisturizing concentrate on preventing moisture evaporation,” says Peterson, “They mainly contain emollients and occlusives that work together to hydrate the lips. Emollients like shea butter or ceramides work to soften the skin by filling in gaps between skin cells, while occlusives such as petrolatum form a protective barrier that reduces water loss and helps maintain hydration. Think of this as giving your lips a moisturizing hug to ensure smoother and more supple lips.”

Hydrating v. Moisturizing Lip Products: When to Use Each

Sometimes we reach for moisturizing or hydrating products when our lips feel dry or lackluster, and they don’t have the effect we desire, so it’s important to understand just what your lip product formula is doing in order to achieve the lips of your dreams. “Sometimes certain hydrating or moisturizing lip products can leave lips feeling drier due to ingredients like menthol, camphor or salicylic acid,” Peterson explains, “These formulations can initially provide a cooling sensation to the lips. However, they can have a drying effect over time by irritating the delicate skin on the lips or causing increased water loss. Additionally, some fragrances or preservatives may also contribute to irritation.”

While most people prefer their skin to be moisturized and their lips hydrated, as Dr. Downie explains, there are certain reasons why one would opt for moisturizing lip products as opposed to hydrating. “Moisturizing lip products, with emollients like shea butter, are better suited for maintaining softness and preventing moisture loss,” Peterson adds, “These are recommended for daily use to keep lips smooth and supple. Understanding your specific lip concerns is essential to help you choose the right product and address them effectively.” Dr. Downie also adds that, if you struggle with eczema on the lips, moisturizing formulas are a great option.

The Best Moisturizing Lip Products

1 / 5

Solara Pout Protector Moisturizing Lip Serum SPF 15 ($16)

As Dr. Downie noted, keeping your delicate lips protected from the sun is key in maintaining lip health, and one of Peterson’s favorite moisturizing lip products happens to also feature SPF 15, making it great for locking in moisture and keeping your lips burn-free.

BUY NOW – $16

2 / 5

MBR Perfect Lip I-D ($126)

“One of my ultimate lip products for moisturization is the Perfect Lip-ID by MBR,” says Peterson, “This product stands out as a super moisturizing lip balm that helps plump the lips while reducing fine lines and wrinkles. It is known for providing long-lasting moisturization. It travels well and can always be found with me on the go!”

BUY NOW – $126

3 / 5

Laneige Glowy Lip Balm ($19)

One of my personal favorites when it comes to lip products that truly lock in moisture and keep the lips hydrated for hours on end, Laneige’s Glow Lip Balm is a moisture-rich lip balm formulated with lip-loving ingredients like shea and murumuru seed butters for extra soft, kissable lips.



4 / 5

Summer Fridays Dream Lip Oil ($26)

In this day and age, you don’t have to sacrifice color for moisture when it comes to lip products, and Summer Fridays’ Dream Lip Oil is made to provide unmatched moisture and sheer, long-lasting color, so you can rest assured that your lips will stand out and feel great.



5 / 5

Fan Love Beauty Stage Balm for Lips ($56 for 4)

A product of King’s own creation, Fan Love Beauty’s Stage Balm for Lips was created for individuals with talking-heavy jobs, to ensure that moisture doesn’t go anywhere when giving big speeches or even taking to the stage. Packed with clinical levels of sea asparagus and natural superfoods, this product is a game-changer for chronically dry lips.

BUY NOW – $56

The Best Hydrating Lip Products

6 / 9

Agent Nateur Holi (Glow) Ageless Lip and Eye Serum ($99)

“The Agent Nateur Ageless Eye and Lip Serum is one of my number ones,” says Peterson, “It is packed with nourishing ingredients that leaves your lips soothed and can also double as an eye serum. It is amazing for treating dryness as well as filling in fine lines. It looks so glowy and hydrating on the lips, definitely a top choice!”


7 / 9

OleHenriksen Pout Preserve Hydrating Peptide Lip Treatment ($22)

OleHenriksen is a favorite amongst beauty gurus like Alix Earle, and their Pout Preserve Hydrating Peptide Lip Treatment is an advanced lip treatment packed with skin-enhancing peptides and kokum butter that quickly and visibly plump lips while adding hydration and smoothing fine lines.


8 / 9

U Beauty The Plasma Lip Compound ($68)

U Beauty’s lip products are a favorite here at NewBeauty, and the brand’s The Plasma Lip Compound is an innovative lip treatment that locks in hydration while providing a sheer wash of color and contouring and plumping the lips for a pillowy, 3D-like effect.



9 / 9

Paula’s Choice Hyaluronic Acid + Peptide Lip Treatment ($33)

This anti-aging lip treatment helps to smooth fine lines and keep lips looking young and lush while also boosting hydration with moisture-attracting hyaluronic acid, peptides and squalene.



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