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How to Hydrate Your Skin Without Using Moisturizer

Believe it or not, it's possible.
How to Hydrate Your Skin Without Using Moisturizer
IMAGE Mark Buenaobra
Believe it or not, it's possible.

Here's the thing: Moisturizer is not the only product that can keep your skin plump and hydrated. Think about it—your cleanser, toner, serum, and even your sunscreen can also boost its hydration level. Any skincare product can actually be hydrating, so in hindsight, Dr. Vicki Belo's anti-moisturizer advice isn't all that terrifying. In fact, she recommends other methods to keep your skin from drying out.

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That said, we aren't anti-moisturizer ourselves. Our only rule is to use whatever works for your skin. But if you resonated with Dr. Belo's advice and are looking into alternative methods of hydration, consider your search over. Enter, emulsions.

If you're a K-beauty fan, you've probably already heard of emulsions. It's the skincare step that comes after essence and before serum, and it's a key product for achieving pre-moisturizer plumpness. So much so that its potential benefits can rival your average cream. Why? Keep scrolling to find out!


What is an emulsion?

In Korean and Japanese skincare, an emulsion exists to balance and hydrate the skin before using emollient products. Its texture is typically that of a watery lotion—thinner than a cream but thicker than a toner or an essence, so it can provide an initial layer of moisture. While it's usually considered an extra step, it has enough benefits to be a worthy substitute to other products, specifically that of moisturizer.

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How different is it from a moisturizer?

The biggest difference between an emulsion and a moisturizer is texture. Being designed to fall in the middle of your skincare routine, emulsions are lightweight and are generally water-based and oil-free in formula. It's not only meant to hydrate either, since most emulsions contain beneficial ingredients that address specific skin concerns. And like many moisturizers, some also contain SPF for additional protection!

Hence, if you have combination to oily skin, the hydration from an emulsion might be enough for you to skip moisturizer—particularly if moisturizers tend to overwhelm your skin. On the other hand, if you have very dry skin, whether you should skip moisturizer altogether is a question only your dermatologist can answer. However, using an emulsion under moisturizer will help you stay hydrated for longer, as it'll give you an extra layer to help retain that moisture. Tip: Look for ones with humectant ingredients like glycerin that can lock in moisture all day!


How do you use it?

Emulsion formulas differ from brand to brand, so you can use yours instinctively. But as a general rule, apply your skincare starting with the lightest/most watery texture and then end with the thickest/oiliest ones of the bunch. To use the emulsion, dispense an ample amount to your palms and gently pat it all over your face and neck.

Ready to try your first emulsion? Shop the products below!

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IMAGE Shiseido

SHISEIDO Essential Energy Day Emulsion SPF 30 PA+++, P2950, SM Beauty

A softening lotion that will energize your skin and protect it from the sun.

IMAGE Clarins

CLARINS White Plus Brightening Emulsion, P3950, Rustan's

WIth its skin brightening benefits, you can slowly but surely kiss uneven skin tone goodbye.


IMAGE Sephora

BENEFIT COSMETICS Triple Performing Facial Emulsion SPF 15, P2000,

A refreshing oil-free formula with SPF 15 that's perfect for hot and humid days.


IMAGE Kanebo

KANEBO Fulfilling Emulsion, P7200, Rustan's

A firming solution charged with botanical ingredients. Its rich yet smooth texture will be a treat for dry or mature skin.

IMAGE Zalora

SKIN FOOD Royal Honey Essential Emulsion, P1400, Zalora

This emulsion has a high concentration of honey, which is a useful ingredient for delivering hydration to the skin and making it look more radiant.



COSRX Natural BHA Skin Returning Emulsion, P920, Beautymnl

This BHA emulsion will soothe and protect your breakout-prone skin.


IMAGE Etude House

ETUDE HOUSE Moistfull Collagen Emulsion, P728, SM Megamall

To achieve bouncy skin, pat on a few drops of this collagen-infused emulsion twice a day.

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