Obagi Medical Hydrate Facial Moisturizer Review: Great for Dry Skin

Reviews, Skin Care


The cold winter weather always causes problems for your skin, as it gets dry, flaky and red. Moisturizer is your best friend — especially with this cold start to spring. I have been searching for a thicker moisturizer that I can use daily, so it was perfect timing when Obagi sent over Obagi Medical Hydrate Facial Moisturizer ($33.76, amazon.com) .

Obagi Medical Hydrate Facial Moisturizer claims to provide all-day moisture protection (eight hours!) and can be used by all skin types. The star in this formula is Hydromanil, a natural moisturizer derived from tara seed, known to retain water and gradually deliver moisture to the skin. Some other key ingredients include shea butter, mango butter, avocado oil, and glycerin to help prevent your skin from drying out.


Industry studies show that hydromanil improves skin moisture in the long and short term.
Industry studies show that hydromanil improves skin moisture in the long and short term.

The formula of Obagi Hydrate contains Hydromanil, composed of Caesalpinia spinosa gum and hydrolyzed Caesalpinia spinosa gum, technology creating instant and prolonged moisture for the skin. Hydromanil acts as a glycol-matrix delivery system, so that it essentially can send molecules into the skin in succession to moisturize the stratum corneum (outermost later of the epidermise). Over time, this moisture builds up in the skin and improves skin hydration in the short and long term (Center Chem). In a multi-capillary process, the transepidermal water loss (TEWL) is reduced both by active moisturizing and compounds that retain water (Gale Group).

And the company saw success in industry-sponsored clinical trials. After two hours, the skins moisture retention improved by 92%, and after eight hours, there was a 51% improvement in moisture loss. In addition, dermatological testing shows Obagi Hydrate was shown to have no specific negative clinical reactions, proving it to be non-irritating, non-sensitizing, hypoallergenic and noncomedogenic (Business Wire).


Glycerin is a standby in moisturizers and has great results in studies.
Glycerin is a standby in moisturizers and has great results in studies.

Glycerin is a polyol (an alcohol containing hydroxyl groups) compound that has three hydroxyl groups (a substructure of a water molecule) that are responsible for its solubility in water. Glycerin found in skin products acts as a humectant, which is a substance that can pull water from the environment and dermis and absorb it, hydrating skin (Gale Group).

According to Leslie Baumann, M.D., glycerin is similar to a natural moisturizing factor (NMF), allowing the stratum corneum to retain high water content. In a five-year study conducted by M. Lodén and H.I. Maibach, two high-glycerin moisturizers were compared with 16 other popular moisturizers in 394 patients who suffered from extremely dry skin. The products that were high in glycerin restored dry skin to normal hydration levels better than other products. In addition, it helped keep skin moisturized for a longer period of time in comparison to others.

And another study found that after 10 days of use, those who used a formula that included 20% glycerin saw increased skin moisture when compared to a control group (International Journal of Cosmetic Science).

Mango, Shea and Avocado

A foot cream made with mango helped repair study participants dry skin.
A foot cream made with mango helped repair study participants dry skin.

Mango butter acts as an emollient and helps to moisturize and hydrate the skin. It has a high percentage of tocopherols (compound with Vitamin E), phytosterols (like a cholesterol molecule acting as an emollient), and triterpenes (organic compound with protective qualities), which help to reduce wrinkles and roughness of the skin while helping to repair and protect the skin.

One clinical study looked at the protective qualities for repairing skin and formulated a foot cream with mango butter. Their participants all saw a complete repair of their worn, cracked skin (Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Science). 

Shea butter, also an emollient, has a smoothing effect on the skin. Acting as a humectant by drawing water into the skin, it helps hydrate and moisturize. Shea butter helps to protect the skin against environment and UV radiation and works well in oil-free formulations such as Obagi (Global Cosmetic Industry).

Avocado Oil is rich in triglycerides of oleic acid with lesser amounts of palmitic, linoleic, and palmitoleic acids. As an occlusive, the avocado oil helps to prevent the evaporation of water from the skin surface, helping to keep the skin hydrated. In addition, it helps to protect your skin against UV damage (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology).

Including mango butter, shea butter and avocado oil in the formula of Obagi Hydrate helps give the moisturizing properties of Hydromanil and glycerin the extra punch they need to prolong moisturized skin throughout the day.

Personal Use and Opinion

A very thick moisturizer, Obagi Medical Hydrate Facial Moisturizer pumps out about a quarter size of moisturizer for use — I really like this because it gives you the right amount each time and prevents wasting it. Although it is thick, it is very easy to work into your skin and absorbs rather quickly. My skin seemed to be moisturized all day, which usually doesn’t happen. I wear a powder foundation so I usually see my skin drying out underneath it by the end of the day.

I have been using it once in the morning for about five days this week. At the beginning of the week, I had a dry spot on my face but by the end of the week it wasn’t there anymore (finally)! I also noticed that when I took my makeup off and washed my face at night, my skin was progressively smoother and moisturized.

I was worried with such a thick moisturizer I might have a few breakouts, as my skin is acne prone — but I didn’t have any (always a plus)!

Bottom Line

According to Leslie Baumann Obagi Medical Hydrate Facial Moisturizer contains two key ingredients for finding the best moisturizer — glycerin and shea butter, which act to replenish your skin barrier. She raves about glycerin as it functions as both a humectant and occlusive, making it important for a rich moisturizer.  Obagi Medical Hyrdate Facial Moisturizer provides instant hydration and keeps skin moisturized longer throughout the day while helping to repair the skin barrier. I loved it. What more could you ask for in a moisturizer?

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