There are plenty of compelling reasons to drink water. It energizes, promotes cognitive function, increases energy, regulates body temperature, assists digestion, and maintains your body healthy. (It’s impossible to go more than a few days without having something to drink.) Is one of them, on the other hand, keeping the skin hydrated?
The drinking water falls short, according to dermatologists, in terms of moisturizing skin. While hydration is critical for our bodies to function properly, oral hydration has no direct correlation with skin hydration.
“It is a complete myth that we should drink a lot of water to maintain hydrated skin,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “Water, first and foremost, enters the bloodstream and is then filtered by the kidneys. There is no data to show that drinking more or less water leads to the skin’s quality.” (In fact, there’s even evidence that shows you shouldn’t be drinking eight glasses of water a day.)
However, it is true that your skin gets “thirsty.” Much like the rest of our body, skin is made of cells, which are largely made of water. Cells lose water throughout the day through things like physical activity, environmental pollution, and just generally living life. This will result in flaky and dry texture, making your skin more prone to fine lines, aging, and other skin conditions.
“Your skin’s water retention is a function of TEWL, or transepidermal water loss,” explains skin expert Charlotte Palermino. “If you have dry skin, your barrier is likely weak or impaired. This means that you don’t have enough oil or lipids in your skin to hold on to the water that you have. At that point, no amount of water is going to replenish your skin―you’re going to need a cream for that.”
“The solution is topical rather than internal,” agrees Dr. Zeichner. “Rather than drinking water, applying a moisturizer is a far more effective way of addressing dry skin.” Stick to the essential steps of skincare, which dermatologists say is cleansing and moisturizing (brands like Malin+Goetz have made entire lines dedicated to the two-step routine).
Healthy Hydration Practices
When it comes to choosing a moisturizer, the three key ingredients to look for are stearic acid (a fatty acid), emollient ceramides, and cholesterol. Yes, cholesterol. “Topically applied, it won’t affect your body’s cholesterol levels,” says Leslie Baumann, MD, a professor of dermatology at the University of Miami in Florida. (In fact, if you’re on a cholesterol-lowering medication, which can cause skin dryness, a cream rich in the ingredient may help.)
It’s best to apply hydrating cream when the skin is slightly damp, especially after a shower, to truly lock in moisture. If your skin requires more hydration, you can use targeted serums in addition to moisturizers.
However, your body (and skin) both require water to function properly. “Adequate hydration is important for our overall health,” Dr. Zeichner says, “as extreme dehydration can have significant effects on the functioning of our hearts and kidneys.”
Avoiding depleting elements such as low humidity, harsh winds, dry heat, high altitude, sun, alcohol, and long baths, as well as avoiding stripping soaps, can help to prevent natural oil loss. “Diet can also help strengthen your skin’s ability to retain moisture,” Dr. Baumann adds. Walnuts, flaxseed, salmon, and olive oil are high in essential fatty acids, which can help skin cells stay hydrated.
Women who took flaxseed or borage oil supplements (2.2 grams per day) for 12 weeks experienced a significant increase in skin moisture and a reduction in roughness, according to a study conducted by the Institute of Experimental Dermatology in Germany. According to Dr. Baumann, a healthy diet with three to five servings of fatty acids per week will suffice for the average person.
To summarise, dry skin is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors that cannot be remedied solely through oral hydration. In addition to drinking water, perfecting skin hydration requires a variety of factors to work together to ensure that the rest of your body functions properly.
Write Your Skin a Prescription for Change coauthor Katie Rodan, MD, a dermatologist in the San Francisco Bay area, says it best: “Plants are not like humans. When we drink water, our skin does not brighten.” A quarter-size dollop of lotion is far more beneficial to your skin than a gallon of water.