Drinking More Water Can Help Alleviate Your Dry Skin Issues

Drinking More Water Can Help Alleviate Your Dry Skin Issues
22.02.2024
  • Online, people say drinking water can heal dry skin and improve its texture and appearance.
  • However, increasing your water intake will only lead to better skin if someone’s dehydrated, experts said.
  • In addition to drinking enough water, people can keep their skin hydrated by applying high-quality moisturizers, taking lukewarm showers, and using humidifiers.

Winter weather has settled in, which means many people are contending with one of its most frustrating side effects: dry, flaky skin. But can the problem be fixed with something as simple as a glass of water?

During the colder months, the bitter air draws moisture out of the skin, which can lead to skin conditions such as dryness, chapped lips, and nosebleeds. Plus, common strategies people use to stay warm this time of year—cranking up the heat, taking boiling showers, and more—only exacerbate the problem, said Nour Kibbi, MD, board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor at Stanford Medicine.

Put simply: “Cold weather wreaks havoc on skin,” Kibbi told.

With skin losing so much moisture during the winter, you might assume that adding more water back into your body could be an easy solution. In fact, on TikTok, creators claim drinking more water can help hydrate the skin, as well as make it clear and taut.

There hasn’t been much reliable research into whether hydrating makes skin less dry—a literature review from 2018 found “a paucity of high quality evidence to answer this question.”1 So we asked dermatologists to weigh in.

Here’s what experts had to say about drinking water to rehydrate your skin and the best ways to battle your winter skin blues.

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Does Drinking Water Improve Dry Skin? 

Whether a person can improve their skin by drinking water has a lot to do with their current hydration level, experts said.

For people with a normal hydration status, increasing water intake unfortunately won’t translate to dewier skin, Kibbi explained.

Skin hydration depends largely on the health of its protective barrier, a lipid-rich layer that—when functioning properly—prevents water from escaping, she said.

Drinking water does promote skin health because it helps you “retain normal blood volume and circulation,” Kibbi explained. But continuous water consumption won’t impact the skin barrier’s ability to seal in moisture.

“As a dermatologist, I don’t recommend hydrating with water for the purpose of hydrating your skin,” she added.

Even if you do hydrate excessively, there’s no guarantee that water will go specifically to the skin, said Carolyn Jacob, MD, board-certified dermatologist and director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology.

After being digested, it could go “to other organs that require more water than skin does, like your kidneys [or] brain,” she told.

Drinking too much water could even lead to a rare but serious condition called hyponatremia, in which the amount of sodium in the blood drops to dangerous levels, Jacob cautioned.

Experts said, however, that boosting water intake can enhance skin health (and overall bodily functioning) if your body really needs hydration.

“Extreme dehydration can result in a reduction of circulating blood volume,” said Kibbi. “When that happens, blood vessels will pull water from the rest of your organs, including your skin.”

As a result, skin could appear sallow and more wrinkly.

Water deprivation can also affect skin’s overall tone, according to Jacob. Not drinking enough means there won’t be as much water to bind to hyaluronic acid, a substance found in the skin that retains moisture and promotes firmness. This means “skin won’t have the snap that it should,” she said.

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What’s the Best Way to Keep Your Skin Hydrated?

For people who are dehydrated, the easiest way to boost skin appearance would be to drink more water.

It can sometimes be challenging to determine if you’re dehydrated, but some signs include headache, dry mouth, and darker urine. Doctors also can use what’s called the turgor test to diagnose more moderate or severe dehydration—this entails pinching skin to see how fast it bounces back to normal, Jacobs added.

No uniform guidelines exist on what’s considered too little water intake, and the right amount of water for each person depends on their activity level and other health factors. But in general, men need about 13 cups of water a day, and women should aim to drink about 9 cups.

But if you’re already hydrating adequately, experts said moisturizing on the outside is the best way to reduce dry skin.

People should reach for skincare products that contain two categories of ingredients: humectants, which pull in and retain water, and occlusives, which lock in hydration, Kibbi recommended.

Oftentimes these two ingredients are paired up in products. For example, some moisturizers contain hyaluronic acid—a humectant—and ceramides, which are occlusive substances found naturally in the skin barrier, said Kibbi.

However, humectants and occlusives can be applied separately, too. Certain occlusives—such as old-fashioned petroleum jelly and lanolin, found in Aquaphor—may not make sense for daytime use.

“Many of my patients will use humectants during the day because they tend to be easier products compatible with daily lives,” said Kibbi. “At nighttime, they might apply occlusives, the thicker ointments.”

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You can also maximize moisturizer’s effectiveness by applying it to damp skin, which experts said will enable it to trap surface water.

Beyond skincare, there certain lifestyle factors can also play a role in combating dry skin.

Although Kibbi said she doesn’t typically advise her patients to make dietary changes for skin-related purposes, she noted that eating a balanced diet full of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals “is important for maintaining a normal skin barrier.” Jacob also suggested taking fish or algal oil supplements or eating more omega-3-rich foods, such as salmon and walnuts.

What’s crucial, experts said, is to avoid common wintertime habits that dry skin out to begin with. Instead of taking scalding showers, keep them “lukewarm”—and short, Jacob said. And if you’re spending time indoors with the heat blasting, use a humidifier, which adds more moisture to the air.

Think of it this way, Jacob said: “If you leave a cup of water out in a very arid place, the water is going to evaporate…Well, you’re a source of water too.”

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