Can you really drink your way to better skin?

Water is an important component in the human body and represents up to 60% of the adult body’s composition. Water assists the life of every living cell, regulates our body temperature, lubricates our joints and helps our body flush out waste through urination, as well as forming saliva. Because hydration is necessary for all of these systems to function, it is often assumed that drinking more water can ‘boost’ or improve our health as well as providing anti-aging benefits and improving the skin’s health and chronic issues such as acne and dry skin. Despite this widespread rumour, I’m here to explain to you in this blog post how this is a myth and the things you can do to help improve skin hydration and moisture.

Water content in the skin contributes to skin functions, but there are few studies to explain if water consumption can improve the skin

Yes, water plays an important role in different skin functions, mainly for the water skin’s barrier function. However, there are very few scientific publications to explain how water consumption affects this directly.

One study selected 49 healthy female volunteers between the ages of 22 and 34 years old. Volunteers were asked to add 2000ml (2 litres) of water per day to their normal dietary habits. At day 15 and day 30, the skin was measured in 5 different sites. The varied results suggested that water intake can alter the normal skin physiology in all the sites that were tested. But this limited study does not offer any intel on how our daily water intake may have an affect men’s skin, non-healthy subjects, or people over the age of 34.

A 2018 study set out to establish whether general dehydration can be determined in older patients, by measuring the skin’s barrier hydration. Testing on 40 patients consisting of both men and women, results were varied. Half the patients were diagnosed as being dehydrated, but the test concluded the skin barrier are poor markers for fluid intake.

In the same year, a literature review was published which evaluated 216 records and 23 articles to find a link between water intake and hydration in the skin. From these reports, there was a slight increase in stratum corneum (the outer layer of the skin) and ‘deep’ skin hydration after additional water consumption, particularly in individuals who had a significantly lower water intake before the testing. However, the review concluded that that more research is needed to find out if fluid intake:

1) Decreases the signs of dry skin

2) If water intake can affect skin hydration in aged subjects

What is a ‘healthy’ daily water intake?

To complicate matters further, we have to question what even is the ideal, daily water intake? Recommendations vary across the globe, and this could be due to climate differences.

For example, in the UK, the recommended guidelines for adults are to drink 6-8 glasses of water each day (1.6 – 2 litres). Bearing in mind, water, milk, sugar-free drinks, tea, coffee and even soups all count.

In the US the standard advice for water intake has changed slightly over previous decades. In 1945, the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board advised people to consume 2.5 litres of water a day, including fluid from prepared foods. In 2004, the Institute of Medicine increased this recommended amount to around 2.7 litres a day for women and 3.7 litres a day for men. Between 2015-2020 The U.S. Dietary Guidelines do not recommend a specific daily water or fluid intake, and instead focus on choosing plain water over flavoured water or juices.

Similar to the UK, The Government of South Australia suggest around 2L of water for women each day, and around 2.5L of water for men.

In Europe, the recommended daily drinking water intake varies slightly between each country.

Other factors that can affect your skin besides water daily intake

Remember that so many other influences can affect how hydrated or healthy your skin is. Health conditions such as an underactive thyroid or diabetes type 2 can cause the skin to dry out. We know that ageing causes loss of skin moisture. Caffeine, alcohol, salty foods and not eating enough fruits and vegetables can also dehydrate the body, which can have a direct impact on our skin. Particularly in women, hormones can alter many skin factors including hydration and surface dryness due to the many studies that highlight how the menopause accelerates certain skin changes. Genetics, sleep quality, our environment, stress and skincare can also play a part in skin dehydration and lack of moisture.

How can I ensure we are hydrated enough?

Although there is a lack of evidence to tell us the relationship between water intake and skin hydration and health, it is still important to check daily your body’s hydration levels to ensure everything is working as well as it can.

In an interview with Byrdie surgeon Margarita Lolis, MS suggested:

“Do the urine check. When you’re properly hydrated, your urine will be pale and clear.”

Other steps you can take for better skin hydration and moisture

Maintaining a healthy sleep pattern, minimising stress, exercising regularly, eating healthily and limited negative lifestyle habits such as drinking and smoking may help maintain good skin health.

Focus on hydrating and moisturising skincare habits too. The hyped skincare ingredient, hyaluronic acid is perfect to apply underneath a moisturiser to draw in hydration from the surface. Apply a moisturiser twice daily, even if you’re oily or acne-prone, to help protect the surface of the skin and prevent water loss. Moisturisers contain:

  • Humectants (that acts a moisture sponge)

  • Occlusives (that provide a protect seal on the skin’s surface)

  • & Emollients (which smooths uneven skin texture)

And don’t forget to wear your sunblock daily, to protect the skin from UV rays and reduce the chances of premature ageing and accelerated skin dryness and sun sensitivity.

Regular exfoliating treatments such as dermaplaning and light skin peels, and other facials such as radiofrequency, microdermabrasion and ultrasound treatments can also help to improve the appearance of the skin over time. Microneedling and laser treatments can be carried out every 2-6 months to help stimulate collagen and gradually improve skin imperfections.

Does your daily water intake truly affect skin hydration? We don’t know. There are not enough studies to show the relationship between how much water we are drinking and skin hydration. Despite the handful of clinical data that is out there, more information is needed to summarise how water intake affects non-healthy individuals, dry skin types and aged men and women. The skin is a complex organ and influenced by many things, drinking lots of water isn’t going to help you cheat your way to healthier skin. Focus on leading a healthy lifestyle, incorporate hyaluronic acid and topical moisturisers, as well as SPF into your skincare routine if you’re not doing so already. Do not get swayed by clickbait articles on the internet that insists on drinking water for unattainable skin transformation. If this was true, wouldn’t we all have glowing skin by now?