Dermatologists Reveal What Drinking Water Can Do For Your Skin

The consequences of dehydration may be much more dire than slightly less-than-ideal-looking skin, particularly in the long term.
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Ask any dermatologist about their best advice for healthy, glowy skin, and most would probably answer the following: 1. Regularly wear an SPF 30+ sunscreen and 2. Stay hydrated.

While drinking water might be a relatively easy goal for Stanley-toters who always ensure their H2O is close at hand, others may struggle on the hydration front.

Maybe you have every intention of switching to water after this one last iced coffee, only to get your fifth or sixth coffee refill of the day (guilty!).

Or, as much as you would love to get your recommended number of cups of H2O per day, you simply just can’t stand drinking water— even with every friend, co-worker and family member asking you, “How can you not like the taste of water? It doesn’t taste like anything!”

But what does it mean for your skin if you aren’t drinking your water every day? Are there any alternatives to plain, boring water that can help you achieve your skin care goals?

Why hydration is so important for your skin.

With practically every health care professional from every field stressing the importance of staying hydrated, it’s no surprise that drinking water is also critical for maintaining healthy skin.

Our bodies, and all of the organs within them, require water as an essential nutrient,” said Dr. Angela Casey, an Ohio-based, board-certified dermatologist. “Ionic compounds and solutes dissolve in water, and this process allows for transportation of critical compounds to the cells and structures of the skin.

While water’s role in aiding in the transportation of compounds aesthetically benefits your skin, it also plays a critical role in maintaining your skin’s overall health.

“[When you are hydrated], the skin barrier function is optimized, protecting us from infections and damage from ultraviolet light and pollution,” said Dr. Brooke Jeffy, an Arizona-based board-certified dermatologist.

However, when you don’t drink water, the consequences may be much more dire than slightly less-than-ideal-looking skin, particularly in the long term.

“When we are dehydrated, our skin’s microbiome becomes imbalanced, and we set the stage for inflammation, injury and damage to our skin,” Casey said. “And the damage that occurs from chronic bad habits (i.e., never drinking water) can be a slow burn that shows up years later.

So, how much water should you aim to drink for adequate hydration to ensure damage doesn’t sneak up on you years down the line?

“A good general rule of thumb is to drink 0.5 [or more] ounces of water per pound [of body weight] per day,” Casey said.

However, both Casey and Jeffy point out that the amount of water you need varies greatly on many factors, including how dry or humid your climate is, if higher activity levels make you sweat more, your weight, and any medications you may take.

“A great way to be sure you are adequately hydrated is to watch urine color. You want it to be a very light yellow, close to clear,” Jeffy said.

Can’t I just hydrate my skin with skin care products?

While the market offers a plethora of excellent hydrating skin care products, they cannot fully replace the benefits of hydration from water for those who rarely drink it.

Moisturizing your skin may improve the appearance of the skin, but it can’t replace the functional benefits of adequate amounts of water in your skin cells and skin structures,” Casey explained.

Jeffy further explained that blood flow to your cells is also reduced when you are dehydrated. When blood flow is reduced, so is your body’s ability to deliver vital nutrients to your skin’s cells. And unfortunately, for those who are hydrophobic, this is a function that even the most hydrating skin care products just can’t replicate.

How can I stay hydrated if I hate water?

I’m a bit of a purist, so my opinion is that plain water is the gold standard,” Casey shared. “You don’t have to drink plain water, but you do need to make sure that you’re maintaining adequate hydration from other sources.”

If plain water simply doesn’t do it for you, whether because of its taste or texture, your next best option for hydration may be to mix it up with a seltzer or an herbal tea.

“Seltzers or sparkling waters are nearly equivalent to standard waters in terms of hydration properties,” Casey said. “Herbal teas and waters flavored with fruit placed in the water to render flavor are likewise nearly equivalent to standard water given that these beverages are composed primarily of water.

Caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea are commonly thought to dehydrate the body due to caffeine’s diuretic effect. However, if you throw back coffee like Lorelai Gilmore, rejoice! Your caffeine addiction may actually bring you closer to your skin care goals than you think (so long as your caffeine addiction is within moderation).

The diuretic effect of the caffeine in coffee and tea is unlikely to outweigh the hydration benefits of the water within these beverages,” Casey said. Caffeine is an antioxidant, so in small amounts, it can be very beneficial to the skin.”

Although caffeine can benefit the skin, Casey cautions that caffeine affects individuals differently, so you should watch how caffeine affects you personally. Casey also recommends ingesting no more than 250mg of caffeine daily.

But if you regularly take your coffee or tea with sugar, you may be moving further away from your skin care goals.

The problem with sweetened coffee, tea, juices, sodas and sports drinks is that sugar does harm to our skin by damaging our collagen and elastin, leading to wrinkles and sagging,” Jeffy said.

Casey also adds that sugar and other high-glycemic index foods have been linked to acne. “Likewise, inflammatory skin conditions such as rosacea, eczema and psoriasis can be exacerbated by excess sugar intake as might occur from ingestion of juices, sodas, sports drinks, etc,” Casey added.

In an attempt to stay hydrated while also cutting down on sugar and calories found in juices and sodas, those in the “watertok” community on TikTok share their “water recipes” using artificially sweetened flavor packets. But if your main goal for staying hydrated is improving your skin, it’s best to avoid this trend.

I personally steer clear of artificial sweeteners as there is evidence that these too can exacerbate inflammation within the skin, and worsen acne and rosacea,” Casey said. “These ingredients are also linked to insulin resistance, which contributes to poor functioning within the skin.”

Skin care goals shouldn’t take precedence over your overall health goals.

While having glowy, bouncy skin is a nice confidence boost, achieving your skin care goals shouldn’t be your only reason to stay hydrated ― especially as we move into the hotter months of summer.

“Do not just stay hydrated for your skin, but for your entire body. If you are dehydrated, not only will your skin look deflated, dull and work poorly, but you are also putting stress on your heart and kidneys, and negatively affecting your entire body,” Jeffy said.

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