As read in our many celebrity interviews, countless Hollywood A-listers credit simply “drinking a lot of water” as the secret to their glowing skin. Though we’re sure they do guzzle H2O all day long, chances are there is probably a regular routine of Botox, filler and laser treatments that is responsible for that perfect complexion, too. Regardless, we can’t help but wonder, “Does drinking water actually help your skin?” Here, top dermatologists weigh in.
It Depends on Your Skin’s Condition
“Hydrating is amazing for your health, but unfortunately it is unclear whether drinking extra water affects your skin,” says Fort Lauderdale, FL dermatologist Dr. Matthew Elias. New York dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, MD agrees, noting that drinking water is vital for having healthy skin, but oral hydration is not enough to fully improve skin’s moisture levels. “Skin also requires external modifications to keep its barrier intact and improve its health.” (More on that below.)
However, it also on depends on whether your skin is hydrated or dehydrated. “Drinking water can improve skin’s overall luminosity, decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and offer the youthful bounce and elasticity that dehydrated skin lacks, but it will offer no changes to your skin if you are already hydrated. There is a limit to how much skin requires, but if you rehydrate when your skin is still in a dehydrated state, skin will improve aesthetically in many of the ways I just mentioned.” Dallas dermatologist Rebecca Marcus, MD adds that “if our skin cells do become dehydrated, it can translate to dull, dry skin, and fine lines and wrinkles can appear more prominent as cells lose their plumpness.”
So how much water do you really need to drink per day?
“It’s still recommended that people drink at least eight 8-ounce cups of water a day, but this is a recommendation,” says New York dermatologist Jody Levine, MD. “The amount for each individual varies based on weather, level of exercise and other health conditions.” These guidelines, however, have not been updated in decades. According to The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, an adequate daily fluid intake for the average, healthy adult living in a temperate climate is about 15.5 cups a day for men and 11.5 cups a day for women. It’s important to note that this also includes fluids from foods, which makes up about 20 percent of our daily fluid intake.
New York dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD says that while it is important to maintain a basic level of hydration for overall health, there isn’t enough research to prove that the amounts recommended above will keep your skin hydrated. “Moreover, there is no data that drinking less than eight glasses of water leads to skin dryness.”
Do hydration and electrolyte powders make a difference in skin health?
Some electrolyte and hydration powder brands tout healthy, glowing skin as a benefit, but there’s no real research to prove this, so as far as we know right now, the claims are strictly anecdotal. The thought, however, is that electrolytes can help the skin retain water, and the calcium and potassium can help boost the skin’s fatty acid content and improve its barrier health.
“The impact of electrolytes added in water is still being investigated with respect to skin,” says Dr. Nazarian. “Oral antioxidants, typically in larger volumes, can have a protective effect through neutralization of free radicals, shielding skin from premature aging; electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, when taken orally, have very little influence directly on the state of skin health or skin hydration, while hydrogen-rich water, both oral and topical, may offer some benefit. Studies have shown that activated water (hydrogen-rich) may be useful in treating oxidative stress and improving antioxidant response.”
From a “speed” perspective, Dr. Nazarian adds that “combining your water with specific electrolytes can allow the water to absorb more effectively because water transport is dependent on the osmotic characteristics of the fluid. The hydration powders that are combined with electrolytes such as sodium and potassium are useful for athletes or active individuals who are also losing electrolytes through sweating, and need to replete both water and electrolytes more effectively.” Dr. Marcus notes that hydration powders can be useful for someone who is dehydrated due to illness, too. “For most people, though, just drinking regular water is adequate to ensure proper hydration.”
Derm Note: Don’t Skip Moisturizer
Regardless of how much water you drink, these dermatologists all agree that a good moisturizer is essential for healthy skin, especially if you’re someone prone to dryness. “What we do know is that using gentle cleansers and properly hydrating your skin with good moisturizers will have the most profound effect on your skin,” says Dr. Elias.