Myth Busted: Can Drinking a Lot of Water Improve Your Skin?
I don’t know about you, but most of my past internet searches for “skin care hydration” have left me feeling a little... parched.
Between conflicting facts and underwhelming hacks, proper skin hydration can be hard to understand, and even harder to successfully incorporate into your daily ritual.
Old wives tales like the 8-10 glasses-a-day trick may have you counting your steps to and from the bathroom, but does that automatically equal perfectly quenched and dewy skin? What is the tea?
Unsurprisingly, when researching this topic, I find more questions than answers on how to maintain a healthy level of hydration both inside and out - it’s not as simple as drinking your daily dose of water. In fact, most studies I found state that they simply don’t have enough research to back many of the claims floating around in magazines and beauty articles today? #Useless 🙄
After some careful combing and reading between the lines, I’ve sussed out a few facts to help bust some of the most common myths out there.
Before you read on, though, keep this in mind: hydration is a personal endeavor. It’s up to you to listen to your body (and skin mood) and incorporate what makes a difference for you, so sip wisely, my friends.
On that note, pinkies up, let’s dive in!
The real story behind urine*
*Please note: this section is based on regular kidney function. I strongly encourage you to consult your doctor on proper water consumption if you are dealing with kidney-related complications. <3
At some point in your hydration journey, you’ve probably been told that “the lighter the urine, the more hydrated you are”.
Despite this common misconception, there are actually many other factors to consider besides water intake when it comes to hue: the vitamins you take (1), the amount of salt in your food, and even switching medications (2) can all cause different shades to appear when you “go”.
On top of that, another important aspect to note is over-hydration - or, nearly transparent urine - which is caused by excessive water consumption.
This result can indicate dilution of essential electrolytes in your blood (3) creating an imbalance. While this is typically less dangerous than dehydration, it can still cause problems if you’re not careful.
If you’re forcing water down your throat to try and keep up with a set amount of water per day, this could leave you feeling discouraged (and full) when you don’t immediately see results.
What I’m trying to say is - don’t stress over your water intake! There aren’t enough facts to back this theory up, and there are definitely better ways to know if you’re getting enough.
Instead of overanalyzing the toilet bowl, some doctors suggest “drinking to thirst”, which is exactly what it sounds like and super easy to follow (4).
Keeping a reusable water bottle handy and drinking 2-3 gulps whenever you feel thirsty throughout the day is a great start - if that’s not your vibe, try setting reminder alarms every few hours to kickstart a healthy pace.
If all else fails, begin by adding water into what you already consume on a daily basis: a coffee + a glass at breakfast, a La Croix and a chug or two at lunch, or finishing your water before your dirty martini at dinner. Whatever makes sense for you, go for it!
Ultimately, here’s the golden rule: when thirst hits, be sure to reach for the Brita in addition to, say, that second iced matcha. ;)
Pisssss-t: still curious about your urine status? If you feel the need to check - pale, straw colored urine is best, but transparent yellow is perfectly ok, too.
Water isn’t a cure-all
It’s a tale as old as time; ask any celebrity what their skincare regimen is, and they’ll most likely show you the gallon jug that they bring with them everywhere they go while raving about the ~magical~ benefits of prioritizing liquids for “radiant” skin.
As a result of this universal answer, it seems like most people subscribe to the notion that if you want to improve your complexion, you must consume a LOT of water ALL the time.
But, while we know that drinking water is certainly a helpful part of our general health, the scoop is that it won’t singlehandedly make all of our skincare (and let’s face it, life) woes disappear.
In fact, the biggest benefit of water for your skin is the improvement of density and thickness, not acne prevention or skin hydration (3). Fascinating, right?!
Few, if any, studies can prove that more water = less blemishes and better skin hydration, a fact made all the more complicated by everyone’s unique skin moods. There’s simply no one way to nail standard skin hydration strictly through consumption alone.
On top of that, the majority of the water you consume goes to your intestines, kidneys, and the rest of your body before your skin, so liquid hydration is more for gut & kidney health than for your pores. Yes, it’s still important, but also highly misrepresented.
If you’re truly looking for ways to lock in hydration for your skin, you’re better off utilizing external products (serums, hydrators & moisturizers) than you are guzzling more water. Feel free to trade in that jug for a jar of petroleum jelly any time (6).
Oil shouldn’t curb hydration efforts
This is another common misconception - if your skin produces plenty of oil, it doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from hydrators and moisturizers like everyone else!
In fact, either or both are recommended in addition to your natural secretion, seeing as how all of these are essential components to staving off dehydration in your skin.
On the flip side, it’s possible that oil production can increase when you’re dehydrated, due to the compromised barrier function (or, inability to retain moisture) that causes more oil production to begin with.
When you’re dehydrated, moisture is leaving the skin, which in turn signals your oil production to kick into overdrive and compensate for what your skin is lacking (5).
So, it’s important to pay close attention to your skin mood and determine if your skin is dry or dehydrated (remember, there’s a difference!) Dehydration has to do with water levels, and dry has to do with your oil levels (or a combo of oil and water loss). If you’re dry, you’ll want to go for a cream that can help replenish your oil without clogging your pores. Look for ingredients like vegan squalene (this oil mimics your skin sebum!) and ceramides. And if your skin is dehydrated, you’ll want to opt for a topical cream (or gel) with water-loving humectants and hydrators like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and vitamin B5 (panthenol).
The bottom line: it’s too early to tell
Through all of the tips, tricks, and so-called facts, what is clear is that hydration methods are vastly different from person to person. Environment, time of year, and lifestyle can all play a key role in how your hydration shows up for you.
Still feeling lost? You’re not alone! While you go through your own personal trial and error in pursuit of dewy skin, be gentle on yourself. Lathering on too many products and forcing liquid consumption can pile on the stress and make things harder to manage; plus, none of it is 100% proven to help, anyway.
No one has it perfectly right, so it’s up to you to find that combination of steps that make sense for your practice and make YOU feel good. Cheers to knowledge!
Written by Adrianne Neal