“Drinking water hydrates skin” is one of the most pervasive myths in the skin care industry. While drinking water is excellent for good physical health overall, it has never been clinically linked to increased skin hydration. Skin hydration and transepidermal water loss, along with other physical parameters of the skin, are important. An association drawn between water consumption and skin hydration in research literature has yet to be documented.
On an elementary level, skin is made up of the epidermis, dermis, and fat layers. While drinking water is excellent for the ongoing cellular activity of the body and can derive a benefit from cellular diffusion of water in the lower skin levels, it generally does not make its way to the upper skin like the stratum corneum. Any excess water that is consumed by the body is preferentially released through the waste system of the body and does not make its way to the upper levels of the skin.
When an individual experiences self-reported skin dryness, it is generally due to one of two reasons. The first is an impaired barrier function and the second (less well known) is the lack of proper levels of sebum (oil) on the skin.
As individuals age, particularly women, they start to experience hormonal shifts. The oil production in the skin reduces to a very low level. Oil on the skin is a necessary element in normally functioning skin because it lubricates the skin’s surface, as well as the small hairs that are on the body. Without this lubrication, the skin becomes less elastic and quite rigid. This gives the perception to the individual that the skin is dry. This leads to a second myth that hydrating skin is always the solution to reported skin dryness. It is not necessarily true. Often, the individual needs to apply an oil compound to the skin, like capric caprylic triglyceride (actually an esther), which then relieves the rigid nature of the skin, giving a hydrating feel to the skin.
Impaired barrier function is the second issue relating to perceived skin dryness. In today’s skin care treatment market, there are thousands of products that an individual can choose from to treat their skin, whether it is for antiaging, pigmentation improvement, tone and texture, or other skin needs. This proliferation of products, ingredients, and technology can lead to the skin’s natural barrier function being disrupted. Once that happens, the skin releases too much water vapor and becomes dehydrated. This is seen clinically on a regular basis. When skin becomes dehydrated, it can become inflamed, red, and break out.
What can be done about dehydrated skin? Barrier improving moisturizers that contain natural moisturizing factors can be applied. Natural oils can be added to the skin to increase skin elasticity. Moisturizers should be reapplied regularly. And hot water, alcohols, solvents, and harsh cleansers should be avoided. These actions will help the most in achieving moisturized and hydrated skin. And, yes, plenty of water is still essential for overall health.