The truth about 8 glasses of water a day and more hydration myths busted!
Dehydration gets a lot of press for impacting athletic performance and triggering headaches, hunger, and digestive issues. While there are countless scientific studies examining what ingredients should go into a sports beverage, and research scientists could spend hours debating the exact electrolyte profile that would optimize a long distance runner’s performance versus that of a sprinter, when it comes to skin hydration most people are left with the vague advice to “drink plenty of water.”
You could drink a bathtub full of water and still experience dry, lackluster skin. The simple answer – drink 8 glasses a day – doesn’t cut it anymore. What is the answer to keep your skin looking like these hydrated grapes rather than these dry raisins? Keep reading!
“While losing just 2-3% of your body weight in water has been shown to decrease endurance and energy in athletes, even smaller losses of water can impact the skin – it’s the first organ to suffer,” says Dr. Whitney Bowe, dermatologist and author of the new book The Beauty of Dirty Skin. Without ample hydration, skin loses elasticity, ages more quickly, and in general looks dry, flaky, and dull.
Sure, downing plenty of water is one solution to dehydrated skin – but it’s not enough. “Hydrating your skin properly is much more complicated that drinking eight glasses of water a day,” days Dr. Bowe. “There are key ingredients you need to help support healthy skin cells, and equally important is what you put ON your skin to help seal in the water you consume.”
Learn what it really takes to keep your skin hydrated, supple, and glowing from both the inside out and outside in from Dr. Bowe, below.
Eat Your Water
About 20% of our water intake comes in food form. The fluid is trapped inside the food’s cells and slowly released during the digestive process for a nice, steady source of hydration. Vegetables and fruits are naturally water-rich, but be careful here, warns Dr. Bowe. “The sugar in many fruits will negate the benefits of the water content,” she explains. “Sugar binds to your collagen – a major component of connective tissue – in a process called glycation, and targets it for destruction.” So avoid fruits with a high glycemic index (ironically, watermelon is one of them!), and reach for low-glycemic produce like strawberries, cucumbers, lettuce, and leafy greens.
Sip the Right Sports Drink
We lose almost 2 cups of water with electrolytes throughout the day through normal diffusion, and even more through sweat on gym days. To replace the loss, choose a sports drink that’s low in sugar (Dr. Bowe recommends consuming no more than 30 grams of sugar a day) and contains electrolytes and three key trace minerals:
- Zinc, which works as an antioxidant to lessen the formation of skin-damaging free radicals, and also helps skin break down damaged collagen so new collagen can form
- Copper, which helps regenerate skin elasticity and repair damage
- Selenium, an antioxidant that helps protect other antioxidants (like vitamin E) and also plays a role in reducing inflammation
One of our favorite options is HALO SPORT.
And while a lot of people recommend coconut water for rehydration because it contains potassium and sodium (both are electrolytes), Dr. Bowe says proceed with caution: “Coconut water can contain quite a bit of sugar, which is the last thing you want to drink for healthy skin,” she says. “And if you’re using a medication called spironolactone to control hormonal acne, coconut water is a big no. Spironolactone can increase your blood levels of potassium, and combined with the potassium in coconut water, it can put your levels over the higher limit of normal and become toxic to the electrical rhythm of your heart.”
Get the Magical Amount of Sleep
Lack of sleep is stressful to skin: It slows skin cell turnover, and impairs its ability to hold onto moisture, says Dr. Bowe. There are tons of good health-related reasons to get enough sleep (reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, to name a few), but if nothing else convinces you to go to bed on time, let maintaining youthful-looking skin be the one that does. The latest research presented at the annual meeting of the European Society for Cardiology recommends getting six to eight hours of sleep per night.
Find 10 Minutes to Chill
Feeling stressed just seems to come with the territory of living in the 21st century. Unfortunately, constant stress can wreak havoc on your gut and, ultimately, your skin. Here’s how Dr. Bowe explains it.
Chronic stress upsets the balance of your gut microbiome (the total population of microbes that inhabit your digestive tract), allowing bad bacteria to take the majority. These microbes can irritate the protective mucosal lining of your gut and start to break it down. Once that barrier is compromised, it allows irritants and toxins to leak across the gut-blood barrier and into your bloodstream, a condition called intestinal permeability or “leaky gut.” The result is systemic inflammation that extends to skin, and when skin suffers, it can’t hold moisture in.
All of this is to say, if you want to keep your skin hydrated, you’ve got to take a little time for yourself to relax every day, in whatever way works for you. “I make sure to carve out 10 minutes a day to focus on my breathing,” says Dr. Bowe. “I love using apps like Breethe to guide my breathing and help me enter a deeper state of mediation.”
Get plenty of omega-3s
“Our skin cells are comprised of a lipid layer, which means in order to have supple, glowing skin, you need to eat enough fat in your diet,” says Dr. Bowe. “But it has to be the right kind of fat, and that’s omega-3 fatty acids. They help nourish skin-cell membranes to keep them fluid.” Omega-3-rich foods include fish, olive oil, nuts, and seeds.
At the same time, minimize your intake of omega-6s. These fatty acids, found primarily in processed foods and commercial oils, are linked with inflammation. A little omega-6 from natural sources (such as flaxseed, hempseed, and nuts) is beneficial; the ideal ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s is 2:1.
Seal in the glow
“You can eat and drink the right amount and the right kinds of foods and beverages all day long, but if you don’t have a healthy skin barrier, all that water you ingested will evaporate right off the surface of your skin,” says Dr. Bowe. She recommends using a few smart topical products to help strengthen your skin’s natural barrier and support its efforts to maintain moisture.
Step one, layer your skincare by applying a serum, followed by a moisturizer, to trap extra hydration in the skin. “This is a trick dermatologists use all winter long to keep skin hydrated,” says Dr. Bowe. “When you start layering your clothing in the fall to stay warm, use that as a reminder to that you also want to start layering your skincare products.”
Next, when choosing a serum, look for one with hyaluronic acid. “It’s a sugar gel that’s found naturally inside your body — in fact, it’s the cushion that keeps your bones from rubbing against each other,” says Dr. Bowe. “It’s also a natural humectant that works by holding up to 1000 times its weight in water.”
Finally, try a topical probiotic that contains Streptococcus thermophilus and Bacillus coagulans, two beneficial strains of bacteria. Good bugs on skin’s surface can increase ceramides in skin, explains Dr. Bowe, which support skin’s matrix to hold moisture in and keep skin supple and firm. They can also help maintain a healthy pH balance, which keeps bad bugs at bay so skin can stay moisture-rich. Some of my favorite topical probiotics are listed on my Dr. Whitney’s Picks page.
If you want to learn even more about hydrating your skin, check out this recent blog post which includes lots of the information Dr. Bowe shared with models at New York Fashion Week! If you learned a lot here, please share with your friends who help nourish your uniquely beautiful glow!