If you've struggled with acne, you’ve heard this advice: drink more water! That advice often comes from well meaning people with flawless, glowing skin. Can their skin look this good from only drinking water? Suspicious! Let’s put the question, “Does drinking water clear your skin?” to the test!
The idea of water as a catch-all miracle for better skin isn’t exactly new, but let’s look at the logic behind it.
How Does Drinking Water Help Clear Skin?
The short answer is—it doesn’t. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could just drink water for clear skin, though? When it comes to acne, the idea is that drinking a lot of water ‘flushes out toxins’ that are hanging around and causing acne. This is just plain untrue, and a poor understanding of how acne and skin work.
Have you ever noticed how this so-called ‘tip’ uses the word ‘toxins’, but never specifies what they are? Toxins are defined as “a poisonous substance, especially one produced by bacteria, that causes disease”. If there are truly toxins in our bodies, wouldn’t they be making us much more ill than a few stray breakouts here and there?
There are about a million skincare tips floating around about drinking water to clear skin, and that doesn’t include the ones adding all kinds of garnishes that are supposed to help! Lemon, cucumber, pineapple water—you name it, any kind of fruit or vegetable is supposed to have some miracle acne-curing power when added to a plain glass of water.
The Hard Truth
There is no scientific evidence to support that you can drink water for clear skin. Acne is usually caused by external factors like clogged pores and surface bacteria. Even when acne is internally caused, it’s not by so-called toxins. It’s usually by hormones, and in that case, water isn’t going to help anyway! Drinking water is great for you because it’s essential to life. But just be real about what drinking water is going to do for your skin.
What Can I Do Instead of Drinking Water for Clear Skin?
Just because drinking water to clear skin doesn't work, doesn’t mean there’s nothing that you can do about breakouts! For most people, it’s best to tackle acne from the outside in. That means having a good skincare routine. And you won’t be running to the bathroom every ten minutes! A regular routine can go a long way to clearing skin, and should include gentle cleansing and exfoliation.
Exfoliation helps loosen any dead skin cells that are hanging around and causing acne. See how drinking water would have had zero effect on that, by the way? Exfoliants are a great first line of defense against acne for clear, smooth skin.
Does Drinking Water Help Dry Skin?
Another skin concern that gets tied to drinking more water is dry skin. Drinking more water is touted as a miracle cure for dry skin too—it’s obviously how everyone gets their skin to glow, right?!
The fact is, our skin is one of the last organs to directly benefit from water when we drink it. Remember, our entire bodies are mostly water. The rest of our organs need a lot of it, and when we drink it, that’s where a majority of the water goes before ultimately ending up in our blood or relieved from our bodies.
When Can Water Improve The Skin?
However, there is a relationship between water and skin that can’t be ignored. Skin is our largest organ after all! When our bodies (as a whole) are dehydrated, this does affect our skin. Telltale visual signs of dehydration include something called ‘tenting’.
Gently pinch the skin on the back of your hand—it should bounce back immediately because you’re probably not severely dehydrated. In the unlikely case that you are, which means the skin stays up in the little ‘tent’ after you pinched it––you may need to seek medical help. When your entire body is properly hydrated, this won’t happen. But that’s about it when it comes to the visual effects you’ll see on your skin from drinking water.
The idea that you need to drink water for dry skin is silly when you realize that there’s basically a limit to how water can affect our skin. Once our bodies are hydrated, that’s it. There’s no additional glow, there’s no benefit to be gained from drinking more water. Just more trips to the bathroom!
What to Do Instead of Drinking Water for Dry Skin
Just as with breakouts, drinking water and dry skin have no proven relationship. These are skin concerns that are best addressed at the surface level of the skin. There are two parts to it: avoiding things that cause dryness, and adding hydration back to the skin.
Common products that can cause dry skin are using rich, foamy cleansers and products formulated with alcohol. They’re the usual suspects when it comes to skin dryness, especially when it comes to our delicate facial skin.
Swap out cleansers that foam and strip hydration for something that doesn’t, like an oil cleanser. Plus, have a closer look at ingredients lists for SD Alcohol or Alcohol Denat. These are the most common forms that drying ethanol alcohol takes in skincare. While it’s arguable if this ingredient is point-blank good or bad for skin, it’s generally agreed that if your skin is prone to dryness, it should be on your list to avoid.
One of the best ways to add hydration back to your skin is with a humectant, like hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a water-binding molecule that seriously increases skin hydration—no drinking water required. Lock it in with a moisturizer, and your dry skin’s thirst will be quenched just like you drinking a glass of cold water on a hot day.
Water is essential for good health—but it’s not the skin savior the internet makes it out to be!