We have all heard it – you need to drink at least eight glasses of water a day, otherwise you will be dehydrated! Many people take this to heart and do as recommended. Others tell us that water will hydrate our skin, making us look younger and healthier without dry skin that can make anyone look less than fresh. What we do not know is if any of this is really true. In this article I will comment on some of the facts and myths regarding drinking water and our skin.
1. Fact – Water is the main ingredient of our bodies including the skin. It is an essential part of our daily functions and it is involved in nearly all biological processes. Water’s importance to cell functioning cannot be overstated – H2O is involved in proper functioning of body and skin cell enzymes. As such, water is necessary to life, as we know it. When dehydrated, our cells can not work properly. With respect to skin, lack of an adequate amount of water will interfere with the proper functioning of the cells causing them to behave inappropriately. This is visible when severe dehydration is present.
2. Myth – It is necessary to drink eight glasses of water a day for our skin to work properly. There is no evidence that this is true. Yes, we need water for optimal skin function, but to suggest that we need eight glasses of water to do this has no basis in science. If we do not eat anything, then having eight glasses of water may be needed, but most food (fruits, vegetable, bread, meat and so on) contains mostly water. Because of that, the actual amount of water we need to “drink” is less and is in relation to the type of food we eat. More fruits and vegetables mean less of a need to “drink” water.
3. True – Too much water can be dangerous to our bodies. Our bodies have great capacity to regulate the amount of water. If it is hot and we are sweating a lot, our bodies will conserve water by concentrating urine and triggering thirst. If we drink too much water on an on-going basis, our bodies will try to excrete water by producing diluted urine. If this process continues, the body’s ability to produce urine will decline and we will start losing protein, minerals and vitamins in our urine. As such, too much water can be very dangerous and even deadly to our bodies. Moderation is required. Too much water in a short term will cause you to know the locations of every washroom in the neighbourhood and, in the long term can cause you serious harm.
4. Myth – Drinking plenty of water will make your skin stay moisturized and hydrated. Our skin appears “hydrated” and moisturized when it has the right amount of lipids (i.e. fats). We need lipids in our skin to maintain its proper function as much as we need water. Moist skin is not wet skin. It is slightly “oily” skin. In the vast majority of cases, dehydrated skin is not indicative of a dehydrated body and, as such, drinking more water will not have a significant impact on the skin's “hydration.” Instead, we need to protect the barrier of our skin by treating it right – do not over wash (use gentle cleansers) and moisturize as needed. Ask a dermatologist, your skin expert, for advice to help you keep your skin looking and feeling its best.
5. Myth – Bottled water is cleaner and generally better than tap water. I am not sure why people think that, bottled water is better for us, even though the studies point to the opposite conclusion. In many cases, tap water has less bacteria and contaminants than bottled water. In addition, the waste generated by plastic water bottles is beyond excuse. It is an environmental disaster and bottled water drinkers need to know about it. It takes hundreds of years for plastic bottles to decompose, not to mention the chemicals that leach into the water from the plastic and eventually enter our bodies. Frequently, it is the so-called “environmentally friendly” people that carry plastic water bottles and throw them out after use – these are the same people that do not realize the harm that they are causing the environment. Ignorance is bliss – knowledge is power. Let’s stop the insanity and educate ourselves.
I get very passionate about this topic. The message of drinking eight glasses of water a day has taken hold of the “health conscious” crowd without research nor a much deeper understanding. Moderation is the key. Knowledge is not optional, but is necessary to help ourselves without causing harm to our bodies and the environment. When skin problems cause you concern – ask a dermatologist – your skin expert. It is OK to question “common” wisdom, as the facts behind that wisdom are not always there. For now – stay hydrated and enjoy your new knowledge.
The information provided on this website is for Canadian patients only and is meant for information and education that is based on experience and research.