#SkinSchool: How Much Water Should We Actually Be Drinking?

We’re all aware of the importance of drinking enough water for our overall health, not least for helping maintain bodily functions including regulating our temperatures and aiding digestion. But what about water’s benefits for our skin on the surface; can we really hydrate from the inside-out? We spoke to dermatologist Dr Justine Hextall and nutritionist Helen Bond on behalf of The Harley Medical Group to find out what we need to know about water in order to maintain optimum hydration that we can and can’t see.

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How much water, how often?

Nutritionist Helen Bond says, “Hydration is crucially important for our health. Our brains are made up of about 75% water, so it follows that drinking water is vital for healthy brain function, and good physical and mental health. Dehydration can affect cognitive performance and motor functions, or in simple terms, can cause fatigue and upset our mood, short and long-term memory and attention span. Therefore to boost mood, keep yourself hydrated by drinking 1.6- 2 litres of fluid every day – even more if you’re active or in hot weather.”

Drinking plenty of water can also help you lose weight (should that be a goal for you), Bond adds. “This is due to the fact that water can increase satiety and boost your metabolic rate. Various studies show that drinking half a litre (17 ounces) of water increases metabolism by 24-30% for up to 1.5 hours.”

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Given that the skin is our largest organ, should we presume that the more water we feed it, the healthier it will be? “I think that we are often encouraged to drink more water than is actually needed,” Dr Justine Hextall says. “If we drink several litres of water a day we will just naturally excrete them – excess water will not be diverted to our skin. There is also a myth that it will flush out ‘toxins’. Removal of unwanted elements by the body is a complex process and unfortunately it is not as simple as flushing large volumes of water through the system.”

That said, the dermatologist thinks it is very important to remain hydrated during the day, and echoes Bond’s thoughts. “If we become dehydrated we can develop headaches, lose concentration, and our skin can look dull and lifeless amongst other problems,” notes Dr Hextall.

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Is it just regular water we should be drinking?

Plain water is not the only thing that contributes to fluid balance. “Tap, bottled, fizzy, hot and cold water, herbal teas, fruit juice, skimmed/semi skimmed milk all count,” says Bond. “While all fluids add to your daily fluid total, opting for water or herbal teas means that you’re not adding sugar or calories to your diet, while maintaining good levels of hydration.”

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Remember that many foods are also loaded with water. “Especially water-rich fruits and vegetables – veggies in particular are an excellent choice because not only do they flood the body with nutrients but they are low glycemic, so help to avoid blood sugar imbalances,” the nutritionist explains.

Dr Hextall recommends adding lemon to hot water as a morning drink, “which has great digestion advantages [which can also benefit skin], but dentists have muted concerns about the acidity and its effect on teeth, so it’s best to use a straw to bypass the teeth”. She says herbal teas, and particularly green tea, “are an excellent alternative to water as the antioxidants will definitely boost the skin”.

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Does water really have a visible impact on our skin?

“Definitely”, confirms Dr Hextall, “if we’re dehydrated this will show on the skin, turning it dry, tight and flaky.

“When skin is dehydrated it lacks elasticity, fine lines and under eye circles often appear more pronounced and skin tends to look flat. Whereas hydrated skin just glows, looking more plump, calmer and reflects light better hence the term ‘glowing skin’.”

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If skin is naturally dry and sensitive (not just dehydrated), it is particularly important to try and keep it as hydrated as possible, Dr Hextall explains. “When skin is inflamed, has eczema or psoriasis, transepidermal water loss is increased. For those with very severe and widespread inflammatory skin conditions, water loss is a real issue and fluid intake should be carefully monitored.”

So is it a case of the more H2o, the more glow? Well, you also need the right skincare. “The key to keeping skin hydrated is about ensuring we have adequate fluids while minimising water loss,” the skin doctor explains.

“So in winter months when central heating plays havoc with skin leaving it red and chapped, it is important to apply richer moisturisers that will protect the skin barrier, as well as making sure cleansers are gentle so to not unbalance the skin leading to further water loss. If skin is very dry an oil cleanser is often my advice. Hyaluronic acid and glycerin are particularly excellent skincare ingredients for maintaining skin hydration. I also often recommend looking for humectants in moisturisers to draw water to the skin, and incorporating a serum such as the DermaQuest Advance B5 Hydrating Serum (£58).”

FromHarper’s BAZAAR UK