You know how it goes: An interviewer (like yours truly) asks a celebrity how her skin looks so dewy and smooth all the time, and there's a good chance said celebrity mentions that she drinks "a lot of water" in her answer. It's such a common response that, of course, most of us have accepted it as truth—beauty editors included. And the idea that drinking a lot of water hydrates your skin just makes sense, right?
If you're looking for a laugh, just imagine the look on my face when two experts told me that this actually isn't the case. I was having an otherwise pleasant lunch with skincare gurus Marie Veronique and Kristina Holey, who recently collaborated on an excellent trio of serums. While enthusiastically detailing my own regimen, I unknowingly yet spectacularly put my foot in my mouth when I boasted that I drank so much water on a daily basis and that I was sure this contributed to my natural glow. "Actually," Holey interjected kindly. "That's a very common myth. Drinking a lot of water doesn't directly hydrate your skin."
I'm pretty sure I choked on the water I was drinking when she said that, like my body was viscerally rejecting the liquid that, as it turns out, wasn't the beautifying elixir I thought it was. The conversation moved onto other things, but even after I left, I felt positively duped—outraged, even. And naturally, I had to investigate the matter further.
Does drinking water actually hydrate your skin?
The short answer is no, except in extreme cases of dehydration. Basically, there's little to no research to support the idea that drinking a lot of water makes your skin any more moisturized than if you drank an average amount per day, which is what Holey was getting at. At best, one study out of Israel found results to be contradictory: Scientists asked one group of participants to drink more than the recommended eight glasses of water per day, and another group to drink less, and over the course of four weeks, they couldn't quantify any marked difference in skin smoothness or aging among the two groups. So no: Drinking more water than the recommended amount isn't going to give you a better complexion.
On the other hand, drinking far less water than the recommended amount could have a negative impact on your skin (among other things)—research shows that skin might lose some of its elasticity or take on a "tenting" effect. To be clear, you're only likely to see that impact in serious cases of dehydration (which hopefully means you'll never experience it firsthand). This also means that except under those extreme circumstances, you can't really blame your water intake (or lack thereof) for your dry skin.
To be clear, you should still make sure you're drinking enough water
It's still crucial for your body's survival and optimal function, which, if we're speaking superficially, does have an indirect impact on your skin. "Drinking adequate amounts of water affects the amount of blood flow and, ultimately, the amount of water, oxygen, and nutrients that reach our skin, as these are carried in the blood," explains Amanda Doyle, MD, FAAD, an NYC-based dermatologist. "It also helps flush toxins from the body."
That being said, if skin dryness is your chief complaint, there are more effective ways to remedy that than chugging H2O. "Using the appropriate moisturizer for your skin type [is the most efficient way to hydrate your skin]," says Doyle. "Also make sure to wash with a gentle wash and cool water, as hot water can dry the skin." Shop some of our go-to moisturizers below.
Next up, learn about the wildly popular moisturizer that Sephora can't keep in stock.
Wolf R, Wolf D, Rudikoff D, Parish LC. Nutrition and water: drinking eight glasses of water a day ensures proper skin hydration-myth or reality? Clin Dermatol. 2010;28(4):380-3. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2010.03.022
Popkin BM, D'anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, hydration, and health. Nutr Rev. 2010;68(8):439-58. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x