Does Drinking Water Help Treat Dry Skin?

You hear it all the time, but is it true?

It’s the middle of winter and a lot of my dermatology patients have dry skin, even in our relatively mild climate here in Coastal Northern California.  Many are perplexed about it because they’re drinking plenty of fluids. 

Unfortunately, drinking water won’t fix dry skin any more than taking a bath will quench your thirst.

To hydrate your skin you have to add water and oil from the outside.  Bathing actually becomes therapeutic if you moisturize right after you towel off.

Taking a bath or shower actually adds the water your dry skin needs.  If you apply a moisturizer right after you towel off then you trap that moisture and – presto – moist skin!  If you don’t apply a moisturizer then all that water evaporates, leaving you with even dryer skin.  The key is the moisturizing step!

The only way to treat dry skin is with hydrating skin care.  Here’s how I explain it to my dermatology patients

Step 1: Bathe

Take a shower or bath in warm water, not hot, and ideally for 5 or more minutes to load your skin with water.

Water temperature is important.  To treat dry skin use warm, not hot, water to bathe.  Washing your skin is just like doing the dishes in that hot water cuts oil better and you don’t want that because it dries out your skin.

Step 2: Mild soap only and use it sparingly!

Bathe with only mild soaps and warm water.  Strong soaps remove too much of your natural skin oils, just like hot water does.  I recommend naturally made soaps that have natural soap glycerin still in them, or soaps made from glycerin alone.

Glycerin based cleansers are different than regular soap because they help hold water to your skin and they’re less efficient at removing skin oils.  Unfortunately most commercial soaps have the glycerin removed, leaving a very drying product.  Adding an oil or ‘cold cream’ to a drying soap doesn’t compensate, so don’t fall for the sales pitches, just find a glycerin rich product.  Good choices include Whole Food’s 365 brand glycerin bar, which is a deal at about $2.  L’Occitane has nice glycerin rich, natural bar soaps that are quite elegant.  A great liquid glycerin skin cleanser is Toleriane Cleanser.  It’s a richly hydrating, ultra-mild glycerin skin cleanser that’s great for severely dry skin anywhere on your body including your face and hands.  I’ve used it for years in my dermatology practice.  Click below to read more about it.

Toleriane Cleanser

Also, just soap up the parts of your skin with body odor glands unless you’ve gotten really dirty.  That means armpits, groin, buttocks and feet.  Be sure to rinse well too to remove all the soap residue.

Step 3: Apply your moisturizer within 3 minutes after toweling dry after every bath or shower.

Bathing loads your skin with water.  Trapping it with a moisturizer is how you treat dry skin.  You don’t need a heavy, thick layer of moisturizer to do the job.  Just cover your skin with a nice, thin layer of product that it can easily absorb.  It traps the water and the oil soaks into your skin.  This is what moist skin is, really!

If your skin is so dry that it’s cracked, itchy or painful then use a moisturizer with soothing water binding ingredients like rich oils, glycerin and possibly also lanolin.

If your skin is just dry and flaky then get all the hydrating and skin softening benefits of AHA’s (alpha hydroxy acids) by picking a moisturizer with glycolic acid or lactic acid.  It will work even better than plain moisturizers.  My Anti-Aging Body Kit has everything you need for soft, healthy, hydrated skin year round.  Use it every other day alternating with your favorite soothing moisturizer and have healthy skin that stands up to the elements.  Click below to read more.

Anti Aging Body Skin Care Kit with Glycolic Acid

Dermatologist recommended body moisturizer with glycolic acid

The Bottom Line: You treat dry skin from the outside in.  Don’t get me wrong, drinking water is good for your body, so do it.  But don’t look for ‘8 glasses of water a day’ to fix your dry skin.  Only in the extreme, when a person is massively dehydrated to the point that their level of dehydration is a health risk, will their skin be limp, flaccid, lusterless and dry because they’re thirsty. The dry skin that most people suffer from is caused by dryness on the outside and the fix is with the right skin care.

Photo: Thanks and Gratitude to tommerton2010

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4 Responses to “Does Drinking Water Help Treat Dry Skin?”

  1. Anson January 8, 2012 at 7:19 am #

    Thank you! :) I’m sick of people’s saying that drinking more water will hydrate your skin or flush out all the “toxins” that cause acne.

  2. Cynthia Bailey MD January 8, 2012 at 9:38 am #

    Your welcome, that’s actually what inspired me to write this. Saw one to many junk post on those spamy skin care sites saying ‘drink, drink, drink’ to fix skin problems. Lots of dry skin info hitting the web right now and I just had to set the issue right. Drink because it’s good for the body, but the skin need the right skin care to heal.

  3. Steve January 11, 2012 at 6:01 am #

    Thanks for the article. It was very informative. I’ve read a lot of contrasting advice on this. I didn’t know the water temperature was so important in treating the skin, I only bathe in hot water. I’ll take this advice on board, thanks again.

  4. Peter Sonessa January 12, 2012 at 7:24 am #

    I appreciate the info on what has already been mentioned to be a very misinformed subject. Common misconceptions is this field probably lead to a lot of dissatisfaction when people who drink, for instance, gallons of water, see little or no results. I’ll be taking your tips on board. Cheers!