Does Drinking Water Do Anything to Help My Dry Skin?

Dermatologist Dr. Franziska Ringpfeil weighs in.

Photograph by iStock/turk_stock_photographer

Dry skin in a plague that seems to be especially widespread during the winter months. Hands cracking, lips chapping — it’s all unpleasant and sometimes downright painful. And it’s not just our skin that feels dry throughout the winter either; the air feels dry, our throats feel dry and tickly — it sometimes it feels like the dry winter air is sucking the life right out of us.

When it comes to combatting this feeling, my response is typically twofold: guzzle some water — which somehow feels harder to remember to do during the winter — and load up on lotion. But is drinking water actually doing anything? Is the lotion?

Since our job is to ask all the stupid questions for you, I put the question to Dr. Franziska Ringpfeil, a dermatologist with Ringpfeil Advanced Dermatology.

According to Dr. Ringpfeil, “Most dry skin is not related to dehydration.” An easy check, though, to find out if you’re drying out due to lack of drinking water, is to look at your tongue. Is it also dry? If so, you probably need to drink. 

But otherwise, drinking a lot of water may not help your dry skin. Rather, you need to get moisture back into the skin, not your stomach.

There are a lot of other environmental elements that can be stealing moisture from the skin. It can be something we’re doing: Hot showers with soaps can strip away the skin’s natural oils. For others, it can be something that happened a long time ago: Sun-damaged skin may appear dry. For some others, it’s age: Skin gets worse a retaining moisture as it ages. For still others, it’s a skin condition.

But while you should always check with a dermatologist to see what’s going on with your particular skin type, here’s some of Dr. Ringpfeil’s general tips for returning moisture to the skin.

Embrace Humectants

What the heck is a humectant, you say? Well, it’s anything that helps something to retain moisture. In this case, it’s anything that helps your skin to retain moisture. For this, Dr. Ringpfeil recommends glycerin, which attracts moisture to itself, bringing more moisture into your skin with it.

“It’s a little tacky when you put it on the skin, but it’s very, very efficient,” says Dr. Ringpfeil. 

Cetaphil makes a lotion with glycerin that Ringpfeil likes for bringing more moisture back into the skin. Ringpfeil also likes Urea, which “comes very nicely formatted in a cream,” and can also be used to attract water into the skin. There are a number of lotions that include Urea — Eucerin makes one with ten percent Urea.

Add Moisture to the Air

You may have drunk bottle after bottle of water, but to help your skin to drink up and to put those humectants to work, replace the dry air in your home with a little more humidity. You can obviously buy an air humidifier, but Ringpfeil’s cheap way to do it is to put a bowl of water in front of an air source in your room, then allow the water to evaporate into the air overnight.

With more humidity in the air, those humectants have more moisture to draw into the skin, says Ringpfeil. Then just sit back, relax, and let your skin do the drinking.

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