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Five Key Steps to Hydrating Your Skin
Written by Dr. Lydia Waterson   

Hint: drinking water doesn't work!

woman's face from side rising up out of waterThere are many myths surrounding the hydration of our skin. While it can be hard to separate myth from fact, the one truth we can all be sure of is this: hydration is the key to healthy, youthful-looking skin that functions at its best. When it comes to hydration strategies, however, things aren’t so cut-and-dry.

Why Water Won’t Work

Dr Lawrence E Gibson, MD, associated with the Mayo Clinic staff, states that although proper hydration is important for overall health, it is not clear that drinking extra water affects the skin’s hydration in healthy people. There are many good reasons to drink water as it regulates body temperature, keeps brain function optimal, is very important for regulating bodily functions, aids in digestion, is key in carrying nutrients into organs, and provides a moist environment that benefits ear, nose and throat.

Dr Katie Rodan, a dermatologist in the San Francisco Bay area and co-author of Write Your Skin a Prescription for a Change states: “Humans aren’t like plants. Our skin does not perk up when we drink water.” When you drink a glass or more of water it doesn’t go straight to the skin. It goes through the intestines, where it is absorbed into the blood stream, circulated through the body to do its job where needed, and finally filtered through the kidneys, flushing out waste products. After all that, it hydrates the cells.

When it comes to keeping the skin hydrated, studies have shown that drinking fluids falls short of moisturizing the skin. A 2002 study conducted at the Dartmouth medical school found no skin hydration benefits from drinking eight glasses of water a day. Although the skin is made of water-filled cells like the rest of the body, fluid affects every other organ in the body before it arrives at the skin cells.

How to Hydrate Properly

The skin is made up of three layers: the outer layer (epidermis), the underlying skin (dermis) and the subcutaneous fatty layer. If the outer layer of the skin doesn’t contain enough water, the skin will start feeling rough and lose its plumpness and elasticity. Despite this connection, research has shown us that drinking water is not the answer.

There are five important steps we can take to keep our skin properly hydrated:

  1. Maintain the health and integrity of the epidermis. The epidermis is key in preventing loss of moisture from the skin.
  2. Control the level of humidity in your environment. The level of humidity in your environment is affected by excessive heating, central air conditioning, low temperatures in winter, high temperatures in summer and sun exposure. All of these factors cause loss of water from the epidermis, leading to dehydrated skin. Once we understand this, we can control many of these factors. I always advise my patients to have a humidifier in their homes, for overnight use in their bedrooms, and in their work spaces.
  3. Manage other factors that affect the health of the skin. Aging, hormones, certain medications, excessive sun and wind exposure, occupational factors that cause irritation, and many other factors can affect the health of the skin on a daily basis. Try to modify or eliminate damaging factors wherever possible.
  4. Avoid excessive cleansing. Prolonged and repeated contact with water as part of an excessive cleansing routine will compromise the integrity of the skin and aid in dehydration.
  5. Maintain moisture levels. The most important thing we can do is keep existing water in the skin! This can be accomplished using humectant products that fix water within the skin’s corneocytes, along with hydrophilic products that form a gel and hold water, or hydrophobic products that create a water-tight film on the surface, limiting the loss of water from the skin.

Discuss your skin’s moisture levels with a professional skincare therapist who can suggest appropriate products for protecting, moisturizing, and maintaining the integrity of your skin.

Dr. Lydia Waterson -

Internationally accredited since 1986, Dr. Lydia Waterson practices at The Coliseum MediSpa in West Vancouver, specializing in and providing popular treatments in aesthetic medicine. www.thecoliseum.ca

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