Can drinking water improve your skin?

You may have heard getting plenty of H₂O is key to having clear skin, but is there a link between drinking water and improving your complexion?

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C
May 20, 2020 · 6 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.
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We know that you know staying hydrated is crucial to your physical health. It makes sense to assume that drinking more water benefits the skin, too. As it turns out, from a medical perspective, drinking water doesn't directly impact your skin.¹ 

If you have dry skin, drinking water probably won’t make that much difference—we know that’s disappointing! But you can hydrate your skin by using products with ingredients that help lock in moisture.

The real benefits of drinking water

Your hydration levels don't directly improve dry skin, acne breakouts, or signs of aging. However, our bodies function best when we're adequately hydrated, so it's essential to drink enough water. Hydration keeps your organs working smoothly and replaces any fluids lost by sweating.

Water helps your body in so many ways, including regulating body temperature, helping to get rid of waste through urination and perspiration, and keeping your internal organs healthy.² Even externally, moisturizers and hydrating skin products replenish your skin's water content, which helps keep it healthy. 

How much water should you drink in a day? 

Most of us have heard that we should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. There's no hard evidence to support this rule—but it's easy to remember. 

The amount of water your body needs varies depending on your age, gender, health, activity level, and the climate in which you live. It also depends on how much hydration you get from other sources, such as beverages and water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables.³

Making water your drink of choice is one of the best ways to keep hydrated. Here are a few tips from the CDC:⁴

  • Drink water with meals

  • Drink water whenever you’re thirsty

  • Choose water instead of sugary beverages (like soda or juice)

  • Carry a reusable water bottle during the day for easy access

Easy ways to stay hydrated

Not exactly a huge fan of drinking water? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Here are six tips to make sure you’re getting enough H₂O and keeping your skin hydrated from within.

Tip 1: Eat foods that contain water. Fruits and vegetables are not only highly nutritious, but contain lots of water that will help keep you hydrated. Watermelon and spinach are great examples of some foods you can eat to contribute to your daily water intake.⁵

Tip 2: Use a humidifier. If you live in a place with a dry climate, a humidifier can help keep your skin hydrated. It can also help you cope with some of the potential drying effects of indoor heat. If your office feels like a boiler room, stash one next to your desk!

Tip 3: Make your own flavored water. Add some of your favorite fruit to your water to make your own naturally flavored water. If you want to feel like you're pampering yourself at a spa while you hydrate, drop in either cucumbers, basil, or lemon to your water. This gives your aqua an exciting flavor and makes it much more fun to drink.

Tip 4: Use warm or mild water when bathing. A hot shower or bath may feel great, but hot water can strip your skin of its natural oils, leading to dry skin. Instead, stick with warm water, which is gentler on the skin.

Tip 5: Moderate your room temp. Cranking your air conditioning to the max could dry out your skin, and the same goes for high heat. Try to keep your indoor temperature at a happy-medium—not too hot, not too cold—as much as possible. 

Tip 6: Moisturize regularly and properly. If you’re prone to dry or sensitive skin, use skincare products that take this into consideration into your daily routine.

How to hydrate your skin

There’s a difference between dry and dehydrated skin. Dry skin describes a skin type that produces very little oil (sebum). Dehydration describes what occurs when the skin lacks water—even oily skin can be dehydrated. Both dry and dehydrated skin may feel tight, dry, or rough, but signs of dehydrated skin include fine lines that appear more noticeable than normal along with itching and dryness.⁶ 

Drinking water won’t directly target dry or dehydrated skin, but body lotion and facial moisturizer can. You can use a moisturizer to help dry or dehydrated skin—you can even apply your cream to damp skin just after showering to better “seal in” moisture. Just remember that, if you have naturally dry skin, you can’t change your skin type. 

If you’re hesitant to use moisturizers because your main focus is clear skin and you’re afraid of breakouts, you’ll be happy to learn that keeping your skin hydrated could help prevent breakouts! When your skin is dry, it can be more easily irritated and prone to breakouts. And if you’re a fan of exfoliating, it’s generally a good idea to moisturize afterward. 

When it comes to skincare products, the options can be overwhelming, and moisturizers are no exception. You’ll want to choose one based on your skin type. A gel moisturizer offers light-weight hydration for those with oily or combination skin types, while a thick cream may be better suited for those with dry skin. Here are a few products we recommend and what to look for in a moisturizer:

For all skin types (including acne prone and oily skin)

  • The gel moisturizer by Curology is lightweight and designed for all skin types, even sensitive skin. Fragrance-free and paraben-free, it will help keep your skin moisturized and healthy.

  • Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel. This moisturizer has a lightweight gel texture with an oil free formula that includes hyaluronic acid.

  • Aveeno Ultra Nourishing Night Cream. This is made with ceramides and oat extract to soothe your skin. The formula is oil free as well, perfect for oily or acne prone skin.

  • ​​​​Kiehl’s Calendula Serum-Infused Water Cream. If you want to ensure your skin is hydrated but prefer a lightweight formula, this cream is made with soothing ingredients. 

For dry skin:

  • Curology’s rich moisturizer. If you want a thick, luxurious cream to nourish your skin, this is the perfect one. Also paraben-free and fragrance-free, this cream is soothing and non-comedogenic, which is perfect if you’re prone to breakouts.

  • Cetaphil Rich Hydrating Cream. This rich cream is fragrance-free and made with hyaluronic acid to help your skin feel hydrated all day.

  • Vanicream Moisturizing Skin cream. This is a gentle non-comedogenic formula with a rich texture.

  • Cerave Healing Ointment. Just as it sounds this product is designed to heal extremely dry skin. The cream is formulated with petroleum and hyaluronic acid.

So… what’s the takeaway?

There’s no research that directly connects drinking water to better skin, but drinking water for your health is always a good idea. While drinking water isn’t proven to improve the appearance of your skin, it will help your body function to the best of its ability, and your skin could reflect this. 

If your skin is dry or dehydrated, finding a moisturizer packed with the right ingredients is a great step to improve your skin’s hydration. If you’re noticing fine lines, which is a totally normal occurrence with age, a good moisturizer may help reduce the appearance of fine lines. Remember, your skin naturally changes as it ages, and that’s why many skincare products contain ingredients that target fine lines. Keeping your skin hydrated with a good moisturizer is a simple step to help with your quest for glowing skin.

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FAQs

How much water should you drink in a day?

Most of us have heard that we should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. There's no hard evidence to support this rule—but it's easy to remember. The amount of water your body needs varies depending on your age, gender, health, activity level, and the climate in which you live.

• • •

P.S. We did the research so you don’t have to:

  1. Mayo Clinic. Does Drinking Water Cause Hydrated Skin?. (2020, November 21).

  2.  Popkin, B. M., et al. Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition reviews.(2010, August 1)

  3.  Centers for Disease Control. Water and Nutrition. (2021, January 12).

  4. Mayo Clinic Staff, How Much Water Should You Drink?, Mayo Clinic, (2020, October 14).

  5. Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., Nutrition and Healthy Eating. Mayo Clinic. (2020, August 27).

  6. American Academy of Dermatology. Dry Skin: Signs and Symptoms.(n.d.).

This article was originally published on May 20, 2020, and updated on March 9, 2022.

*Cancel anytime. Subject to consultation. 

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

Allison Buckley Avatar

Allison Buckley, NP-C

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