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Foods that may help hydrate the skin, according to experts

What you eat and drink won’t magically relieve dehydrated skin, but staying hydrated is still important.

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Curology Team
Jan 04, 2023 · 7 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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  3. > Foods that may help hydrate the skin, according to experts

A healthy diet is important for having healthy skin, but it’s not a substitute for good skincare practices. The food you eat—no matter how much water it contains—likely won’t directly hydrate your skin. For that, you’ll need to follow a skincare routine that includes cleansing, moisturizing, and protecting. That’s not to say that what you eat isn’t integral to maintaining your health, skin included. Here we’ll explain what dry skin is and discuss how you can make healthy choices when it comes to deciding what to eat. We’ll also take a look at certain foods that may help dry skin and others that don’t. 

Dry skin vs. dehydrated skin: What’s the difference?

First things first: dry skin and dehydrated skin are two different things. Dry skin is often considered a skin type (like oily skin or combination skin), but dehydrated skin is a condition. Dry skin is when the body produces too little oil (sebum). Dehydrated skin, however, results from having too little water in the skin, and that can happen to anyone regardless of skin type.

Dehydrated skin is common. It’s often caused by external factors like cold weather, low humidity, sun damage, harsh skincare products, and some things we can’t control. When it comes to dry skin, however, age is one of the major contributing factors, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. That’s because, after age 40, the skin naturally produces less oil (sebum). Other factors that contribute to dry skin include certain medications and medical conditions, and skin conditions like atopic dermatitis (eczema), psoriasis, and seborrheic dermatitis.¹ 

Dry skin can appear red, flaky, and dull and can feel tight and uncomfortable. It may also have a rough texture. The good news is that simple lifestyle changes, including daily use of a moisturizer, can make a big difference in giving dry skin a refreshing “boost.” 

Can you hydrate your skin from the inside out? 

The quick answer is sort of. There are no foods that moisturize the skin, and while drinking water is definitely a good idea in general, there is little evidence that this would directly hydrate your skin.² That said, water intake from certain foods and drinking water is beneficial for your overall health, including healthier skin. So, what you put into your body can affect its outward appearance.

The CDC recommends getting your daily dose of water from foods with high water content (like fruits and vegetables), plain drinking water, and other low- or no-calorie beverages like sparkling and flavored waters. How much water you should consume each day depends on factors like age, lifestyle, and condition (like if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding).³ 

Some of the best foods for overall health and water intake 

Before you go googling things like “best foods for skin repair,” know this: the research is limited. But there are foods with a higher water content that can contribute to your total daily water intake. As a general rule of thumb, stick to fruits and veggies. Here’s a list of some top producers—in terms of water content.  

  • Watermelon 

  • Lettuce 

  • Strawberries 

  • Cantaloupe 

  • Cucumber 

A few other things to consider when looking at your diet’s effect on skin health include nutrients. Studies show that foods rich in vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, polyphenols, and beta-carotene positively benefit skin health.⁴ 

  • Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that may improve skin barrier function. While these studies are small, they suggest that the consumption of oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids has the potential to improve skin barrier function. Flaxseed oil is high in alpha-linolenic acid (a type of omega-3) and may improve transepidermal water loss (TEWL), skin hydration, and skin sensitivity. These studies are promising but more research is needed.⁵

food unsaturated fats
  • Polyphenols have different effects on health based on their chemical structure. In general, polyphenol-rich foods have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which work to promote skin smoothness and boost elasticity by protecting collagen and elastin from breaking down.⁶ Some good sources of polyphenol-rich foods include berries, pomegranates, other colorful fruits, artichokes, chicory, spinach, asparagus, and broccoli. 

  • Beta-carotene is a type of carotenoid that gives plants, fruits, and vegetables their yellow-to-red color (i.e. bell peppers, carrots, beets, cantaloupe). Carotenoids are used in cosmetics and can boost collagen and elastin. They have been shown to reduce water loss from the skin, resulting in improved skin hydration.⁷

  • Vitamins A, C, and E are biggies when it comes to skin health.⁸ Vitamin A is important for skin regeneration (retinoids like retinol and tretinoin are derivatives of vitamin A commonly used topically to reduce fine lines). Vitamin C is well known for its antioxidant properties and ability to scavenge free radicals. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that helps reduce damage from sun exposure.

Other nourishing foods include:   

  • Avocado

  • Citrus fruits  

  • Berries 

  • Tomatoes 

  • Sweet potato

  • Sunflower seeds

  • Salmon

  • Legumes

  • Green tea 

  • Dark chocolate 

There is also no strong evidence of foods that cause dry skin. But if your goal is hydration for the body and skin, there are some foods you may want to pass on to help keep your body and skin as healthy as possible in general.⁹ (Bonus: Avoiding some of these foods may also help reduce acne breakouts.)

  • Sugar

  • Spicy food

  • Salty foods

  • Processed foods

  • Fatty foods

  • Starchy foods

  • Caffeine 

  • Alcohol 

How to help prevent and treat dry skin?

Hydrating is more than what to drink for dry skin—it’s also about treating the skin from the outside in. And there’s no substitute for good skincare. Here are a few things you can do to help prevent and treat dry skin

  • Use a humidifier to combat dry air during the winter months. Dry air can zap the moisture from your skin. 

  • Use gentle cleansers that work with your skin. Use lukewarm water when washing your face and air dry, or pat dry with a soft cloth.

  • Remove makeup using micellar water, like the Micellar Makeup Remover by Curology, instead of harsh makeup removers. 

  • Apply moisturizer daily and throughout the day, as needed. Try the Curology Rich Moisturizer or the Curology Gel Moisturizer to attract and seal in moisture. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends applying moisturizing lotion after getting out of the tub or shower and using lukewarm water to wash up.¹⁰ 

  • Avoid scratching flaky skin. Instead, use a gentle exfoliant—not a scrub—to slough dead skin cells. 

  • Take lukewarm showers and minimize long hot baths. Hot water has a tendency to dry out the skin. 

  • Treat underlying skin conditions with the guidance of a licensed dermatologist or dermatology provider. 

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Dry skin can be frustrating to deal with, but Curology can help! We strive to take the guesswork out of your skincare routine—licensed dermatology providers work with you to examine your skin, assess your skincare goals, and provide custom treatment options.

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FAQs

Dry skin vs. dehydrated skin: What’s the difference?

First things first: dry skin and dehydrated skin are two different things. Dry skin is often considered a skin type (like oily skin or combination skin), but dehydrated skin is a condition. Dry skin is when the body produces too little oil (sebum). Dehydrated skin, however, results from having too little water in the skin, and that can happen to anyone regardless of their skin type.

Can you hydrate your skin from the inside out?

The quick answer is: sort of. There are no foods that moisturize the skin, and while drinking water is definitely a good idea in general, there is little evidence that this would directly hydrate your skin. That said, water intake from certain foods and drinking water is beneficial for your overall health, including healthier skin. So, what you put into your body can affect its outward appearance.

How to help prevent and treat dry skin?

Hydrating is more than what to drink for dry skin—it’s also about treating the skin from the outside in. And there’s no substitute for good skincare. Here are a few things you can do to help prevent and treat dry skin: 

  • Use a humidifier to combat dry air during the winter months. Dry air can zap the moisture from your skin. 

  • Use gentle cleansers that work with your skin. Use lukewarm water when washing your face and air dry, or pat dry with a soft cloth.

  • Remove makeup using micellar water, like the Micellar Makeup Remover by Curology, instead of harsh makeup removers. 

  • Apply moisturizer daily and throughout the day, as needed. Try the Curology Rich Moisturizer or the Curology Gel Moisturizer to attract and seal in moisture.

  • Avoid scratching flaky skin. Instead, use a gentle exfoliant—not a scrub—to slough dead skin cells. 

  • Take lukewarm showers and minimize long hot baths. Hot water has a tendency to dry out the skin. 

  • Treat underlying skin conditions with the guidance of a licensed dermatologist or dermatology provider. 

• • •

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

  1. American Academy of Dermatology. Dry skin: Who gets and causes. (n.d.).

  2. Kathryn Bentivegna, et al. Nutrition and Water.Clinics in Dermatology. (2021).

  3. Centers for Disease Control. Water and healthier drinks. (n.d.).

  4. Mchalak, M., et al. Bioactive compounds for skin health: A review. Nutrients. (January 2021).

  5. Parke, M.A., et al. Diet and the skin barrier: The role of dietary interventions on skin barrier function.Dermatology Practical and Conceptual. (January 2021).

  6. Mchalak, M., et al. Bioactive compounds for skin health: A review. Nutrients. Ibid.

  7. Mchalak, M., et al. Bioactive compounds for skin health: A review.Nutrients. Ibid.

  8. Paravina, M. The role of diet in maintaining healthy skin.Journal of Dermatology and Cosmetology. (2018).

  9. Paravina, M. The role of diet in maintaining healthy skin.Journal of Dermatology and Cosmetology. Ibid.

  10. American Academy of Dermatology. Dry skin relief. (n.d.).

Elise Griffin is a certified physician assistant at Curology. She received her Master of Medical Science in physician assistant studies from Nova Southeastern University in Jacksonville, FL.

• • •
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.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Elise Griffin, Physician Assistant Curology

Elise Griffin, PA-C

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