What does water have to do with skin? A ton. Your skin is full of water—30 percent water, in fact—and keeping it there can help make your complexion healthy and happy.
Water content is a major factor in your skin’s plumpness, elasticity and resilience to the elements. Studies have found that decreased skin hydration is linked to greater depth and quantity of wrinkles. (Noooooo!)
The good news is that by learning how to boost your skin hydration levels and lock in moisture, you can improve the look and feel of your skin, and you may even be able to decrease signs of aging, including wrinkles.
Do I just need to guzzle more water?
Hydration is essential, no doubt. Research shows that if we are chronically dehydrated, drinking sufficient water can boost skin thickness and density, but overhydrating is neither necessary nor beneficial. Plus, adequate hydration isn’t enough to help prevent signs of skin aging, like wrinkles.
How do you know if you’re drinking enough water? An easy way is to ensure your urine is pale yellow or colorless. You may be consuming more water than you realize, especially if you follow a plant-based diet. Many foods—fruits and veggies, in particular—contain plenty of water.
Okay … what does help preserve water in my skin, then?
It all starts with the first step of your skincare routine: cleansing. It may sound strange, but your natural oil (sebum) helps keep your skin moisturized.
That’s why over-scrubbing your skin or using harsh cleansers dries you out. By destroying your skin’s natural “waterproofing” oil layer, you allow much-needed moisture to escape. The solution? Use a gentle facial cleanser without alcohol, sulfates or artificial fragrances.
Moisturizing properly is equally important. Here are some ingredients that can help trap moisture in the skin.
Also known as “barriers” that work to waterproof the skin, occlusives include a number of different waxes. Vegan options include candelilla wax and carnauba wax.
Humectants attract water to the skin and include vegetable glycerin or hyaluronic acid (which has been shown to increase skin hydration and decrease the depth of wrinkles).
A third type of moisturizing ingredient, emollients, doesn’t technically help hold water in the skin, but it does help smooth skin and can be very valuable in a moisturizer. Examples include many natural plant oils and butters, like shea and cocoa butter.
Using a humectant without an occlusive can sometimes lead to water loss in the skin, so make sure your moisturizer contains both types of ingredients. Thankfully, many excellent moisturizers that contain all three ingredient types are stocked at natural health retailers.
Wouldn’t it be simplest if I just made sure water was an ingredient in my skincare products?
Although it seems counterintuitive, water itself doesn’t always make the best skincare ingredient. In moisturizers, it means the need for preservatives (natural or synthetic) and limits room for active ingredients like those described above.
On its own, water applied topically can even be drying, pulling moisture from the skin as it evaporates. That’s why it’s so important to apply moisturizer after showering or bathing.
What about facial mists?
On the other hand, facial mists can be moisturizing, provided they have the right ingredients and are used correctly. Beauty experts and bloggers alike attest to their numerous functions, like setting makeup, helping to tone skin, refreshing and cooling skin throughout the day and priming skin for makeup application.
Mists that contain ingredients like natural plant extracts, vitamins, emollients and humectants are formulated to be used without blotting, while pure thermal or mineral waters are meant to be patted off after a few minutes. Whichever you choose, make sure it’s free from artificial fragrance, alcohol and parabens, and select one formulated for your skin type.
Anything else I should know about water and skin?
Not all water is created equal when it comes to skincare. Most importantly, make sure it’s not too hot. Water that’s too hot disrupts your lovely natural oil layer, letting precious water escape.
Hard water has also been linked to skin disorders like dermatitis. Some people who live in locations with hard water and suffer from skin disorders choose to invest in a water softening system. Others swear by shower filters, saying that showering in filtered water helps their complexions.