Life on the blue planet is all about water. In fact, the adult human body is made up of up to 60% water.
It’s important for the function of every organ in your body, including your largest organ – your skin, which is made up of about 64% water.
So it seems a logical line of reasoning to imagine that downing a few extra glasses of H2O a day can reduce fine lines and sagging skin.
Unfortunately, the truth is hard to swallow: drinking water doesn’t make you look younger.
“No matter how much water you drink, you can’t eliminate wrinkles,” says Anna Gunn, registered nurse and clinical director of Mia La Maven, a premier wellness and aesthetic treatment clinic in Los Angeles.
Board certified dermatologist Dr. Kimberly Jordan agrees: “The theory that water prevents wrinkling or signs of aging is false.”
What really causes wrinkles… and why drinking more water doesn’t help
“Aging is certainly multifaceted,” says Dr. Jordan. Internal factors such as stress and genetics and external factors such as diet, UV rays and environmental exposure determine the visible signs of aging.
If you make a face, as your mother would say, it might just stay that way.
“More dynamic faces,” says Dr. Jordan, “or faces with a lot of muscle movement and strong facial expressions can create lines that are puffy on the face.”
“Starting at age 30, we lose 1% of the skin’s collagen each year,” she says. As we age, the bones around our eyes and jawline lose density, causing the facial fat pads to sink.
Environmental exposures to our face loosen the skin barrier, making it more difficult for the skin to stay hydrated.
All these factors combined, cumulatively, can make skin look dull and aged.
But unless you’re severely dehydrated, “the amount of water you drink has little to no effect on skin hydration,” says Jordan.
What Drinking Water Can Do For You
Although guzzling gallons won’t fill in fine lines, water is essential for good skin and good health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the recommended daily intake of 2.7 liters for women and 3.7 liters for men helps keep your joints, spine and other tissues in good working order and helps transport waste from the body.
Plain and simple, Gunn says, “drinking water makes you feel better.” When you feel better, you look better.
If you’re feeling tired, Gunn recommends drinking water to combat the visible signs of fatigue.
Proper hydration also helps with overall blood circulation.
A 2007 study found that supplemental hydration can increase blood flow to the skin, which, according to Gunn, is “essential for glowing and vibrant skin.”
Keep your skin hydrated
Dr. Jordan says the key to healthy-looking skin is keeping the skin barrier intact and hydrating with an external moisturizer. “External hydration can help reduce the signs of aging better than internal water intake,” she says.
Jerden recommends protecting your skin from UV damage, environmental pollution and oxidative stress, which can weaken the skin barrier.
She recommends applying a moisturizer daily.
Choose a humectant-based moisturizer to hydrate the skin or an occlusive-based moisturizer to prevent hydration from the skin.
“Even vitamin C serums can help portray brighter and more vibrant skin,” she says
Cover up for younger looking skin
“Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen,” Gunn recommends. Nothing helps reduce the visible signs of aging like diligent sunscreen application.
A 2013 study in Australia found that people who used sunscreen daily showed no signs of aging after 4.5 years.
Since about 80% of facial aging is caused by UV radiation, you’ll want to keep that baby face.
Eat your way to healthy skin
Dr. Jordan recommends a balanced diet with lean protein and healthy fats, along with limited caffeine and sugary drinks.
A healthy diet, sun protection, using moisturizers, avoiding smoking and tobacco, and of course, proper hydration are the most effective tools for keeping the visible signs of aging at bay.