Many of us are aware of the importance of staying hydrated. In addition to transporting nutrients and minerals throughout our body, consuming an adequate amount of water each day can do many positive things for our health and wellness. However, in this article, I’m going to focus on hydration and skin. And more importantly, how does dehydration affect your skin?
It turns out that being dehydrated can strongly affect the appearance of your skin, in addition to making it irritable, itchy and even wrinkled. In this article, I’ll be addressing some common questions in relation to your skin and dehydration. As well as providing some tips to help you avoid dehydrated skin.
The Difference Between Dehydrated Skin And Dry Skin?
First I should start by addressing the common notion that dehydrated skin and dry skin are the same; this is not true. Dry skin can lack sebum, a natural oil that your body produces. If your sebaceous glands produce too much sebum, you can end up with skin that is quite shiny and considered oily.
When your body produces an adequate amount of sebum, it helps naturally moisturize and protect your skin. Skin type is not influenced by external factors, and for the most part, it is permanent. While your skin may produce more or less sebum at different stages throughout your life (for instance, it is typical that more sebum is produced during puberty), dry skin is not primarily related to hydration.
Dehydrated skin, on the other hand, is a result of your body not receiving enough water. It has nothing to do with the amount of natural oil your body produces. It is a temporary condition that is caused by external factors. In this article I’ll be focusing primarily on dehydrated skin.
How Can You Tell If Your Skin Is Dehydrated? (Dehydrated Skin Test And Other Symptoms)
So all this talk about dehydrated skin, but how can you actually tell if your skin is dehydrated? One method is a simple pinch test, suggested in this Healthline article.
Dehydrated Skin Pinch Test
The test follows a simple procedure to help determine how hydrated (or dehydrated your skin is). For starters:
- Firstly, while standing across from a mirror, lightly pinch and hold a small portion of your skin from your cheek with your finger and thumb of one hand.
- If you are noticing some wrinkling around the pinched area, you might be dehydrated.
- Furthermore, if your skin doesn’t bounce back to its original position, it could be a good indicator that you are mildly dehydrated.
What Happens To Your Skin When You Are Dehydrated? (Other Symptoms That Might Indicate Dehydrated Skin)
Dehydration can affect your skin in many different ways. These can include lines and wrinkles being more obvious on your skin, your skin feeling tight or itchy, your skin looking dull (opposed to glowing), and your skin being more sensitive than usual. I’ll explain each of these examples of how dehydration can affect your skin in more detail below.
Skin With Lines and Wrinkles – Similar to the pinch test results that were described above, lines and wrinkles are more noticeable on dehydrated skin. Maybe an extreme example, but dehydrated skin can be compared to how plants or leaves (typically in the fall season) become wrinkled when they lack water.
Tight and Itchy Skin – This is common after being exposed to various weather conditions. Too much time in the sun, or the wind, can cause your skin to lose moisture. This leaves your skin feeling tight, and can result in the urge for you to itch it.
Dull Skin – This can be the result of dead skin cells that build up on the surface of your skin. Dehydrated skin can slow the process of cell turn over. Essentially this means the rate at which your dead skin cells are replaced with new ones, is slowed down. This can leave your skin looking a more dull color (instead of bright and glowing), as well as contributing to clogged pores.
Sensitive Skin – When your skin is dehydrated, it lacks the nutrients to adequately protect itself. This can result in your skin becoming more irritable or sensitive to external factors such as pollution, bacteria, and other germs. The cycle continues when these external factors penetrate your skin, as it only increases your skin’s sensitivity and irritability.
What Causes Dehydrated Skin?
Above I have discussed various different symptoms of dehydrated skin, and how you can identify if your skin is dehydrated. But what actually causes dehydrated skin? Dehydration by definition is when your body loses more water than it gains. So apart from not drinking enough water (the obvious answer), there are several different external factors that can cause dehydrated skin.
As soothing and refreshing as they may be, hot showers can cause your skin to dehydrate by damaging the outer layer of skin cells. This causes cells to dry out and can make them irritable and itchy.
As previously discussed, sun and wind can both play a major role in dehydrating you. Burns (from the sun or wind) raise the temperature of your skin. Your body uses more water than usual as it tries to cool these burns down and reduce the skin temperature of the affected area. After the initial inflammation of burnt skin begins to settle, skin can begin to feel dry, itchy, or even start to peel.
As with everything in life, alcohol is best consumed in moderation. Alcohol is a diuretic substance that causes your body to produce more urine. This results in you needing to go pee more frequently. You can become dehydrated if you are not replenishing the lost fluids that you are peeing out.
Working in an office building with a large air conditioning system may be having more of an impact on your skin than you realize. Air-conditioned air is lower in humidity than usual (more dry). Humidity relates to the content of water vapor in the air. If your skin is feeling tight and irritable, or your lips are chapping after a few hours into your workday, there is a good chance it is from the air conditioning. This is similar to pressurized cabins on airplanes. We recently wrote an article titled Why Does Flying Dehydrate You, where we discuss this in-depth.
Lack Of Sleep
As we all know, sleep is the main way our bodies recharge. It is important to get a good nights sleep to wake up feeling refreshed in the morning. A lack of sleep can have you waking up the next morning with a headache, or feeling groggy. In some instances, side effects of poor sleep are in relation to your body waking up dehydrated. In a recent article we wrote, Sleep and Dehydration (Are They Related?), we discuss the strong connection between dehydration, the impact it has on your sleep pattern, and how you feel when you wake up the next morning.
How Do You Fix Dehydrated Skin? (Tips For Dehydrated Skin)
Dehydrated skin can typically be treated with some positive diet and lifestyle changes. To prevent dehydration, you need to minimize the amount of liquid your body loses, or consume more water to replenish your body’s lost fluids. Below I’ll review some different options for both diet and lifestyle.
Changes In Your Diet To Prevent Dehydrated Skin
- First and foremost, drink water. It is the best way to keep your body and your skin hydrated. We recommend purchasing a reusable water bottle as you can fill it up in the morning, and it can accompany you throughout your daily routine. It is also easier to keep track of your water intake and set goals (for example: refill water bottle at lunchtime) if you are using the same sized water bottle each day.
- We recommend using the Hydro Flask stainless steel water bottle that you can find here on Amazon. It is well insulated (for both hot and cold drinks), travels easy, and is durable. It was our top pick in a recent article we wrote, Best Water Bottles For Daily Use, that you can read if interested.
- While it is important to drink water, you also consume a lot of fluids by eating foods that are rich in water. Typically foods that are rich in water are plant-based, such as fruits and vegetables. Examples include watermelons, peaches, oranges, cucumbers, lettuce, as well as soups and broths. Try to mix in more of these kinds of foods throughout your day to increase your water intake.
Lifestyle Changes To Prevent Dehydrated Skin
Some of these lifestyle changes have been previously mentioned throughout this article, but I will summarize them and provide a few more examples.
- Enjoy a warm shower, but consider lowering the temperature if you typically have the heat on full blast. This will help to prevent your skin from becoming dehydrated as showers that are too hot can damage the outer layer of your skin, and remove natural oils. Causing skin to become irritable and itchy.
- If you are stuck in a large air-conditioned office, consider applying chapstick and moisturizer to your face a few times throughout the day, or as required. This will help hydrate your skin from the office air that is low in humidity. We recommend Burt Bee’s 100% Natural Moisturizing Lip Balm found here on Amazon, and a face moisturizer from Neutrogena, that can be found here, also on Amazon.
- It is important to protect your skin from the sun and wind. Apply sunscreen regularly when outside, even on cloudy days. Try to cover exposed skin on windy days when you are required to be outside (use scarves, bandanas, etc.).
- Regular exercise helps promote a healthy lifestyle in general, but it also does a lot for your skin. Exercise improves blood circulation, which helps to supply your skin with nutrients. Furthermore, as you exercise, sweat helps to remove toxins from your pores. However, be sure you are hydrating adequately before, during and after exercise; it is important to replenish lost fluids. Consider having a hydration drink after exercise. It will help hydrate your body more effectively and efficiently than water. Try Liquid I.V. Hydration Multiplier found on Amazon here. It was our top pick in a recent article we wrote, Best Hydration Drinks For Runners.
- As previously mentioned, alcohol is a diuretic and increases the amount of urine your body produces. Consuming alcohol in moderation will help to keep your body, and skin hydrated.
In this article, I looked at how dehydration can affect your skin and reviewed the difference between dehydrated and dry skin. Dehydrated skin is influenced by external factors and is when your body is not receiving enough water, dry skin is a lack of natural oil produced by your body. A simple pinch test can help tell the difference.
I next discussed how your skin looks and feels when dehydrated, and reviewed some of the external factors that are dehydrating your skin. These external factors include hot showers, the weather, alcohol consumption, air conditioning and a lack of sleep. Finally, I provide some simple diet and lifestyle changes to help keep your skin hydrated and feeling great.
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Facts for this article are referenced from credible sources. For further information, please read the referenced article from the following organization:
- Healthline – Is My Skin Dehydrated?
Be sure to consult your health care professional with any medical questions. Similarly, the information found in this article should not be considered medical advice.