Moisturisation and hydration – it’s not just about drinking lots of water

Hydration is central for all the skin’s functions so getting and keeping water where it’s needed is essential.

Woman applying moisturiser
When we talk about moisturisation, we mean applying moisture from the outside, usually in the form of skin creams. Hydration is getting water to your cells from the inside, by eating and drinking the right things – not just H2O.

Hydration controls the enzymes responsible for ordered release of cells from the surface and prevents build up of dead cells; it’s this build up that makes the skin’s surface look dull. And since this level of hydration is key to healthy skin, it is also interesting that all the science points to well hydrated skin, at any age, looking better than dehydrated skin.

However old we are, we’ll look better if we don’t allow the dead cells to pile up on the surface giving it that dull appearance. Proper hydration helps prevent this pile up! What about the other things we can do that keep the skin healthy? Hydration is really important for general health as well as skin health, but we can’t assume that drinking 2.5 litres of water alone is the answer. We have kidneys that respond to excess water. That’s their job.

Fluids in any form, including the watery flesh of cucumbers or apples, contribute better to hydration than plain water. They also contain other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to keep us in good health. Alcohol and caffeine tend to dehydrate our bodies when we overdo it. But from our skin’s viewpoint, the dermis in its youth has lots of water-binding material to keep it healthily resistant to knocks and bumps. With age, these water-binding materials reduce, so there is less to bind circulating fluids. Fluids help keep what is there healthy but cannot make up for the loss.

Alcohol dehydrates our skin, but even worse, if we continually drink too much, it changes the way the blood flows in the skin. Our skin will look pale or in time blood vessels break and produce an uneven complexion that adds to the effects of dehydration. We can probably all picture someone who has the recognisable redness that goes with alcohol abuse.

If we continually drink too much.. Our skin will look pale or in time blood vessels break and produce an uneven complexion that adds to the effects of dehydration.

Stress has much the same effects. Your skin can become dull and dehydrated skin from long term lack of sleep, or other stresses in our daily lives such as relationship breakdowns. I’ll pick up on this in the piece on sensitive skin.

So part of keeping your skin healthy – as well as reducing alcohol and making sure you get enough sleep – is to make sure you hydrate yourself properly. Don’t rely on plain water (as our kidneys will just flush away all the extra). Eat fruit and veg that hydrate as well as giving us essential vitamins and minerals.

Cleanse and moisturise with a regime that’s right for your skin, and always remember that you need water from the inside, as well as on the outside.

Steve Barton

About Steve Barton

I'm a skin biologist fascinated by the wonders of this organ that keeps us apart from the outside world. I'm semi-retired, continuing to keep a hand in cosmetic product development by working in consultancy and education. When not talking skin you'll find me listening to or playing music; or I'll be finding hills to walk, photos to take, or sketches and short stories to create; unless I'm distracted by my 2 granddaughters! I can be found on Twitter @Skin_Thinking

  • Gonna make an extra effort to eat more fruit and veg.

  • Sophiee Addison

    If you want to look younger and beautiful, you have to take more care about your skin not only internally but externally also. To reduce the appearance of various signs of aging you can use some good dermatological tested product. I know one such product named as Stemuderm. It is a Solvaderm brand product. You can find it online.