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DOES DRINKING WATER IMPROVE YOUR SKIN’S COMPLEXION?

I die a little inside every time I hear someone say to me…

“I’ve started drinking more water to help clear my skin.”

Does drinking water improve your complexion?

Biting my tongue, I keep my thoughts to myself because I know that I wouldn’t have the time to fully explain why drinking water is not going to clear their skin.

In fact, a 2010 article published in the scholarly journal Nutrition Reviews confirms the absurdity of this claim by stating:

“One of the more pervasive myths regarding water intake is the improvement of the skin or complexion. Numerous lay sources such as beauty and health magazines as well as the Internet suggest that drinking 8–10 glasses of water a day will ‘flush toxins from the skin’ and ‘give a glowing complexion’ despite a general lack of evidence to support these proposals.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that drinking water is important for our overall health and I’m certainly not writing this post to discourage you from drinking water.

In fact, during my research I even found a few small studies that demonstrated improvements in skin hydration. Adequate skin hydration, however, is not sufficient to clear acne or to prevent wrinkles and other concerns related to skin complexion.(1)

So if you are forcing yourself to drink gallons of water a day in the hopes of improving your complexion, I hope you’ll take the time to read the facts, evidence, and reputable sources that back this article. My goal is to put an end to the belief that drinking water can improve your complexion!

The science of drinking water

The reason why there is a lack of evidence supporting the claim that drinking water can improve skin’s complexion can be explained by science.

Let’s think about it from an anatomical perspective:

When you drink water, it begins its decent through the digestive tract. The majority of fluids in the diet are absorbed in the duodenum (the proximal small intestine) and the rate at which these fluids are absorbed is dictated by the rate of gastric emptying to the small intestine.(1)  Clear fluids, such as water, are emptied from the stomach rapidly (T1/2  30 minutes).(2)

SMALL INTESTINE

Image from WebMD

 

No matter how much water is consumed, the rate of water absorption is still dependent upon gastric emptying rate and is limited by the absorption capacity of the intestines. Even if there is an increased absorption of water through the intestines, it’s not like this excess water is going to be delivered straight to your skin cells. As if your body knows that you want to minimize the appearance of wrinkles on your face.

California dermatologist Dr. Katie Rodan gives the perfect analogy to explain this concept.

“Humans aren’t like plants. Our skin doesn’t perk up when we consume water. Water doesn’t go straight to the skin, it goes through the intestines, gets absorbed into your bloodstream, and is filtered by the kidneys. Then it hydrates cells.” (3)

Human Aren't Like Plants

The relationship between water and your skin

However, an important relationship does exist between water and our skin: the skin maintains water levels in the body by preventing the loss of water into the environment. This is accomplished due to the overlapping cellular structure of the stratum corneum and lipid content of the skin, which serves as “waterproofing” for the body. (1)

The cause of skin dryness has been associated with many factors, including exposure to dry air, prolonged contact with hot water, scrubbing with soap, various diseases, and some medications.

Of note, severe levels of dehydration can manifest in reduced skin turgor (the skin’s ability to change shape and return to normal) with tenting of the skin as a flag for dehydration. (1)

Studies and expert opinions

Everyday Health featured an article titled “10 Myths and Facts About Water” in which one of the myths included “drinking water can help keep your skin moist.” To confirm, Amy Hess-Fischl, RD, CDE, explains:

“Unless the individual is severely dehydrated, drinking large quantities of water will not prevent dry skin. Basically, the moisture level of skin is not determined by internal factors. Instead, external factors such as skin cleansing, the environment, the number of oil glands, and the functioning of these oil-producing glands determine how dry the skin is or will become. The water that is consumed internally will not reach the epidermis [the top layer of the skin].” (4)

Another expert that has debunked the myth that water will improve complexion is Dr. Mehmet Oz, cardiothoracic surgeon and TV personality. This myth was tested by researchers along with 40 other experiments in the five-part television series called The Truth About Food, hosted by Dr. Oz.

In a survey for The Truth About Food, 85 percent of those surveyed reported that they believed a person should drink at least a half-gallon of water each day to keep their skin looking young. To put this myth to the test, Dr. Oz conducted a very small experiment with twins Susie and Alice. Both women admitted to drinking a lot of water (up to a liter and a half per day) because they believed it made a difference in their skin.

To determine whether water really does make a difference, researchers first measured the moisture, elasticity and oiliness of each girl’s skin. Over the next week, the twins ate the same diet-except Alice drank plenty of water, and Suzie drank no water. (5)

Dr. Oz says whether the twins drank water or not made no difference to their skin. Why? Dr. Oz explains that the main reason for this we get enough water from the foods we eat every day and the effects of drinking extra water are negligible.

My last expert opinion comes from Paula Begun, the author of 20+ best-selling books on cosmetics, busts this beauty myth by saying:

“If all it took to get rid of dry skin was to drink more water, then no one would have dry skin and moisturizers would stop being sold. Ironically, dry skin is not as simple as just a lack of water. So, drinking more water won’t make dry skin look or feel better (but you will be visiting the bathroom more frequently!).”

So what can you do to improve your complexion?

Fortunately, you control 80% of your skin’s destiny. Your complexion can be improved by following these 3 main principles:

  1. Eat the right kinds of foods
  2. Be cautious of what you expose your skin to
  3. Use an appropriate moisturizer

 

What are the right kinds of foods?

Dr. Leslie Baumann, a professor of dermatology at the University of Miami Florida suggest to incorporate foods in your diet that are high in essential fatty acids to help skin cells stay hydrated. Examples of foods rich in EFAs include walnuts, flaxseed, salmon, and olive oil. (3)

walnuts

 

What should I avoid exposing my skin to?

The following factors will strip oil from your skin, leaving it dry and more prone to breakouts and signs of aging:

  • Prolonged exposure to hot water
  • Dry air
  • Extreme weather conditions
  • Harsh soaps and astringents

 

How can I choose an appropriate moisturizer?

Moisturizers are intended to coat the skin to prevent it from losing water as well as provide protection and healing.

A good moisturizer should also be hypoallergenic, non-sensitizing, and non-comedogenic. (6)

There are three types of moisturizers:

1. Occlusive – physically prevent against water loss by forming a thin film over the surface of the skin and can be very helpful for severe dryness. However, they can be messy and not very cosmetically appealing (these mostly consist of oils)

2. Humectant – absorb water from the atmosphere and also from the lower layers of the skin, making the upper skin that is touchable, more moisturized. (7) One negative about humectants is their potential to draw water from surrounding cells that can actually dry the skin further. (6)

3. Reparative – combine the properties of both occlusive and humectant moisturizers.

 

Is your goal to improve your skin’s hydration?

In May, dermatologists Dr. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields released a product that can raise the skin’s hydration level by 200%! It’s called Active Hydration Serum, and if you haven’t tried it yet, you need to! Read my full review on Active Hydration Serum here.

Rodan and Fields Active Hydration Serum Review

So does drinking water improve your complexion?

Using the research and expert opinions that I outlined in this article along with my own personal experience I have concluded that no, drinking water does not improve your complexion.

Yes, that is right I, too, fell for this myth a while back. Mostly due to desperation because for some reason I started getting horrible acne. Like painful cystic acne. Nothing I put on my face helped it. Not even prescription products!

While this is embarrassing to admit, I started to try to drink a gallon of water every day after watching a YouTube video by some guy who said it had cleared his acne. Well, the only thing this habit did was make me have to pee about 1294948 times a day.

What did work for me was when I started to clean up my diet, investing in my skin with the Unblemish regimen, and committing to taking care of my face better.

 

 

 

References:

  1. Nutr Rev. 2010 Aug; 68(8): 439–458.
  2. https://www.aic.cuhk.edu.hk/web8/gastric_emptying.htm
  3. https://www.futurederm.com/will-drinking-water-improve-skin-hydration-2/
  4. http://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/10-myths-and-facts-about-water.aspx
  5. http://www.oprah.com/health/Dr-Oz-on-Food-Myths_1/11
  6. http://www.the-dermatologist.com/article/2766 
  7. https://www.futurederm.com/what-are-the-differences-between-occlusive-humectant-and-reparative-moisturizers/ 

FREE RADICALS AND ANTIOXIDANTS: BREAKING IT DOWN

The topic of free radicals and antioxidants can be complex, so that’s why I’m going to break it down for you! This post will cover exactly what free radicals and antioxidants are, and why they are important in both your diet and your skin care routine.

Free Radicals and Antioxidants

So what is an antioxidant?

Let’s break it down: As we know “anti” means opposed to, therefore we know that antioxidants are substances that are opposed to oxidants.

…but what are oxidants?

Oxidants, also called free radicals, are substances that have the ability to oxidize other substances (cause them to lose electrons). They have an unpaired electron in their atomic orbital, but are still able to exist independently. An atomic orbital is capable of holding two electrons, but free radicals only have one unpaired electron, which makes the free radical unstable and highly reactive.

When free radicals contain oxygen, they are called reactive oxygen species (ROS). Under normal conditions, oxygen molecules are stable and nonreactive because they have an even number of electrons. Once again, however, when reactions occur that leave the oxygen molecule with an odd number of electrons, the molecule becomes unstable and highly reactive.

Why are free radicals bad?

Due to the high reactivity of free radicals, they will attempt to either donate that single electron to another molecule or accept an electron from another molecule so that they can become stabilized. This can lead to a chain of events that starts ripping electrons off surrounding molecules. 

The problem arises when the free radicals react with our important cellular components, such as DNA, proteins, carbohydrates, or the cell membrane. When this happens, the cells become dysfunctional or undergo apoptosis (cell death). Collectively, the damage to cells in our body is referred to as oxidative stress. Many environmental factors can lead to oxidative stress, such as pollution, cigarette smoke, UV radiation, chemicals, etc. 

Free radicals and antioxidants

Fortunately, the body has a defense mechanism against free radicals: antioxidants. Antioxidants work through many different mechanisms, with the main objective being to interfere with oxidative processes that produce harmful free radicals and ROS. For example, they may act by scavenging free radicals and breaking the chain of reactions, by binding metal ions, or by removing oxidatively damaged biomolecules. (Karger, 2001) 

In order for the body to defend against free radicals, it must be supported with antioxidants. Some antioxidants are produced by our bodies and others we must obtain from our diet. There are hundreds and hundreds of antioxidants that come from different foods such as fruits and vegetables, but here are some of the more common antioxidants:

  • Alpha tocopherol (vitamin E)
  • Ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
  • Beta carotene
  • Lycopene
  • Resveratrol
  • Selenium

Under ideal circumstances, the body can balance the level of antioxidants with the number of free radicals it’s exposed to in order to prevent them from damaging cells. However, this balance can be disrupted by factors like poor nutrition and toxin exposure, which causes the level of antioxidants in the body to be lower than that of free radicals. When this happens, oxidative processes can wreak havoc in the body, manifesting as accelerated aging, damaged or mutated cells, an overloaded immune system, and the activation of harmful genes within DNA. (Dr. Axe)

 

So how do we prevent free radical damage?

Of course, the first and most important way to prevent free radical damage is to intake enough antioxidants through our diet. If you eat a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, you are probably getting the right amount of antioxidants. However, if you want to up your antioxidant game, check out this top 10 list of foods containing the highest amount of antioxidants.

 

TOP 10 FOOD SOURCES THAT ARE HIGH IN ANTIOXIDANTSFree Radicals and Antioxidants

  1. Rice bran (24,287)
  2. Dark chocolate (20,816)
  3. Black raspberries (19,220)
  4. Semi-sweet chocolate  (18,053)
  5. Pecans (17,940)
  6. Ginger root, raw (14,840)
  7. Elderberries (14.697)
  8. Golden raisins (10,450)
  9. Black chia seeds (9,800)
  10. Blueberries (9,621)

I created this top 10 list of foods based on the 2017 data developed by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). (Superfoodly.com)

The foods are in descending order based on their ORAC scores with rice bran being the highest 24,287 ORAC score and blueberries coming in at a 9,621 ORAC score.

(psst…if you are like I was and are wondering what ORAC score means I’ll fill you in: ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity and it is a lab test that determines the amount of antioxidant activity the food has in the body.)

Of note, there are many herbs and spices (such as oregano, cinnamon, and turmeric) that have higher ORAC values than the foods I listed, but I did not add these because I wanted to mainly focus on antioxidants in foods.

I cannot even begin to describe the excitement I felt when I saw that dark chocolate is one of the foods that contains a high amount of antioxidants! I love dark chocolate.

Free Radicals and AntioxidantsAlso, while it does not make the top 10 list, coffee has also been shown to have antioxidant properties! Win for all of us coffee-addicts!

No need to worry my tea-lovers: the polyphenols found in green tea can help prevent against depletion of antioxidant enzymes. (FutureDerm)

 

BENEFITS OF ADDING ANTIOXIDANT RICH FOODS TO YOUR DIET:

  • Bright, glowing, healthy skin
  • Slows down the aging process as it relates to skin, eyes, brain, joints, etc.
  • Protection against cardiovascular disease
  • Decreases risk for developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Less risk of vision disorders (i.e. cataracts)
  • And more!!

Click here to try my Antioxidant Smoothie Recipe & learn how you can start incorporating antioxidants into your diet TODAY!

THE ROLE OF ANTIOXIDANTS IN SKIN CARE

As mentioned above, eating a diet rich in antioxidants can help keep your skin looking youthful. But what about all of the skincare products that are marketed to contain antioxidants?

Using an antioxidant skincare product is one of the best ways to keep your complexion bright and glowing. When applied topically, antioxidants can help to prevent free radical accumulation from common stressors (UV radiation, chemicals, other toxins) that can destroy our skin’s collagen, thus causing wrinkles and other signs of aging.Free radicals and antioxidants

During my research, I found that certain antioxidants are especially potent when applied topically, including

 

  • Vitamins C and E
  • Ferulic acid
  • Caffeic acid
  • Phloretin
  • Resveratrol
  • Green tea
  • Grapeseed extract
  • Coenzyme Q10

 

So are all antioxidant skincare products created equal? Well, not exactly. Below are my top 3 picks for the most effective antioxidant serums on the market:

 

1.FutureDerm vitamin CE caffeic silk serum 16+2 This product has a smooth and silky application and it can give you real results. The unprecedented 16% vitamin C, 2% vitamin E, and caffeic acid are all excellent antioxidants that help scavenge UV-induced free radicals as well as stimulate collagen production in the skin.

 

2. Rodan and Fields REVERSE Dual Active Brightening Complex – This product contains vitamin C to effectively brighten the skin along with retinol to diminish signs of wrinkles and fine lines. Plus, this R+F combo is formulated with Kojic Acid and Licorice to improve the appearance of uneven skin tone over time.

 

3. Skinceuticals CE Ferulic – This product combines L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C), alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), and ferulic acid (a polyphenol) to maximize antioxidant performance. It made the top 3 list because of its proven efficacy: in 2003, an independent study by Lin et. al. found that the solution of 15% L-ascorbic acid and 1% alpha-tocopherol increases photoprotection against damaging UV rays and free radical formation.

 

Keep in mind that the best way to reap all of the benefits of antioxidants is to incorporate them into your skincare routine and your diet. This is because some topical products cannot reach the deepest layers of the skin and antioxidants in foods and supplements may not make it to the top layers, according to Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D., dermatologist in Miami, Florida.

 

So what are your thoughts on antioxidants? Do you have any favorite products? Share in the comments below 🙂

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