Drinking half a gallon (8 x 8-ounce cups/ 2 litres) of mineral or tap water throughout the day for at least four weeks improves the condition of your skin.
There’s a lot of information online about water giving you clear skin. Staying hydrated is important for overall health and to maintain clear skin and a healthy glow. But how much do you actually need?
This article covers all you need to know about how water improves your skin. Especially by tackling conditions like acne. It includes how much water you need and how often you should drink it, and explains how long it takes to see some benefits.
Amount of water needed for clear skin
Drinking at least half a gallon (8 x 8-ounce cups/ 2 litres) of mineral or tap water each day has been shown to improve the condition of your skin (ref 3) and have influence your skin physiology (ref 1).
This is the same amount of water that is recommended each day for individuals 13 years and older according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) (ref 5).
Although, this recommended amount does change depending on your age, sex, and whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding. The chart below shows how much water you actually need to drink each day.
Note: These amounts are what you should be consuming from drinks alone. Your overall daily fluid intake will be higher than this as it includes the fluids that you get from both food and drink.
This chart was created by Russell Singleton for www.waterpurificationguide.com. Data sourced from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate.
You will need to add on at least 30-50 ounces (1 – 1.5 litres) of water for every hour of exercise you do on top of these recommended daily amounts.
Benefits of drinking water for your skin
Acne is a skin condition caused by the accumulation of dead skin cells, elevated sebum excretion drying on the surface of the skin and around hair follicles, higher skin pH values (more alkaline), and acne-producing bacteria such as Cutibacterium acnes (formerly Propionibacterium acnes) (refs 6, 3).
There is no evidence that drinking more water will get rid of acne. However, drinking water does have the effect of aiding in the production of new sebum (waxes, oils, free fatty acids made by sebaceous gland)ref 6 and maintaining the correct low pH of your skin. Both help decrease acne breakouts and skin blemishes through removing old sebum from the skin and protecting the skin from harmful acne-producing bacteria.
Skin Surface pH
Maintaining an optimal skin surface pH reduces scaly skin (which can be itchy) and protects your skin from attack or infection by physiological and pathological micro-organisms.
You’ll often read that your skin needs to be in “balance” and that washing your face with tap water can achieve this, because it has a neutral pH (pH of 7). Washing your face is obviously very important for clear skin, but trying to change the pH of your skin can actually do you harm.
How clean and clear your skin is relies on having an acidic skin surface pH. This is known as the ‘acid mantle’ (ref 4).
The surface of your skin will naturally have a pH below 5 (ref 3).
Drinking at least half a gallon of mineral water or tap water each day for 30 days has been shown to maintain or lower the skin surface pH to this naturally and ideal acidic level (ref 1).
A study in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science (ref 1) showed skin surface pH remained in the physiologically optimal range of approximately 5.5 in individuals who drank eight 8 ounces (8 x 8 ounce glasses) of mineral water each day for 4 weeks. In the same study, individuals who drank tap water had a significant decrease in skin surface pH even though they were drinking pH neutral tap water.
This acid mantle helps stop foreign skin micro-organisms from inhabiting and attacking the skin. Your skin will be more prone to attack if it’s pH is greater than 5, which is easily solved by drinking plenty of water.
Overall, maintaining the correct skin surface pH (below 5) is one of the most powerful ways to maintain clear and supple skin.
Manage sagging skin
Sometimes, weight or fat loss causes the skin to sag. Water can significantly increase skin thickness and density. However, they typically have an inverse relationship with one another. This means that as skin thickness goes up, density goes down, and vise versa.
Anecdotally, people say water improves skin elasticity and firmness, which can help with sagging skin and tightening of skin around troublesome areas such as the stomach, legs, and jaw. Although it may take around 4 weeks to notice any effect, this is healthier and longer lasting than the common water fasting approach some people attempt to try and manage skin sagging.
Drinking water to target fatty or saggy skin areas on your body is, unfortunately, a myth.
Drinking water has been shown to reduce skin scaling (ref 3), which is a common cause of skin and scalp itchiness. Staying hydrated by drinking water means your skin remains moisturized and hydrated, and this can reduce the urge to itch. Drinking water also reduces cracked and flaky skin.
Have you ever noticed swelling in certain parts of your body when you’re feeling dehydrated? This happens when your body is trying to retain water because it is dehydrated. So, when you drink enough water, you prevent puffiness and smooth out your skin.
How long does it take to see the benefits?
There’s no scientific evidence that a specific amount of time is required before noticing the effects of drinking enough water on your skin
However, most clinical studies that look at the effects of drinking water on skin condition are carried out over a four-week period (e.g. ref 1, 2). It appears that four weeks is enough time for any noticeable changes in the skin to have taken effect.
That being said, water is not a medication with prescriptions and expected result time. It is an essential ingredient for the proper functioning of all body organs and for adequate nutrient supply to the skin through blood circulation.
To continuously benefit from the positive effects from water, you should make it a daily habit to stay hydrated. If you want to learn more, Popkin, D’Anci and Rosenberg spoke extensively about the numerous benefits of water in their paper, water, hydration and health.
When is the best time to drink water?
The amount of water your body loses and the time, depends on your daily activities. The most effective way to get the best results from water is to drink the recommended daily amount by spreading it out across the entire day.
Your body can only process certain amount of water by the hour. If you concentrate your water consumption to one specific time of the day, you’ll end up peeing it out faster than it can circulate the body system and perform its required functions.
Focus on staying hydrated. Your entire body system will benefit from it.
Factors that influence having clear skin
The skin is the largest organ of the body made up of mostly water.
Without enough water, your skin won’t function at its best and it’ll become dry, flaky and more prone to ageing. Water in this case refers to the one gotten both internally and externally.
Apart from water, other factors that influence the beauty of your skin are:
The food you eat
Consuming water-rich foods or fruits like watermelon, and antioxidant-rich foods provides your body with a percentage of the daily water requirements which reflects on your skin. Similarly, if you have too much oily food with saturated fat, you’ll be more prone to skin clogging and eventually, acne.
The water you use to bathe (hot or cold), and the time you spend, also affects the appearance of your skin.
For instance, having long showers with water that has a high chlorine content will do more harm to your skin than good.
Your skincare products
Your choice of products is very important because the ingredients present can either make or mar your skin. For example, any skincare product (e.g. soap, lotion, etc.) rich in alcohol will have a negative impact after prolonged use, especially if your skin isn’t naturally oily.
If you’re frequently exposed to dry air, chances are your skin will be dry most of the time. The longer the exposure period, the higher the chances of having cracks and flakes on your skin.
What else can you do to hydrate your skin?
Nourishing the skin from the inside out isn’t always enough. Drinking water and eating healthy, benefits you as much as exercise and other skincare routines. That is, you can, and should, supply water to your skin directly from the external environment as well as the internal.
One important way to hydrate your skin from the outside is to make use of moisturizers.
Moisturizers contain three important components that contribute to overall skin glow. There’s:
- Emollients such as natural oils, which smoothens the rough edges between the cells and the skin outer layer;
- Occlusive which forms a protective layer over the outer skin; and
- Humectants which pulls in hydration to the outer skin layer.
Simply put, a moisturizer helps absorb water and keep it locked in the skin.
Other things to keep in mind
Getting your water from food
You’ll agree that drinking plain water for hours will eventually start feeling bland. You can work around this by finding other interesting and healthy ways to meet your daily water requirements. Fruits like cucumbers, watermelon and strawberries have high water content and can contribute to your daily water intake.
Reduce alcohol and sweet intake
Alcohol and sweets can cause dehydration and inflammation which aggravates skin conditions like acne and eczema. Even if you can’t completely cut off alcohol, you should limit how much you have each day or week.
Indulge in exfoliation
This is the removal of dead cells from the outermost layer of the skin. It allows the easy penetration of water and skin care products. Working with a dermatologist would help prevent over-exfoliation, and potential redness and itchiness.
Optimize your shower routine
Moisturize your body immediately or a few minutes after your shower; it is more effective this way. You should also keep in mind that patting down your body with a clean towel is healthier than roughly wiping off the water droplets.
Everyday, your body loses a large amount of water through your skin and other organs. It is important to always replenish lost water as it is easier to spot the effect of dehydration on the skin than hydration. Dryness, itchiness and puffiness are usually the most prevalent.
Remember, drink only enough water as your body requests. If you’re already adequately hydrated, it makes little to no difference to consume more water.
- Williams, S., Krueger, N., Davids, M., Kraus, D. and Kerscher, M., 2007. Effect of fluid intake on skin physiology: distinct differences between drinking mineral water and tap water. International journal of cosmetic science, 29(2), pp.131-138.<https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-2494.2007.00366.x>
- Palma, L., Marques, L.T., Bujan, J. and Rodrigues, L.M., 2015. Dietary water affects human skin hydration and biomechanics. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 8, p.413. <10.2147/CCID.S86822>
- Lambers, H., Piessens, S., Bloem, A., Pronk, H. and Finkel, P., 2006. Natural skin surface pH is on average below 5, which is beneficial for its resident flora. International journal of cosmetic science, 28(5), pp.359-370. <https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-2494.2006.00344.x>
- Schade, H. and Marchionini, A., 1928. Der säuremantel der haut (nach gaskettenmessungen). Klinische Wochenschrift, 7(1), pp.12-14.<https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01711684>
- Sawka, M.N., 2005. Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. Chapter 4-Water. Army Research Inst of Environmental Medicine (IOM) Natick MA. < https://www.nap.edu/read/10925/chapter/6>
- Pappas, A., Johnsen, S., Liu, J.C. and Eisinger, M., 2009. Sebum analysis of individuals with and without acne. Dermato-endocrinology, 1(3), pp.157-161.<https://doi.org/10.4161/derm.1.3.8473>