Dr Zara Kassam

Water – your skin needs it – but just how much should you drink? Dr Zara Kassam PhD finds out.

We all know that water is vital for our health and our skin. Our bodies contain 55% to 78% water, depending on our size, and without it we’d only survive for a few days.

Strangely however, there is no specific formula to calculate exactly how much water we should drink and that’s because our needs vary significantly depending on the temperature, humidity, activity levels and caffeine or alcohol intake.

While it often said ‘let your thirst be your guide’ the UK’s the Eat Well Guide recommends we drink about is 6-8 eight ounce (or about 230ml) glasses a day.

So why do we need so much?

Water helps regulate our body temperature through our sweat. It helps eliminate waste products from our bodies in our urine and faeces. It is vital for just about every cell in the body to function optimally -and, since our skin is our largest organ and our main defence against the outside environment, we need water to keep that barrier intact.

Skin contains about 30% of our body’s water. When our skin is hydrated it looks plumper and bouncier but when its dehydrated it can appear dull, flaky, and sallow. Hyaluronic acid, our body’s natural filler which sits between our skin cells, effectively lubricating them, holds about 1000 times its weight in water and without enough our skin looks less plump and healthy.

But it’s not just important for plumping skin, water also plays a role in cell production. In order for the body to produce more collagen and elastin, the scaffolding that helps holds our skin up, we need to be well hydrated. And our body’s stratum corneum or outer most layer needs it to help keep what’s known as the ‘skin barrier’ intact. Dry and flaky skin lets more water our than is necessary and is also more susceptible to infection.


What happens if you don’t have enough?

As we mentioned already water keeps things flowing within our body, aiding in the body’s natural detoxification process. By increasing your body’s hydration, you increase blood circulation, which helps the excretory system and lymphatic system get rid of harmful toxins. But, when the body isn’t sufficiently hydrated the cells in our vital organs (heart, brain, liver and kidneys) take water from the blood so they can keep functioning. This makes the blood ‘thicker’.

To compensate the blood, in turn, pulls water from skin cells; This causes your skin to look dry and your eyes to look darker and sunken. Over time, dehydration can age you faster. When your skin is dry, it’s less resilient and elastic, making it prone to wrinkling.

How do I know if I’m drinking enough water?

There are two simple methods that can determine if you are getting enough water:

  • The skin pinch test. First, use two fingers to grab a roll of skin on the back of your hand. Pull the skin up about half to one centimetre high and then let the skin go. The skin should spring back to its normal position in less than a couple of seconds; if the skin bounces back slowly, you might be dehydrated.
  • Check your urine. If you’re well hydrated your urine will be mostly clear with a tinge of yellow – straw coloured. Dark yellow and orange-ish urine are the warning signs that you are dehydrated.


Tips for Staying Hydrated

  • Keep your water handy – and if you don’t like plain water add a splash of fruit juice of fresh fruit to it, the flavour will make it more appealing.
  • Drink tea – Reaching for unsweetened flavoured teas, or cosy up with a mug of hot peppermint or chamomile tea at night — all count towards your daily fluid goal. (However, take note that green and black tea is a diuretic, meaning it will increase your fluid loss, but the amount of water in it should in theory compensate.)
  • Choose your snacks carefully- Swap dry snacks like chips and crackers — which have a very low water content for refreshing treats like fresh or frozen fruit and yogurt.
  • Sip more – Sipping water with meals will help you eat more slowly, pace your eating, and of course stay hydrated.
  • Drink water room temperature or slightly chilled – When it comes to fluids, steer clear of intense temperatures. Icy water constricts the arteries surrounding the stomach, which help the stomach function properly and help with water absorption, the icy water will just sit in your stomach until it warms up which means, the water is not getting absorbed quickly. Fluids that are around room temperature or a little cooler are better options.
  • Keeping a humidifier around, especially in the winter, can do wonders for keeping your skin hydrated.
  • Avoid alcohol – while it contains water it also increases water loss.

Signs you could be dehydrated include:

  • Feeling thirsty
  • A dry mouth
  • Feeling tired
  • Not urinating regularly
  • Dark coloured urine
  • Urinating but not passing a reasonable amount
  • Headache
  • Dry skin
  • Dizziness