External Thirst

Everything from travel to changes in the weather can rob your skin of water.

by Lisa James

May/June 2018

 

You know how important it is to drink plenty of water in order to feel and perform your best. What you may not know is how much poor hydration affects how you look.

“Dry, dehydrated skin can be a temporary condition or a lifelong concern,” says skincare researcher Diana Howard, PhD. She adds that dryness “can be genetically determined or a product of an increasingly stressful lifestyle coupled with continual exposure to the sun, wind and chemicals in the environment.”

You can’t do much about your genes. However, you can control other skin dehydration factors.

Hydration Foes

Even if your skin is not naturally dry, it can still be dehydrated. That’s because your skin type is determined by how much oil it produces; your skin condition is determined by whether or not it contains enough water. “Skin moisture is actually water, not oil,” says dermatologist Cynthia Bailey, MD, of Sebastopol, California.

Both dryness and dehydration will make skin feel tight and itchy. However, skin that lacks moisture also tends to be flaky, dull and sensitive. In some cases, dehydrated skin can become oily and breakout-prone, as the skin tries to make up for reduced water levels by creating excess oil.

Temperature changes can cause dehydration. “Cold winds, air conditioning, forced air heating and low temperatures can dry out skin,” says Howard. So can travel, whether it’s the dry air in a plane or the loss of moisture through perspiration resulting from long hours in a car.

Slaking Your Skin’s Thirst

Drinking water and eating water-rich produce help keep your skin’s tank topped up. But there are other lifestyle changes you can make to avoid dehydration.

Smoking is as bad for your skin as it is for the rest of you, as is alcohol. On the other hand, fat is your skin’s friend, so include avocados, nuts and oily fish in your diet.

During the winter, place bowls of water near your radiators to raise moisture levels. During the summer, don’t set your air conditioner too low. And while long, hot showers feel luscious, they’re hard on skin hydration.

The right skincare formulation can also go a long way to keeping your skin comfortable. Look for a line of products that includes a cleanser, a toner and both day and night creams. The best products are made with plant-based ingredients that are either organically grown or ethically gathered from the wild.

Some ingredients appear in many humidifying skincare products, such as glycerin, which can draw moisture from the air. But better formulations also include plant extracts such as avocado, which helps reduce the appearance of age spots and fine lines; ginkgo, which fights free radicals; hops, which soothes inflammation; horsetail, which has toning properties; sage, which stimulates cell renewal; and yarrow, which tones blood vessels.

Do you have flaky, itchy skin? Keeping it hydrated can help bring relief.

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