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How hydration helps dry winter skin

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Itchy, flakey, wind-burned winter skin needs a lot of love. Treating your skin right during the drier winter months means paying attention to hydration, inside and out.

In this post, we’ll dig into hydration, examining the role of drinking water (do you really need 8 glasses a day?) and the impact of moisturizers (layer ‘em up!) so you can understand how to treat dry winter skin.

flamingo putting its head into water

The more water you drink, the better you feel? 

Well, maybe.

Researchers agree that adequate water intake is important for nearly all our body’s processes. Among other functions, it carries nutrients and oxygen to our cells, cushions joints, and protects organs and tissues, all of which is helpful in keeping our skin looking healthy.

But before you start repurposing that gallon milk container, consider this: there’s actually no good evidence that MORE water beyond what your body needs to stay hydrated is better. In fact, we can’t conclusively link drinking more water to any of the specific beauty benefits we might really crave, like reduced wrinkles.

As one group of researchers put it,"how-to books, beauty journals, the Internet, and the media usually recommend drinking six to eight glasses of water each day for keeping the skin hydrated, helping it look healthier, and making it less prone to wrinkles. We have found no scientific proof for this recommendation; nor is there proof, we must admit, that drinking less water does absolutely no harm."

And another study that looked at aging over decades found that drinking water “did not show a statistical correlation with youthfulness of facial skin appearance.”

Of course, if you are experiencing dry winter skin, chapped lips, or other annoying symptoms, adding an extra few ounces of water per day might help (and probably won’t hurt). This study concludes that drinking water does help our skin, even if it doesn’t make us look younger.

How much water do you need?

From a health perspective, the timeless recommendation of 8-10 (8 oz) glasses of water daily is probably a good guideline. The CDC also recommends drinking more if you’re exercising, in a hot climate, running a fever or, ahem, losing fluids.

hand with lotion running over it

Don’t skimp on moisturizer, especially in winter

Our skin experiences more fluctuation in temperature and ambient moisture during the winter months, which is why we get pesky symptoms like dryness, flakiness, and irritation. We can even things out for our skin by paying more attention to topical hydration (moisturizing!) in the winter.

In general, all moisturizers work by providing hydration to the skin and trapping it there. We can understand moisturizers a bit more by dividing them into three classes: humectants (which attract water, usually by drawing it out of the air), occlusives (which trap water in the skin) and emollients (which provide hydration themselves). Bonus: moisturizing is especially important for aging skin, and is one of our Anti-Aging Strategies to Start Right Now.

Most moisturizers combine ingredients from a couple of these classes, like the sodium hyaluronate (a humectant) and glycerin (an occlusive) in this Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum. Layering them yourself via separate products can also be helpful in extra nippy weather.

But moisturizing doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated.

For your face, a simple oil that works with your skin type, like sweet almond or argan oil, can help immensely. Just avoid relying on coconut oil, which can clog pores. And Amlactin, our favorite all-over moisturizer for its lactic-and-alpha-hydroxy-acid formulation and one of Teen Vogue’s 2017 Drug Store Diamonds, is under $13 on Amazon.

water pouring into drinking glass on blue background

To summarize...

When the air gets dry and cold, it’s especially important that we pay attention to both internal and external hydration. We can do this by drinking water and other liquids, and by moisturizing our skin.

Here’s the best way to maintain hydration during dry months:

  • Drink 8-10 (8-oz) glasses of water per day
  • Apply moisturizer consistently
  • Consider layering different moisturizers—a humectant spray plus a serum that delivers and locks in moisture, for example
  • Add more water if you’re feeling dehydrated or experiencing dry skin, but know there’s no evidence that overdoing water intake actually helps

What are your best strategies for staying hydrated in the winter? We’d love to see them in the comments below!

If you’re looking to improve your skin’s tone and texture as you improve its hydration, consider The Base Layer botanical skincare gummies your skin care routine’s secret weapon. They rely on polypodium leucotomos, an ingredient backed by 30+ years of clinical evidence, to protect and improve skin from the inside out. Start your subscription today!

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