Does drinking water help acne?

Exploring just how important water intake is to your skin.

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Sarah Stivens
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It's the nagging thought you often have towards the end of the day — how much water have I drunk today? If the emotional support water bottles are piling up, or your hydration tracker app is beeping at you, we get it. Life gets busy and it can be easy to forget to stay on top of your water intake.

But what happens to your skin if you skip a glass of the good stuff? In this article, we'll explore just how important water intake is to your skin — and whether it makes a difference to your acne treatment journey.

What are the benefits of drinking water for your body?

You've heard it in every health class — water is extremely important when it comes to your health and bodily functions [1]. It helps to regulate your temperature, heal wounds, engage in physical activities and even influences how your brain works [2].

When your body doesn't have enough water, dehydration can happen. Signs of dehydration include dizziness, dark urine, feeling thirsty, and fainting [3].

Going by the memes and TikToks, there are a lot of us that don't drink as much water as we should. But dehydration can have serious, even life-threatening consequences [2]. Even minor dehydration can affect your thinking or physical health [3].

Drinking enough water also helps your body to:

  • Maintain healthy digestion
  • Regulate hormone levels
  • Boost immune function
  • Absorb nutrients
  • Keep teeth healthy and prevent decay
  • Support joint health
  • Deliver oxygen throughout the body
  • Remove waste products (this is our polite way of saying proper hydration = less constipation)
  • Promote cell growth and protect organs [3].

There are so many benefits to mention that we'd be here for the next year if we included them all (we haven't even got to the kidneys). But in a nutshell, without water, we'd die!

Why is skin health important?

The skin is the largest organ in the body, and isn't just a canvas for fun makeup looks— healthy skin is crucial to your survival [4].

Skin acts as a barrier from nasties in your environment: keeping out infection, allergens, and chemicals you come in contact with. Not to mention, there's the whole keeping your bones and organs on the inside part of the deal [4].

Lastly, your skin helps stop you from losing too much water — keeping your body temperature even and making sure you don't overheat or get dehydrated.

Because your skin plays such a central role in your health, it's important to look after it. And that means proper skin hydration [5].

What does water do for your skin?

Water plays a big part in helping your skin do its job — protecting you. Research suggests that drinking plenty of water helps your skin perform its barrier function. It can also mean you're less likely to develop skin conditions or will have fewer skin concerns in general [1].

There's evidence that keeping your skin hydrated can even prevent early signs of ageing! Adequate skin hydration has been linked to people developing fewer wrinkles, or wrinkles that aren't as severe or deep [6].

What causes acne?

If water improves skin health, and our bodies are made of around 80% water, why do we still get acne? [1].

The 2 biggest culprits that cause acne to develop are genetics and hormones [7]. Hormones change as we age (most noticeably around puberty) and cause the oil glands in our skin to get bigger. As the glands enlarge, they also start releasing more oil. Where there's excess oil production — there's acne [7].

If we busted out the magnifying glass and zoomed right in, we'd see that acne occurs because of excess oil and dead skin cells blocking our pores.

Bacteria then takes its chance and starts growing in the clogged pores, and our skin (or hair follicles) gets inflamed. Enter: acne [7].

Does drinking water help acne?

Back to the original question: how does staying hydrated keep acne breakouts at bay? The key word above is 'inflamed'. Remember how we mentioned skin getting angry when your pores are clogged? Turns out anything that irritates your skin can be a trigger for acne [8].

This can include things rubbing against your skin, harsh chemical treatments, certain makeup products (or products that are too heavy), and skin dryness [8].

Here's how it goes: dryness means irritated skin, so your oil glands go into excess oil production mode to make your skin moist again. Then because of the extra oil, acne comes to town [7].

So if we're doing the math — dry skin = acne. And what helps with dry skin? You guessed it, drinking water. Research shows that people who actively stay hydrated experienced dry skin significantly less often than people with low water intake [1].

Does drinking water prevent acne breakouts?

While drinking water may help with your overall skin health, just guzzling the h20 alone won't prevent breakouts [1]. To truly keep on top of acne, it's important to know your triggers and the right treatments for your skin.

Triggers for acne could be things like stress (which messes with your immune system and in turn, your skin), hormone levels, greasy cosmetics or hair products, or even washing your skin too often [8].

Because everyone's skin is different, knowing your triggers will go a long way to finding the right treatment options for your acne.

What should your daily water intake be?

First things first — recommended water intake can be different for every person depending on their age, gender, metabolism, and any underlying health conditions [9].

The other factor to note is that you don't just get your fluids from drinking water. Water is also present in the foods you eat and this counts for about 20% of your daily intake. The rest is made up of drinking plain water, milk and other drinks [9].

A general rule of thumb is around 8 cups of fluid per day for women (more if you're pregnant or breastfeeding), and around 10 for men [10].

While fluid here includes drinks like tea, coffee, or juice, it's important to think about how drinks containing sugar and caffeine can affect your health (or trigger acne). According to experts, water is still the healthiest choice [10].

Sidenote — it's really rare, but there is such a thing as drinking too much water. Doing so can cause a condition called hyponatremia, where the electrolytes and sodium in your blood get out of balance [10]. This might happen to someone who drinks too much while exercising, for example.

As always, if you're in doubt about the amount of water you should be drinking — check in with your healthcare provider. Particularly if you already live with a health condition, it's really important to get the right advice.

How can you treat acne?

Now that you're on the drinking water wagon with us, what about treatment options for any acne that's hanging around? We've got you.

The best treatment is prevention and having skincare that's kind to your skin. You want to:

  • Know and avoid your triggers to get ahead of breakouts
  • Steer clear of products that create more oil, or are so harsh they irritate your skin
  • Keep your skin hydrated and moisture barrier intact
  • Wash skin regularly, but don't overdo it (twice a day is fine!)

If you've tried to brave the shops (or Google) and got overwhelmed by all the acne products out there, we don't blame you.

Let us help — check out Software's prescription acne treatment to get a personalised treatment plan built specifically for your skin. You'll even get advice and a chance to share skin goals with an online doctor.

Just after something to get you started in the right direction? The Acne Kit might be for you. With a bundle of over-the-counter hero products ready to fight acne at any stage — including an acne supplement and pimple-busting patches — you'll be well on your way to clear skin in no time.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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