It’s no surprise that hydration is one of the key features of healthy skin. Not only does well-nourished skin appear more supple, soft, and radiant (thanks to water’s ability to provide elasticity), but it also feels abundantly less irritated, itchy, and uncomfortable. According to board-certified dermatologist Roberta Del Campo, M.D., ingesting water and using topical moisture are both important measures in keeping dry skin at bay. “External topical hydration is best for the top layer of the skin (the epidermis and the upper dermis) as topical products penetrate into and between cells,” she explains. However, there is a bit of a barrier for deeper penetration of topical products, so she says it’s also vital to hydrate from the inside “to feed the deep layers of the skin.”
While drinking water is considered essential, Emily Tills, MS RDN CDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist, says adding water-rich foods to your plate can also aid in hydration and act as a supplement to your daily water intake. “Water-rich foods also contain some electrolytes that help with hydration level and absorption,” she explains.
Meet the Experts
Roberta Del Campo, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist.
Emily Tills, MS RDN CDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist.
Suzanne J. Friedler, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology PC.
How to Hydrate Your Skin with Food
If you’re wanting to supplement your hydration efforts with some hydrating foods, you’ll actually get more than an H2O quench. “These fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins and minerals, which are antioxidants,” says Tills. “Antioxidants help to prevent cellular damage that can cause aging and wrinkles,” she adds. Additionally, Tills says water-rich fruits and veggies are also high in fiber, and high-fiber foods usually contain more water in their cell walls and structure. “Higher water content foods can aid in overall hydration and provide electrolytes to prevent dehydration.”
Here are the best hydrating foods to add to your plate for skincare benefits.
Considered a skincare superfood, watermelon is used in a variety of topical products for its hydration benefits. With a 92% water count, it’s one of the most hydrating foods you can eat, making it a staple in the hot, sticky summer months. In addition to hydrating, watermelon features a plethora of skin-benefiting vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and C.
Made up of 96% water, cucumbers are another water-rich food that Tills recommends for hydrating the skin from within. In addition to its impressive hydration, the refreshing and savory fruit is rich in folic acid, which can help reduce inflammation, as well as vitamins C and E which are known for their antioxidant properties.
Lettuce (including dark leafy greens) is another food to consider for skincare, as it’s made up of 96% water and can add more hydration to your plate. And, depending on the lettuce type, you can get lots more skin benefits. For example, kale includes a potent mix of vitamins A, B, C, and K, which are known for hydrating, protecting against environmental aggressors, and keeping blemishes at bay.
Tills also recommends celery for its juicy hydration properties. This veggie is made up of 95% water and also comes with a side of skin benefits, thanks to its antioxidants. Snacking on celery (or even drinking celery juice) can provide the body with vitamin C as well as potassium, which can help nourish the skin from within.
Everyone’s favorite sandwich accessory also comes with some skin perks as juicy tomatoes are made up of 94% water, adding a burst of refreshment to your plate. Tomatoes are also high in vitamin C, which is an essential antioxidant that protects the skin from environmental aggressors but also plays a key part in connective tissue healing.
While they aren’t the most water-rich food on our list, oranges are also worth mentioning, especially since they are one of the few seasonal options for winter. The citrus fruit has an 88% water count and features all sorts of skin-benefiting nutrients, including vitamin C and potassium as well as fiber, which may help improve the circulation of the skin.
The sweet and vibrant strawberry can also quench the skin’s thirst from within, thanks to a 91% water count. And, much like several other foods on our list, strawberries come with a dose of vitamin C, which can contribute to healthy skin.
8. Bell Peppers
The crunchy and savory bell pepper also houses lots of water with a count of around 92%. Plus, it has vitamins A and C for antioxidant protection and collagen-building properties, as well as carotenoids, which contribute to anti-aging efforts.
Additional Ways to Hydrate the Skin
What you consume can impact your skin’s hydration — not just on a positive level, but on a negative level, too. According to Suzanne J. Friedler, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology PC, alcohol and nicotine “can be dehydrating” to the skin and should be avoided if dry, sallow skin is a concern.
Dr. Friedler also recommends being mindful of the weather and how humidity impacts skin hydration. “In cold climates, winter is accompanied by drops in humidity,” she explains. “Adding a humidifier and using topical emollients can help keep the skin hydrated and looking its glowing best.” Dr. Friedler also recommends avoiding long, hot showers, which might feel nice in the cold winter season but can actually cause an imbalance with the skin’s natural moisture efforts.
The Bottom Line on Hydration
When it comes to skin hydration, drinking water, and applying topical moisturizer is the best way to address dryness on both the surface and deeper layers of the skin. However, you can also make lifestyle changes like mindfully adding more water-rich foods to your plate to up the hydration ante (and get a boost of skin-benefiting vitamins and minerals) and using a humidifier during the winter season. Avoiding alcohol and nicotine intake can also keep dry skin at bay and prevent overall dehydration, which Dr. Friedler says it can “make skin look sallow, dull, and wrinkled.”
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