Itchiness. Flakiness. Peeling. Cracking. The winter months can really take a toll on your skin, and sometimes a medicine cabinet full of hydrating skin care products isn’t enough.

“Cold weather outdoors and dry heat indoors can steal moisture from your skin, leading to dehydration,” explained Dr. Whitney Bowe, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York. And if you already have dry skin due to genetics or certain health conditions, you may be even more vulnerable to dehydrated skin in the winter.

One of the best things you can do is to ensure that you’re hydrated from the inside out, starting with the foods and drinks that you ingest. We talked to the experts about edible ingredients that can make your skin more dehydrated — and ones that can actually help your skin stay properly hydrated.

How Do You Know If Your Skin Is Dehydrated?

“Dehydrated skin loses elasticity, can be flaky, and can appear dull,” Bowe explained. “Hydrated skin is smooth, supple and reflects light evenly, which gives off that radiant glow.”

Not only does keeping your skin hydrated make it look different, but it is essential for the skin’s long-term health.

One of the ways to hydrate our skin is from the inside out, said Sue-Ellen Anderson-Haynes, a registered dietitian, an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson, and the founder of 360Girls&Women.

“We … may spend a lot of time with products to hydrate the skin from the outside when we really need to start on the inside,” she said. And that includes what we eat and drink.

Foods And Drinks That Can Dehydrate Your Skin

Caffeine

Beverages like coffees, teas, sodas and energy drinks generally have caffeine in them. Moderate amounts of caffeine (around 400 milligrams or four cups of coffee a day, according to the Food and Drug Administration) are not usually linked to dehydration because the water in the beverage often offsets the dehydrating effects.

But if you consume caffeine later in the day, it can affect your sleep, which can lead to skin dehydration. (One study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that consuming a moderate amount of caffeine even six hours prior to bedtime can disrupt your sleep.)

Compromised sleep can have a significant effect on skin health, Bowe said. “Just one night of poor sleep can visibly show up on our skin as decreased skin hydration, compromised barrier function, accelerated skin aging and dark under-eye circles,” she said.

One study also found that people with poor-quality sleep experienced more transepidermal water loss (water evaporating through the skin), which impacts skin hydration.

The bottom line? Our skin renews and heals overnight, and a good night’s sleep is key for its hydration and overall health. So if you’re going to drink caffeine, it’s best to consume it earlier in the day.

Don't be fooled because it's liquid — coffee can be dehydrating.

Frank Lee via Getty Images

Don’t be fooled because it’s liquid — coffee can be dehydrating.

Alcohol

Alcohol is a diuretic and causes you to lose water by urinating more. Excessive amounts can contribute to overall dehydration, including of the skin. Drinking alcohol also depletes your natural antioxidants, making your skin more susceptible to damage from things like pollution and ultraviolet rays, Bowe explained. And, like caffeine, alcohol can disrupt your sleep.

Bowe said that several of her patients who have cut down on alcohol or eliminated it from their diets have noticed visible improvements in the hydration, radiance and luminosity of their skin.

Sodium

Consuming too much salt can cause your body to pull water from its cells and lead to dehydration, explained Anderson-Haynes.

Most Americans have too much sodium in their diets. While the recommended amount of sodium per day is less than 2,300 milligrams (about 1 teaspoon), most Americans consume about 3,400 milligrams, according to the FDA.

High amounts of sodium are often found in prepared foods like frozen foods, canned foods, sandwiches and subs, as well as sauces such as soy sauce or tomato sauce. Being mindful of how much salt you’re eating each day can help with the tone and elasticity of your skin (among many other health benefits).

Added Sugar

“We’re eating a lot of added sugars. It’s everywhere,” Anderson-Haynes said. If you overdo it, “you’re actually damaging the process of how your body repairs and creates collagen in the body,” she said — and collagen is essential for skin elasticity and skin health.

According to the American Heart Association, women should consume no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day and men no more than 9 teaspoons. But just one 12-ounce soda has more than 10 teaspoons in it.

Anderson-Haynes recommended being aware of how much sugar you’re consuming in drinks like sodas, teas, coffees and energy drinks, suggesting that you substitute in water and fruits (which have natural sugars) when possible.

While the top source of added sugar may be drinks, there are other foods that added sugars can hide in, such as desserts, nut butters, tomato sauces, nutrition bars, cereals and breads.

If there is added sugar in the food’s ingredients list, make sure it is toward the bottom, Anderson-Haynes advised. Also be aware of the different words for sugar that may appear on the label, like dextrose, molasses, cane sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, maltose, agave nectar, sucrose and beet sugar.

Fried Foods

Oily fried foods (like french fries, potato chips and doughnuts) can negatively affect our skin because they cause inflammation, which can be linked to dehydration.

“Dehydration can lead to redness and itching, and may be associated with skin inflammatory conditions,” Anderson-Haynes said.

She recommended baking foods or using an air fryer as an alternative to frying.

One Way To Keep Skin Hydrated: ‘Eat Your Water’

“What you put on your skin and what you drink (and eat) throughout the day are both critical in terms of keeping skin properly hydrated,” Bowe explained.

Beyond drinking water, she said that it’s important to eat water-rich foods, like spinach, cucumbers, berries, melons and bell peppers. “The fluid is trapped inside the food’s cells and slowly released during the digestive process for a nice, steady source of hydration,” she said.

Anderson-Haynes said that you also want to pay attention to how you prepare your veggies. Eating them raw or lightly steamed (so you’re not cooking out the water) is key.

She also recommended foods that contain healthy fats like omega-3s found in avocados, chia seeds, flaxseeds, nuts, olives and fish.

And remember, even when you’re not having issues with your skin, consuming enough fluids year-round is important for your overall health.

“It can affect your blood sugars, it can affect how you think, it can affect your digestion,” Anderson-Haynes said. “So whether you have dry skin or not, we need to [stay] properly hydrated.”





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