It’s time to debunk this beauty myth once and for all: Drinking a lot of water is not the secret to combating a dry complexion. “There is a great amount of anecdotal information that drinking a significant amount of water will rid your body of toxins and thus make your skin appear healthier,” says plastic surgeon Melissa Doft. “But water that is drunk does not necessarily travel directly to your skin.”
Basically, our bodies process water through the intestines, absorb it through the bloodstream, and filter it through the kidneys. That will hydrate your cells inside your body, but it won’t reach the epidermis—for that, you need a little extra help (aka through your skin-care routine). Here are the products that can make a difference.
According to Athena Hewett, founder of clean skin-care line Monastery, your face wash might be the culprit for parched skin, especially if it’s gel or foaming. Heyday skin therapist Joanne DeLeone agrees: “Respect the natural lipid barrier your skin needs to stay hydrated: Don’t overwash. Try precleansing with an oil or using an oil cleanser.”
Celebrity aesthetician Renee Rouleau’s trick for hydrating her skin: an alcohol-free toner (the ingredient has a drying effect). Apply it after cleansing—but before you completely dry your face—with either a cotton pad or your palms, massaging it into your skin for best results.
According to Rouleau, a moisturizer mainly acts as a protective sealant, so when a hydrating serum is applied underneath, it locks in its benefits. Apply that serum on damp skin (after a toner) and it will work even more effectively.
One great option is Osea’s Hyaluronic Sea Serum, a mix of three different organic seaweeds and hyaluronic acid—a moisturizing superhero. As Sue Y. Nabi of Orveda explains, “Humectants, such as hyaluronic acid, effectively ‘trap’ water in skin.” Try her cult favorite, Healing Sap, of if you’re a K-beauty fan, Peach & Lily’s Glass Skin Refining Serum is packed with short-, medium-, and long-chain hyaluronic acid molecules meant to deliver moisture to every layer of skin.
H2O might not have much of an impact, but what you snack on does. Whitney Tingle, cofounder of Sakara, recommends eating “foods that are over 90 percent water content, such as cucumbers, melons, berries, and leafy greens,” which can keep you hydrated longer than water.
Eats high in omega fatty acids, like salmon and dark green vegetables, “help keep the blood moving optimally, and good blood flow brings oxygen to the cells, which in turn helps with skin bounce,” says Hewett. Plus, they’ll help with hydration: “These food sources also contain minerals and other nutrients that help your skin cells absorb water,” adds nutrition expert Dr. Charles Passler.
You can also supercharge your water (after all, you can’t go without it) with concentrated drops, like Sakara’s Detox and Beauty Water mineral drops, which add minerals and electrolytes to help hydrate your body on a deeper level. “Think: Gatorade, but without the junk and with added beautifying benefits,” says Tingle. Dry winter air has nothing on these tactics.
This story was originally published on June 11, 2018. It has been updated with new information.