At this point in the 21st century, you know how to hydrate your skin from the outside, but do you know what to eat for skin hydration? Feeding your skin from within isn’t an add-on to your skincare routine… It’s an integral part of it.
Your diet and lifestyle directly affect how your skin behaves, as nutrition is what feeds your skin cells from their conception. It’s these very deep down skin cells that end up forming the surface of your skin 28 days down the line. Imagine feeding your hydrangea bush with wine, ice cream and coffee and expecting it to flourish. Not gonna happen.
Is Drinking Water Actually Great For Your Skin?
Although many query the benefits of drinking plenty of water with regard to the skin, research published in 2015 suggests that increased water intake in those who do not drink enough improved deep and surface level skin hydration, and reduced the likelihood of TEWL (transepidermal water loss).
However, these benefits are only pertinent if our skin can hold onto that increased hydration. “What do you mean my skin might not be holding on to that hydration?”, you ask. Unless your skin is perfectly healthy, it’s possible you’re losing moisture minute by minute. Your skin’s stratum corneum, it’s uppermost layer made up of lipid-locked dead skin cells, is actually compromised quite easily.
Think of it as a water balloon that serves the purpose of keeping water inside. Now, what happens if there’s a hole in the water balloon? That delicious H20 is going to seep out everywhere.
If we’re not nourishing our body properly, our skin will struggle to form its barrier, to create skin cells with healthy cellular membrane (the water balloons within the water balloon) and to be generally healthy.
What Nutrients Do We Need For Skin Hydration?
Most of what we know about how essential fatty acids affect our skin is from studying rats. Fatty acids gained their “essential” status when rats were shown to have malfunctioning skin devoid of hydration when on a fat-free diet and when it was proven that this could be reversed after the consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids. (Source: Micronutrient Information Center, Oregon State University).
To simplify it, possibly too much nearly, if we don’t have enough polyunsaturated fatty acids in our diets to feed our dermis (the living layer of our skin), the dermis can’t make the lipids needed to solidify our skin’s barrier as easily, leading to transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and decreased skin hydration… And in turn, decreased skin function. Isn’t it like dominoes toppling over one by one?
This is why I always preach the importance of omegas, also known as essential fatty acids.
Essential fatty acids have also been shown to play an integral role in skin inflammation, which will usually appear as flakiness, itchiness and irritation, with a deficiency in essential fatty acids often displaying as dermatitis (eczema) in human skin.
We have had thousands of clients tell us that nothing will ever help their dry skin. We have also had thousands of clients return to us a month later and say that including more omegas in their diet has cured them of their dryness. Run and tell that.
Best Skin Hydration Foods - Sources Of Essential Fatty Acids
The richest sources of essential fatty acids tend to be fish sources but we are all trying to cut down on that for the planet so here are a few foods to start including in your diet, both animal sources and plant sources…
Animal sources of essential fatty acids (EHA + DHA)
- Atlantic salmon - approximately palm-sized amount - 0.28g eicosapentaenoic acid (EHA) + 0.95g docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Pacific sardines - approximately palm-sized amount - 0.45g eicosapentaenoic acid (EHA) + 0.74g docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Rainbow trout - approximately palm-sized amount - 0.40g eicosapentaenoic acid (EHA) + 0.44g docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
Plant-based sources of essential fatty acids (LA [Omega-6] and ALA [Omega-3])
- Sunflower oil - 1 tbsp. - 8.9g of linoleic acid (LA, Omega-6)
- Pine nuts - 2 tbsp. - 9.4g of linoleic acid (LA, Omega-6)
- Roasted sunflower seeds - 2 tbsp. - 9.7g of linoleic acid (LA, Omega-6)
- Flaxseed oil - 1 tbsp. - 7.3g of a-Linolenic acid (ALA, Omega-3)
- Walnuts - 2 tbsp. - 2.6g of a-Linolenic acid (ALA, Omega-3)
- Dried chia seeds - 2 tbsp. - 5.1g of a-Linolenic acid (ALA, Omega-3)
Basically, add atlantic salmon pesto into your weekly meal plan. That’s the suss.
It can be very difficult to stay on top of eating nutritiously - trust me, sometimes I will have to eat solely hummus for a day or two due to busyness. That’s why we often recommend omega supplements such as Advanced Nutrition Programme Skin Omegas+ (€37.00, 60 capsules) or Solgar Omega 3 Triple Strength (€35.00, 50 soft gels).
ANP Skin Omegas+ contains 0.36g of EPA, 0.24g of DHA and 0.59g of evening primrose oil (plus 400iu of vitamin A) in two soft gels, and Solgar Omega 3 Triple Strength contains 0.5g of EPA and 0.37 grams of DHA per soft gel.
Eating Your Water
Now that you know how to keep your skin generally healthy and look after its barrier, you can start rethinking how to get more water in. Everybody thinks of drinking it, but after a certain point, there is only so much peeing you can do and nobody likes that “sloshy belly” that comes with knocking back pint after pint of water.
Dr. Howard Murad, dermatologist and founder of Murad Skincare, is a major proponent of eating your water as it gives a slower release of hydration (with the benefits of getting more antioxidants and vitamins at the same time).
Without further ado, here are some water-rich foods you can start popping in your basket in the supermarket...
- Cucumbers - rich in water, good source of vitamin A & C
- Pomegranates - rich in water, full of antioxidant polyphenols
- Avocados - rich in water AND fatty acids
- Watermelon - rich in water, contains antioxidant lycopene and vitamin A
- Tomatoes - rich in water, contain antioxidant lycopene
- Mushrooms - rich in water, good source of vitamin B2
The best things in life are dehydrating: fact. Alcohol, coffee and high amounts of caffeine in general are diuretic, meaning they make you pee more. More peeing means constantly losing water, especially if you’re not topping up your own water content consistently. Avoid them as much as you can and opt for hydrating herbal teas and alcoholic beverages with a lower alcohol content. Do I hear an Aperol Spritz calling? Extra Spritz, please.
I’m Oily - Does My Skin Need Hydration?
Oil and water are not the same. Even if you’re oily, your skin can still be dehydrated and this skin dehydration could be contributing to your excessive oil production.
To conclude, literally everyone needs to work on hydrating their bodies and skin more, because hydrated skin is healthier, can defend itself from ageing stressors more easily and looks better too. I’ll clink a watermelon wedge to that.