Long Story Short: Drinking water doesn’t hydrate your skin

At times, the online skincare community can be significantly uninformed about what’s best for your skin

Illustration: Maple Sukontassukkul

By: Michelle Young, Staff Writer

I start and end my days with my skincare routine. It’s the part of the day where I can indulge in some time to take care of myself. Gently cleansing and moisturizing my face seems simple — it is the basis of any skincare routine. And yet, it has taken me years to refine these two simple steps. At some point during my teen years, I realized that skincare is necessary to my health. After all, the skin is our largest organ. However, as I began my skincare journey, I found that navigating the world of skincare is pretty daunting. 

There’s an endless amount of skincare products on the market, and I had no idea where to start. Of course, the internet helped expand my knowledge, but ultimately, I just tried out whatever products were recommended to me. As I tried to dive into the world of skincare, I always saw “just drink water, it’ll clear your skin.”

The idea of drinking water to achieve clear skin sounds simple: water flushes out our toxins, so tackling skin problems from the inside first sounds like it would work. I felt plagued battling against rosacea and dry, sensitive, acne-prone skin. So, for a solid year, I drank only water and a few homemade fruit smoothies no juices, pop, milk, or coffee. Along with that, I tested out different products and began a collection of cleansers, toners, serums, and moisturizers. 

Over the past few years, it has become trendy to flaunt skincare routines and cosmetic collections on social media. Many products have aesthetically pleasing packaging, and coupled with the rise of self-care, the skincare community, which here refers to beauty influencers and skincare social media accounts, has exploded. Along with the skincare community came beauty influencers and skincare threads. On Twitter and Instagram, they contain “need to know tips” to glow up your skincare game. Here, again, many of these threads emphasized the need to drink water for clear skin. 

I discovered that drinking water does not hydrate or clear skin — unless you’re already dehydrated. In healthy individuals, studies have concluded that there isn’t enough evidence to support this. Of course, drinking water is necessary to our overall bodily health, but if you’re already drinking it, drinking more will likely not clear it. I had to learn this the hard way, but this realization about drinking water taught me a few things about the way I took care of myself, and about the skincare community.

There were many other myths like that in the skincare community. Perhaps it was due to my own foolishness and desperation to take care of my skin, but I ended up trying a lot of things that may have damaged it long-term. The skincare community is filled with misconceptions, like “tea tree oil will cure acne,” when in reality, essential oils irritate the skin and haven’t proven to be as effective as topical medications. I didn’t know that when I rushed to change my skincare routine to cater to products filled with tea tree oil. 

I went through every step necessary to ensure my skin was clean: I frequently changed my pillowcases, never touched my face, and always looked for the “non-comedogenic” label, which ensures products don’t contain any ingredients that will block pores. Still, my skin tone was steadily becoming more uneven. Since I was doing seemingly everything right, I couldn’t understand why it was so difficult to achieve the clearness shown on social media. I genuinely believed that if I simply followed online tips and tried out new products, my skin would clear up. However, I often didn’t consider my skin’s unique conditions — its rosacea, eczema and overall sensitivity. 

After years of trial and error, I’ve become extremely skeptical of anything posted on skincare threads or internet articles filled with skincare remedies, and I should have been from the beginning. For me, the overall skincare community became toxic. It seemed like it was about the extravagance of the products, the length of the skincare routine and that the ingredients in the cosmetics didn’t even matter, as long as the skin was clear. I stumbled through fragranced products, natural masks, and obscure concoctions to achieve the spotless, glowing skin framed on social media. Perhaps I made my skin more sensitized in the process. Even if I had done everything right, there’s no guarantee I would have cleared my skin. 

Now, my daily routine is stripped to the basics again: cleanser, toner, moisturizer, sunscreen. The products I use aren’t too fancy, but they’re definitely fragrance-free, alcohol-free, and free of any other irritating or sensitizing ingredients.

I learned that I needed to take care of my skin in the way that suited me, and it took me too long to do so. I learned that even if my skin isn’t perfect at least I could sleep at night knowing it was healthy. No matter the desperation to achieve clear skin, skincare products should be tried out slowly — and no matter how many people tell me to “drink water,” at least I know it’s likely a myth.