Good hydration is key to having beautiful skin at any age, but as your skin ages it becomes more difficult to retain plump, moist radiant skin cells that in-turn offer plump, moist radiant skin. Lack of hydration is one of the main reasons why your skin gets sallow, saggy, and dull-looking as you age.
Why is hydration so important?
Water is the key factor for supplying oxygen, vitamins and nutrients to skin cells as well as removing wastes and toxins that may lead to unwanted pigmentation (known as senile pigmentation) and a dull shallowness that is associated with a lack of hydration in the surface layers. Water is a vital component for feeding skin cells deep within the skin via your circulation. So, to keep skin looking youthful one must supply your skin with water throughout the day. Five to eight glasses should be sufficient.
Relying on drinking 8 glasses of water daily to make the all the difference is likely to disappoint. Often, especially as we get older, the water you are drinking does not get to the skin cells where you want it. Often it just results in more trips to the bathroom. Healthy and hydrated skin is the product of not only drinking water but includes adopting a healthy lifestyle and good skincare habits.
But how do you rehydrate aging skin once it starts to sag or look dull?
Dehydration can occur in the surface layers (the stratum corneum) or the deeper layer of the dermis. Deep dehydration results in a loss of firmness, loose skin and the ensuing wrinkles. To re-hydrate aging skin one must adopt a holistic approach. You must adopt healthy habits such as a good diet, regular exercise, upgrading your skincare routine (to meet your current skincare needs) and avoiding inflammatory foods (like sugar), drinks (like soda and alcohol) and environmental factors (like sun exposure). Inflammation creates a domino effect of aging free radicals known as “inflammaging”. Drinking a good amount of water (although beneficial) isn’t the complete answer to rehydrating your skin and it is unlikely that it will make a big difference as to how hydrated your skin appears .
10 STEPS TOWARDS HEALTHY HYDRATION
1. Consider Humidity
A main factor in skin hydration is the humidity of the environment you’re in. Surface layers of the skin are deeply affected by the level of humidity in the air. Water will alway go from greater concentration to lesser concentration. For example, your skin tends to become more dehydrated in winter when the air is dry and made even drier by your home heating system. In this case the higher concentration of water is in your skin. Thus, water is drawn out of your skin into the drier air around it, leaving you dehydrated. In the case of a dry arid environment, running a humidifier may make all the difference. I keep a small humidifier by my bedside all winter long. In summer when the air is more humid dehydrated skin cells extract moisture from the air around it. Of course this can be negated when you spend a lot of time in a dry air conditioned environment.
Hyaluronic acid (which is a hot new ingredient on social media but has actually been around for decades) is a molecule that is naturally found in the dermis of the skin where it supports collagen and other components responsible for skin firmness. On the skin’s surface hyaluronic acid as an excellent humectant meaning it can draw moisture from the atmosphere and hold it in your skin. Hyaluronic acid can hold up to 1000x it’s molecular weight in water making it a super humectant. Keep in mind that although it is an acid it is not the kind of acid that exfoliates your skin. It is actually a very gentle ingredient that works well for even very sensitive skins.
You’ll find hyaluronic acid in cleansers and moisturizers (as sodium hyaluronate) but it is most effective when it is as a major performance ingredient found in serums. Serums not only contain higher amounts of this important active but include a delivery system that allows it to hydrate deeper in your skin. While it is a valuable and effective humectant, hyaluronic acid has been touted with super anti-aging properties. You may find this falls short of meeting all your skincare goals. You would do well to add a couple drops of your hyaluronic acid serum to another anti-aging serum that contains potent peptides, skin brighteners, stem cell stimulants or growth factors. I’ve seen basic hyaluronic acid serums that cost upwards of $300 an ounce. That’s just ridiculous for a hydrating serum . I suggest you try a simpler and more cost effective formula and incorporate it into part of a complete skincare routine.
2. Hydration Promoting Foods
If you want moisturized, plump skin you should aim to eat water-dense, high-fat, antioxidant-rich, hydrating foods known for their complexion-changing properties. These, it turns out, are actually easy to come by—many might already be in our diet. But if you feeling a bit dehydrated as of late consider upping your intake. Read below for my favorites; not only are they delicious, but many of them have gut-healing and anti-inflammatory properties , making them even more beneficial for the skin.
Watermelon is a fruit high in water content (more than 90 percent) and contains minerals and phytochemicals such as lycopene, vitamin C, and beta carotene – all of which can support skin health. In fact, it compares well to tomatoes, strawberries, or blueberries - offering a good amount of antioxidants. You can enjoy watermelon year-round as a snack or blend it with other ingredients for a delicious, refreshing smoothie.
Fruits come in a variety of flavors, like sweet or sour, and they also have different textures. Oranges are always good to have on your grocery list or your fruit bowl at home. Like watermelons, they contain a lot of water (80-89 percent) as well as vitamin C. Oranges also contain bioflavonoids which help strengthen those tiny capillary walls. This helps make water delivery to your skin more effective.
Our parents often tell us to eat our vegetables, but did you know that veggies also contribute to your skin’s health? Certain vegetables have high water content, such as spinach (90-99 percent) and carrots and broccoli (80-89 percent). Eating a rainbow of colored veggies offers a variety of anti-aging and skin supporting antioxidants.
Has it ever crossed your mind that in addition to supporting your digestive health, yogurt also contributes to your fluid intake? One serving of yogurt contains around 80-89 percent water. When choosing yogurt make sure it is plain, high fat yogurt. Flavored yogurt is loaded with sugar which turns this healthy food into junk food that should definitely be avoided. Try adding fresh berries and nuts to plain yogurt for a healthier option. The problem with low fat yogurt is that low fat is usually means high sugar.
Pickles are usually seen as a relish to complement a meal and as flavor enhancers. Did you know that they also contribute to the overall water content of your food? Pickles contain more than 90 percent water. This volume comes from the fermentation process that often includes adding other forms of liquid and seasonings to help maintain or increase its water content. Pickles, like many vegetables make for a super healthy snack.
Fruit and vegetable salads
Establish a new habit, such as serving salads as appetizers before your main course. You can try a fruit salad, vegetable salad, or a combination of both. In addition to improving your appetite to avoid less desirable foods. Salads that contain fresh fruits and vegetables also contribute to your fluid intake. In fact, lettuce, commonly used in salads, contains more than 90 percent of water.
Soup is another appetizer you can add to your meals. A bowl of warm soup before dinner could help ease your digestive system, making it easier to digest the main course. Of course soups contain mostly water and add to hydration.
Smoothies and Protein Shakes
Shakes are a great, convenient way to improve your fluid intake. You can customize them depending on your taste by adding favorite fruit to any recipe. Many fruits are not only high in water content, but they also provide fiber and vitamins. Adding berries means upping skin transforming polyphenol antioxidants to reduce inflammation. Resveratrol in blueberries protects your skin from environmental damage, brightens your complexion, and calms redness caused by inflammation.
If you haven’t done so, try some exotic, tropical fruits. Superfruits such as coffee berries, acai berries, gogi fruit, noni fruit, mangoes and pomegranates. These are among the most powerful sources of natural antioxidants available today. Specific polyphenols are exceptional at calming inflammation. When your skin is inflamed it become more permeable. Cells separate which allows for more evaporation of moisture leading to dehydration. You can also choose an antioxidant rich serum sourced from superfruits which can be applied directly to your skin. The precious antioxidants they contain offer an anti-aging strategy that is a great way to keep skin soft, smooth and supple.
3. Avoid Caffeine And Alcohol
Caffeine and alcohol are two of the worst offenders for dehydrating and aging skin. While one of them energizes us to help us get through the day the other helps relax us in the evening, both are diuretics that compromise the skin’s health by depleting it of water. Additionally, alcohol doubles down by hindering the production of the hormone vasopressin, which is essential for rehydration. At the same time, caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline, a stress hormone that can dilate capillaries leading to dehydration. The general consensus is that one to two cups of coffee per day and a glass of alcohol in the evening is okay . Still, the best thing to do is avoid them when you can and perhaps try to replace them with healthier habits such as matcha or just purified water.
4. Upgrade Your Skincare Routine
When your skin starts to show signs of aging it means that your skincare routine, just as your general lifestyle might need a little upgrade here and there.
Consider changing your cleanser to something gentler and more hydrating. A milky cleanser is ideal. Cleansers containing detergent based surfactants (those that foam up on your skin) rob your skin of precious moisture. The more it foams the more detergent is in the formula. The drier your skin the more emollients you want in your cleanser. These cleansers should not contain so much oil that they are not easily washed off. Very oily cleansers trap heat in the skin and trap oil in as well. I have seen many clients with clogged pores whose skin has cleared up simply by tossing out that cleansing oil they thought would hydrate their skin. . Also using a cleansing oil creates a barrier that prevents those precious actives in your serums from getting in past into the deeper layers to do their work.
If your skin is very dehydrated you may need to examine your moisturizer and make sure it is emollient enough. Skin feels tight? If it looks dull and you don’t seem to produce much oil, look for a moisturizer that contains Shea butter. If you feel extremely dry and dehydrated you can get relief by reinforcing your barrier layer. Post menopausal skin will benefit from applying a layer of a different type of oil. Barrage seed and Evening Primrose are ceramides that help calm inflammation while holding in moisture for very dry/dehydrated skin. If you decide to add it to a complete skin regimen or combine it with a hyaluronic acid or other serums make sure your corrective serums are used first, followed by your moisturizer then then barrier repair serum can be used to protect - almost like a overcoat for your skin.
A word about toners. I am a big fan of using a correctly formulated toner to increase hydration levels. Toners of the past could be very dehydrating given that alcohol, witch hazel or menthol were often used as ingredients. Newer toners can be rich in super hydrating humectants like peptides, panthenol, glycerin and natural moisturizing factors. The other major hydrating benefit you get from wiping a toner across your face is the removal of very dehydrating fluoride and chlorine which are found in the tap water you just used to wash your face.
Peptides in products have various skin benefits from boosting collagen production to softening lines. Peptides are also moisture loving proteins that help with hydration, often in the deeper layers of your skin. Because of their molecular size it was once thought that peptides only worked superficially. Science now shows that applying peptides regularly not only hydrates your stratum corneum but sends chemical messages down to the deeper layers to stimulate fibroblasts to go into repair mode. Thus, Peptides work to rebuild and repair damaged cells and signal skin to produce collagen, slowing the aging process.
5. Cleanse Gently, and not just at night
Using a gentle cleanser should not be reserved for your nighttime routine. During the night your skin purges toxins that should be gently removed in the morning. Morning cleansing not only rehydrates your skin but allows your morning serums (antioxidants like Vitamin C) to get in more easily. Also, a refreshing cold water morning cleanse helps jump stare autophagy which is a way of getting your skin to purge damaged cells that lead to “inflamaging”. If you just splash water on your face on the morning you not only skip removing toxins purged from the skin but you are dehydrating your skin as moisture evaporates. Never leave your skin unprotected.
6. Exfoliate Effectively
Exfoliation is a step that happens regularly in a good skincare routine. It is intended to remove those dull, dead, dehydrated cells from the skin’s surface to reveal the plumper, brighter, more hydrated complexion from underneath.
But exfoliation can have a dark side if overused. AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) are exfoliating acids which also act as humectants. One should not use them every night as one gets older because over exfoliating removes the barrier protection you need and can lead to deeper dehydration. For most maturing skin types I suggest exfoliating with AHAs only twice a week.
The mature skin cells on the skin’s surface are part of the natural moisturizing factors and are well adjusted to retain more moisture into the skin, so removing them will expose your skin to rapid moisture loss and even more dehydration. You need to find a balance between the breaking down of old cells and the building up of newer healthier cells which is where your retinol serum comes in. This is also why you need to avoid harsh scrubs that contain nut kernels. A scrub using smooth surface partials should still be used no more than twice a week, less if you have thinner, delicate skin.
7. Introduce Specialty Serums
After exfoliating, introducing an extra layer of hydration through adding specialty serums into your skincare routine as an extra step that can be super beneficial in your journey for skin rehydration. Serums are particularly targeted treatments and some of them contain advanced hydrating and replenishing ingredients. When a specialty serum is used its purpose is to not only rehydrate your skin but provide purposeful ingredients that will improve the function and metabolism of the skin.
8. Start Using Lipid-Restoring Moisturizers
Skin hydration is significantly increased by creams formulated to mimic the skin’s own natural moisturizing systems. Lipids are the fats, oils, and waxes on the surface of your skin that serves as structural components of the skin and plays a significant role in maintaining the strength of your skin’s protective barrier. Your skin’s protective barrier is what holds moisture in the skin and protects it from damage by keeping pathogenic organisms out. Loss of lipids start occurring as you age and this is one of the reasons your skin experiences exacerbated moisture loss with aging.
So it is important to restore the lipids and help your skin better retain moisture.
9. Opt for a primer under your foundation.
It's worth pointing out that the newest primers don't just smooth skin, keep makeup in place, and blur pores to near invisibility. They can also brighten, fade fine lines and wrinkles, and add tons of hydrating moisture through increased barrier protection. Some even contain SPF that, when worn along with sunscreen it boosts your protection against the number one cause of environmental aging - the sun.
10. Apply Sunscreen Every Single Day
There are two types of sun’s rays that damage your skin in different ways.
UVA is the type of sun rays that can penetrate deep into your skin and damage the DNA of cells responsible for the production of hydrating and firming collagen. When collagen, elastin and other dermal constitutes are damaged it leads to deep dehydration -saggy skin and premature wrinkles.
UVB is the second type of rays and these are strongest during summertime and responsible for sunburns and skin cancer. UVB rays can induce apoptosis which is the programmed cell death of cells that become damaged by ultraviolet rays. Skin that has experienced sun damage is left with dead superficial cells that are unable to retain moisture. Thus creating a dull, leathery surface.
Wearing sunscreen daily with a minimum SPF of 30, even on cloudy, rainy, and snowy days will protect your skin from dehydration and help prevent premature aging.