Last Updated on October 3rd, 2019
Dry skin can be a major problem in acne. Dry skin is usually tight skin that locks bacteria inside pores that form tiny red pimples. Moisturizing dry skin opens pores and lets them drain, minimizing the formation of pimples. “Moisture,” however, is not necessarily the same thing as water.
Is there really a water cure for acne? Keeping your skin hydrated, it turns out, is essential for overcoming acne. But it is the moisture in your skin, not on your skin or in your digestive tract, that makes the difference.
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The late Iranian doctor Fereydoon Batmanghelidj was once a friend of the Shah of Iran. Batmanghelidj had been educated in Scotland, done his internship under inventor of penicillin Sir Alexander Fleming, and married a Roman Catholic. The doctor’s daughter was (and still is) famous for dressing in flamboyant and sometimes skimpy costumes, and became a producer of children’s television in the United Kingdom.
When the Shah was ousted from power, the new religious government had Batmanghelidj thrown into jail. Political prisoners were denied any kinds of medication, so the doctor improvised. He started advising sick fellow prisoners to drink water to cure their diseases.
The results were predictable. Most diseases remit and relapse, that is, they get better and they get worse, no matter what anyone does. At some point, the prisoners who drank water would get better, and Batmanghelidj would attribute their improvement to drinking water. When the doctor was released from prison, he fled to the United States.
Once in the USA, Batmanghelidj wrote a three-page editorial in the American Journal of Gastroenterology suggesting that researchers study water cures, and then wrote a bestselling book entitled Your Body’s Many Cries for Water. “Dr. Batman-Ghandi,” as he came to be called, advocated water as a treatment for AIDS, cancer, asthma, allergies, obesity, high blood pressure, kidney stones, kidney failure, sleep disorders, osteoporosis, hot flashes, gout, attention deficit disorder, multiple sclerosis, and infections, including skin infections such as acne. Dr. Batmanghelidj died of an infection at the age of 72 in 2004.
Many readers assumed that water cures had been extensively researched, but there actually have been no studies of water as a treatment for any disease, including acne. Drinking water won’t cure acne. But could drinking water prevent it?
There’s no doubt that dehydration affects the skin1. When the entire body is in a fluid deficit, the skin turns ash-colored. Shrinking of tissues below the skin cause it to shrivel and wrinkle2. The skin becomes so loose that the contents of pores can just fall out—as the dehydrated person approaches death. Dehydration might resolve acne, but it also can bring about the end of life.
What about the opposite extreme? Can you drink so much water that some of it has to go to your skin? Actually, the skin has limits to the amount of the water it can absorb. After all, one of the main functions of the skin3 is to keep the water-soluble contents of the interior of the body from leaking out in the surrounding world, and to keep water from the external environment from diluting delicately balanced fluids in the interior of the body.
Drinking more and more water may make your stomach slosh, and it may make you take extra trips to the bathroom. In extreme cases, drinking too much water is also fatal4, because it upsets the concentrations of electrolytes needed for nerve messages to reach the heart and lungs.
The best way to understand how moisture makes a difference in the skin is to visualize the skin as a brick wall defending the body. The bricks in the wall are skin cells called corneocytes. The mortar that holds the bricks together is made up of fat-like substances such as the ceramides (often labeled as “skin-identical” ingredients in acne care products) and cholesterol. The “mortar” also includes a group of substances known as aquaporins5, which can transport tiny amounts of water in and out of the skin. They also can transport other substances such as glycerin.
Anything that can be transported through the aquaporins moisturizes the skin. Water moisturizes the skin, but only a very, very small amount of water can enter the skin. The skin has to be almost totally water-tight to protect the tissues beneath it.
The aquaporins can also transport glycerin6, which adds to the liquid content of the skin, and helps keep it flexible. The fats in the skin can absorb fats from moisturizers. This is the reason that many moisturizers contain oil. It is also the reason that oil-based moisturizers, assuming they are so creamy or clumpy that they can clog pores, are good for keeping the skin smooth and flexible7. They dissolve into the 25% or so of the skin that is the “mortar” between skin cells.
Alcohol also penetrates the skin, but it does this by dissolving fats. It in effect loosens the mortar between the bricks of the skin. This irritates the skin, and the skin has to repair itself by making more fats, some of which will find their ways into pores. Alcohol can temporarily leave your skin feeling damp, only for a few minutes, but it actually forces your skin to become greasy to keep the skin barrier intact.
Water itself only plays a small role in moisturizing the skin. A single splash of water on dry skin binds to the aquaporins and temporarily increase the moisture content of the skin as much as 500%. These conduction channels, however, quickly transport the added moisture to the tissues beneath the skin, and most of the water you splash on your face just rolls off or evaporates. A second splash of water won’t do any additional good for your skin because the aquaporins are already full. Neither will steaming your skin, or standing underneath the shower.
You can trap water in your skin with moisturizers. There are alcohol-based moisturizers, but they break down the skin. Their effects are always very short-lived, just a few minutes to a few hours. Oil-based moisturizers keep water in the aquaporins for as long as 12 hours. This leaves your skin moister and softer and helps pores drain, although you still need some time every day (or night) that you have nothing on your skin so the contents of pores can come to the surface.
Drinking water does not do anything special for your skin—although you absolutely must drink fluids to survive. But just as is there is no way you can scrub acne away, there is no way you can drink acne away, either.
The best way to take care of acne-prone skin is with a treatment system that provides you the tools to cleanser and tone your skin, as well as keeping it moist. One good acne treatment system that comes with a money-back guarantee is Exposed Skin Care.
To be your most trusted ally in your pursuit of clear, healthy skin.