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How to hydrate your skin, inside out

A dermatologist and a nutritionist offer tips on which moisturisers and serums to use, and what diet to follow

Besides the strong sun's rays, it's also your lifestyle and diet that can suck the moisture out of the skin.
Besides the strong sun's rays, it's also your lifestyle and diet that can suck the moisture out of the skin. (Unsplash)

Dry skin is not just a concern during winters but summers too. Besides the strong sun's rays, it's also your lifestyle and diet that can suck the moisture out of the skin, making it dehydrated and sensitive.

Signs that your skin is dehydrated

Our skin has a protective barrier that shields it from pollutants and the environment. Extreme heat can lead to the loss of essential moisture from the skin and when the skin is dehydrated, this barrier is compromised. The main reason your skin feels dehydrated in summer is because you sweat a lot and this leads to loss of body water. High temperatures also mean that your air conditioning is on full blast for extra hours, which also dehydrates the skin. “No matter how many creams you apply and if your skin is not responding, it means your skin feels sensitive and it can be a sign of dehydrated skin. Other signs include skin that is not soft to touch and does not feel smooth anymore; if you have been breaking into some sort of eruption just under the skin; lips may start feeling a little parched and crack; and your eyes will start itch and water,” says Rashmi Shetty, dermatologist and founder of Ra Skin and Aesthetics in Mumbai, and Reva Health & Skin, Hyderabad. Excessive exfoliation, skin peeling and laser treatments without taking adequate care, and thyroid issues can also cause skin dehydration. “Certain products with ingredients like salicylic acid or mandelic acid might not suit your skin type and they harm the good bacteria on the skin, which when depleted leads to skin dehydration,” says Shetty.

When skincare can rescue you

When your skin is dehydrated, not all moisturisers might work. This is because moisturisers are designed to create a barrier and lock the moisture in to keep the skin hydrated. What you need in this situation is a hydrating moisturiser rather than slathering a thick oil, butter- or cream-based lotion. “If you apply a heavy moisturiser on dry skin, it might not serve the purpose of hydrating the skin and will only provide the oils. So it's important for one to use more water or gel-based creams, mists, serums or creams that are formulated to serve both the purposes,” says Shetty.

The best way to maintain your skin is to keep a tab on your general health. Add good products in the mix and you are good to battle the summer sun. “It’s a must to use sunscreen to keep the skin barrier strong and protect against sun damage. While applying skincare, layer your products. Mist your skin first to hydrate it, follow it up with a serum (such as hyaluronic acid, which is best applied on damp skin) and then dab the cream based on what your skin needs,” says Shetty.

She adds that supplements enriched with hydrating ingredients such as collagen, peptides, vitamin E and flaxseed oil help deliver essential fatty acids to the skin, hold water and reduce trans epidermal water loss. You also need to choose a face wash according to your skin’s needs, as a strong facewash can strip your skin of its natural oil, thus compromising the skin barrier, which will lead to water loss and dryness.

Can your diet help rehydrate?

“Consumption of tea and coffee or any aerated beverages can also cause dehydration as the sugar or the caffeine content dehydrates the skin,” says celebrity nutritionist Ryan Fernando of QUA Nutrition. Switching to alkaline water and installing a humidity and temperature monitor are the first quick fixes for your dehydrated skin. Fernando, who works with cricketers like Virat Kohli and actor Aamir Khan, says that you should always carry a stainless steel water bottle with you because ideally, humans need 40ml water per kg of their body weight (not counting the water content from your food). “If you find drinking water boring, cut a few slices of lemon or orange or cucumber, or pick mint or tulsi leaves and drop it into two litres of cold water in the morning. Drink it through the day. Sometimes I just drop a few sticks of cinnamon and I keep topping up that bottle with water for a day or two,” says Fernando. This also helps provide natural sugar to your body, as processed sugar leads to ageing. If you get lazy, just add a tablespoon of chia seeds, or basil seeds to your morning bowl of porridge and wash it down with a glass of water. Look for foods such as watermelon, which have high water content. “The red part in watermelon has lycopene which is a powerful antioxidant that works on your skin. It also boosts lung function. The white part contains an amino acid called citrulline malate which helps in fat burning and works well for pre-workout hydration drink,” says Fernando. Salads work best for dehydrated skin as cooking reduces water content in food. Vegetables such as cucumber, lettuce, spinach, celery and bottle gourd are great hydrators. To rehydrate your skin, you also need to improve your intake of protein, Omega-3, collagen and vitamin-A rich foods. Think almonds, pistachio and walnuts.

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