skin care for teens

Hydration and Your Skin: Tips for Teens

 Let's consider the components of a good skincare routine for teens. Yes, it's important to choose the best teen skincare products and stay consistent with caring for teen skin daily. But what about diet? And hydration?

In this article, I'll focus on why proper hydration is such an important component for achieving glowing teen/tween skin.

Why is drinking water so important for our skin?

    Our skin is a living, breathing organ of our body. Our bodies, and all of the organs within them, require water as an essential nutrient. Ionic compounds and solutes dissolve in water, and this process allows for transportation of critical compounds to the cells and structures of the skin. Proper hydration helps maintain homeostasis throughout all of the organs in our body, including our skin.

    At a molecular level, proper hydration of our skin is thought to be necessary to maintain barrier function of the skin. Our skin barrier protects our internal selves from the environment around us and also prevents the evaporation of water from within our skin out into the external world. 

    Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that water consumption will improve wrinkles or skin laxity. 

    What if we don't like to drink plain water?  

    Numerous clinical studies have demonstrated that typical daily consumption of foods as well as water produced as a result of cellular metabolism, is not sufficient to meet the hydration needs of most individuals. Generally, we require water-based beverage intake to meet our daily hydration requirements.

    Seltzers or sparkling waters are nearly equivalent to standard waters in terms of hydration properties. Herbal teas and waters flavored with fruit placed in the water to render flavor are likewise nearly equivalent to standard water given that these beverages are composed primarily of water.

    Coconut waters and electrolyte drinks are other effective options to supplement hydration for those who don't prefer the taste of plain water. Individuals should limit intake of electrolyte drinks as excess electrolytes can cause imbalances that lead to other medical issues. 

    Milk can also be an effective substitute for those who don't like the taste of water. Milk will contain more calories but also provides calcium, vitamin D, and protein. Some individuals are sensitive to dairy, and this must be considered when choosing milk as a hydrating beverage.

    What about coffee or tea? Sports drinks and sugary beverages?

    The diuretic effect of the caffeine in coffee and tea is unlikely to outweigh the hydration benefits of the water/fluid within these beverages. Generally, ingestion of moderate amounts of caffeine (250mg or less per day) is considered safe. However, tolerance to caffeine and caffeine metabolism varies widely among individuals, so it's important to be aware of your own response to this compound. Also, caffeine is an antioxidant, so in small amounts, can be very beneficial to skin; this ingredient is found in many skincare products. 

    We know that sugar is very inflammatory to teen skin. Therefore, drinks with high amounts of sugar will cause inflammation in the skin. Consistent ingestion of large quantities of sugary drinks will eventually result in advanced glycation end products (AGEs) leading to further skin damage, weakening of collagen and elastic fibers, and the appearance of dullness and laxity in the skin.

    As the mom of teens/tweens myself, I limit energy drinks for our daughters. These often have very high amounts of caffeine and sugar and are not good for general health or skin health. 

    There is a well-proven, direct correlation between foods and drinks with a high glycemic index (such as sodas, fruit juices, sugary coffee drinks) and teen acne. Likewise, inflammatory skin conditions such as rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis can be exacerbated by excess sugar intake as might occur from ingestion of juices, sodas, sports drinks, etc.

    I personally steer clear of artificial sweeteners as there is evidence that these too can exacerbate inflammation within the skin and worsen acne and rosacea. These ingredients are also linked to insulin resistance which contributes to poor functioning within the skin. 

    The good news is that typically your skin will bounce back quickly after discontinuing consumption of sugary beverages, artificial sweeteners and large amounts of caffeine. 

    Can we compensate lack of water intake by applying the right teen skincare?  

    Skincare products simply can't penetrate to the deeper layers of your skin and will therefore never be a substitute for proper internal hydration. Moisturizing your skin may improve the appearance of the skin but it can't replace the functional benefits of adequate amounts of water in your skin cells and skin structures.

    To optimize hydration, skincare products should contain a mixture of humectants, emollients, and occlusives. Humectants such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and urea help draw water into the skin. Emollients such as ceramides and squalane oil support the "mortar" between skin cells and strengthen the skin barrier. Occlusives such as petrolatum, argan oil, and jojoba oil form a protective barrier on the surface of the skin, sealing water in. 

    Seriously, how “bad” is it for your skin if you never drink water?

    Water makes up approximately 60% of the volume of our bodies and cells. It's an essential part of our bodily functions and necessary for each of the organs that keep us running. 

    As our body's largest organ, our skin absolutely requires proper amounts of water to perform optimally. When teens are dehydrated, teen skin is sluggish, the skin microbiome becomes imbalanced, and we set the stage for inflammation, injury and damage to our skin. Much of this struggle happens "behind the scenes" (i.e. at the molecular level of our skin), however, we will note the dryness, dullness, sensitivity, and lack of performance in our skin. And the damage that occurs from chronic bad habits (i.e. never drinking water) can be a slow burn that shows up years later. You don't have to drink plain water, but you do need to make sure that you're maintaining adequate hydration from other sources. I'm a bit of a purist, so my opinion is that plain water is the gold standard. Ingest other options (seltzers, herbal teas, milk, etc) if you must. 


    In conclusion, proper water intake and hydration are a key component for achieving your teen skin care goals!

    Stay Bright!

    --Dr. Angela