When my editor asked me if I’d be willing to drink water and write about it, I was intrigued. No heavy research? No complex medical studies to cite? Just try to drink the recommended amount of water I should be drinking each day anyways and take notes? I’ve heard drinking a lot of water helps improve your complexion and I’ve been suffering from bouts of acne and redness lately, so I decided to give this experiment a try.
I started by trying to figure out how much water you typically need daily. It turns out, different people may need different amounts of water to keep their bodies functioning at their best. According to the Mayo Clinic, men need to consume more water than women. Other factors, like the climate you live in, your weight, health conditions you may have, and your activity level, can all play a part in determining how much you as an individual need to drink.
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The general rule of thumb is for men to drink 15.5 (8 oz) cups and for women to drink 11.5 cups. If you live in a hotter area, exercise frequently, or are pregnant, you should increase your water intake beyond that. Additionally, 20% of the water you need daily comes from the food you eat.
As a woman living in a cooler, temperate climate who isn’t especially active — I walk and do yoga or lift light weights a couple of times a week, but I’m by no means an athlete — 11.5 cups seemed like a good place to start. Subtracting the 20% from my fruit and veggie intake, I settled on eight to nine 8-ounce cups as my goal to shoot for. (If you want to see how much water you really should be drinking each day, check out this calculator that does the work for you.)
If You Drink Coffee, Do You Need to Drink More Water?
I started the first day of this experiment the way I start every other day of my life — with coffee. This got me thinking: Does coffee count as a hydrating beverage? Or is it the opposite, and do I need to drink more water because of it?
Turns out, it counts. Coffee (and tea) is brewed with water, which can help you hydrate. There are some small studies that suggest drinking a moderate amount of coffee each day can be just as hydrating as drinking water. Drinking just water is definitely the most effective way to stay hydrated (and the cheapest) so I decided not to count my daily cup of joe in my tally — I thought of it as a bonus, but not a main source of water.
Is Seltzer Just As Hydrating As Water?
Midway through my week-long experiment, I hit a proverbial bump in the road. I wanted to enjoy a can of flavored seltzer, but didn’t know if it would count as part of my water intake. I figured any water is better than no water, but I wanted to do some research and see if it was more or less hydrating than plain, flat water. I was happy to find out that yes, seltzer is just as hydrating! The caveat is it has to be real seltzer and not soda in disguise, which means no added sugars, caffeine, or other calorie-heavy surprises. After finding this out, I added fizz and flavor to my daily hydration schedule to make my water consumption more exciting.
Do You Have to Drink More Water After Drinking Alcohol?
I started to see a pattern as I got further into the experiment. Most days, during working hours, were pretty easy, but when the work day ends I was tempted to trade water for alcohol.
Sipping cocktails at happy hour or drinking a beer with dinner are things I like to do from time to time. But did I need to drink extra water to make up for it? The short answer is yes. Alcohol is a diuretic; it causes your kidneys to produce a lot more urine than usual which means it can dehydrate you faster. I found out a good rule of thumb is to drink two glasses of water for every alcoholic beverage you have. I only drank one glass of water and ended up with a dull headache the next morning (a symptom of dehydration).
So, Does Drinking Water Actually Help Your Skin?
I recently wrote an article on ‘maskne’ — acne and skin issues caused by the now-required face coverings in public. I have been suffering with this problem personally, so I wanted to know if hydration could really help my newly irritated and breakout-prone skin.
A couple days in, I didn’t really see any noticeable difference in my skin. A day or so later, after indulging in an alcoholic beverage, I noticed a change in my skin (but not in a good way). Post-alcohol it looked dull and felt dry. There is some evidence that suggests you can develop acne because of alcohol’s effects on the skin. And while I may not have noticed a big positive change from drinking more water for a few days, I certainly saw a negative change after just one day of dehydration. That was reason enough for me to stick to my hydration schedule moving forward. I increased my water consumption in the days following and noticed not only an energy boost but my skin showed signs of less redness and dryness. Though early on in my experiment, I didn’t notice huge changes in my skin, the obvious contrast between what my skin looked like then and what I saw in the mirror post-weekend cocktails really hit home for me.
Two weeks later, I’ve been continuing to track my water consumption (setting alarms to remind me to drink!) and drinking a full glass of water first thing in the morning each day. All this added hydration is finally starting to change the appearance of my skin. I still have some small pimples around my chin line, but they’re healing, my skin is less red and irritated and dry looking, and it feels smoother. So, if you’re trying to drink more water, too, stick with it. As evidenced by this experiment, nothing happens overnight. But, if you keep going, drinking all that water is going to pay off. I can’t wait to see how my skin looks in another two weeks.