Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 10/21/2021
Just like your brain, heart, lungs and other organs, your skin is made primarily of water. In fact, according to data published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, your skin’s water content is approximately 64 percent.
Since water accounts for so much of your skin, proper hydration is critical for maintaining good skin health, function and appearance.
Contrary to what you may have heard, keeping your skin hydrated and healthy typically doesn’t require any expensive products or treatments.
Instead, it’s simple to maintain healthy, hydrated skin with the right mix of good habits and inexpensive, readily available skin care products.
Below, we’ve explained why proper hydration is so important for your skin’s health, function and general wellbeing, as well as its texture and youthfulness.
We’ve also shared several simple but effective tips that you can use to keep your skin hydrated, healthy and looking its best in any environment.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body. In fact, it’s so large that it accounts for approximately 15 percent of your entire body weight.
Your skin consists of three major layers: the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis. An outer layer, called the stratum corneum, acts as a barrier that shields your skin against and retains the water your skin needs to properly function.
Research has found water content plays a major role in your skin’s appearance. Youthful skin is elastic, resilient and pliable largely due to the presence of natural chemicals like hyaluronic acid, which help to retain water inside the skin.
As you grow older, your skin’s ability to retain water decreases. This loss of moisture, combined with the normal aging process, contributes to the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and many of the other common signs of skin aging.
While keeping your skin well hydrated won’t necessarily turn back the aging clock and get rid of existing wrinkles, it may help to prevent new ones from forming.
Think of it as a form of preventive maintenance for your skin. By staying hydrated, not only does your skin function better — it’s also better able to maintain itself and slow down the effects of the aging process.
There are two main aspects to keeping your skin hydrated. The first is actively hydrating it. This is something you can do by applying a good quality moisturizer, drinking lots of fluids and using a humidifier whenever the air gets a little too dry.
The second is avoiding things that can dry out your skin, such as bright sunlight, harsh skin care products and certain habits and lifestyle factors.
Below, we’ve shared 12 simple but effective tactics that you can use to promote hydration, avoid dryness and keep your skin looking, feeling and functioning its best.
While this may sound a little too obvious, applying a moisturizer on a regular basis is one of the easiest and most effective ways to keep your skin hydrated and healthy.
Moisturizer works by trapping moisture inside your skin. This extra hydration can give your skin additional volume and create a youthful appearance, with fine lines, wrinkles and other signs of aging less visible.
Using a moisturizer is especially important if you also use acne treatments that contain salicylic acid, tretinoin, isotretinoin or other medications that work by promoting exfoliation, as these can dry your skin and cause issues such as redness and irritation.
If you’re prone to acne, look for a light moisturizer that’s labeled “non-comedogenic” or “doesn’t clog pores.” These products are less likely to block your pores and cause acne to develop.
Also, look for active ingredients with benefits that are backed up by peer-reviewed studies, such as hyaluronic acid or glycerin.
Our Everyday Moisturizer for Men is a light, daily moisturizer that’s designed specifically for men looking to lock in moisture after a morning shower or shave.
The main point? Moisturized skin is hydrated skin.
Moisturizer works well whenever it’s applied to your skin, but it’s most effective when it’s applied just after you take a bath, shower or otherwise wet your skin.
To keep your skin well hydrated throughout the day, try applying moisturizer within five minutes of each time you take a shower, bath or wash your face or hands in the sink.
This helps to lock in the moisture that’s still on your skin and maximize your level of skin hydration.
Whenever your skin feels dry, you can splash some water on it in the bathroom, then apply your moisturizer directly to your skin.
Make sure to carefully massage the moisturizer into your skin to ensure it’s fully absorbed.
While a shower or bath at the right temperature can supply your skin with the moisture it needs to stay hydrated, exposing your skin to overly hot water can strip it of its natural oils and lead to dryness and irritation.
Instead of taking a hot shower or bath, use lukewarm water whenever you bathe. Also, try to restrict your bathing time to five to 10 minutes, as soaking for longer than this can dry out your skin.
The better hydrated you are, the easier it becomes to maintain hydrated skin. The easiest and most effective way to keep yourself properly hydrated is to drink plenty of water and other fluids throughout the day.
While there’s no ideal amount of water for everyone to drink, the Institute of Medicine suggests that men aim for a total fluid intake of 3.7 liters per day, with a slightly lower recommended level of 2.7 liters per day for women.
You’ll get some of this from food, meaning there’s no need to take in precisely 3.7 liters of water each day. Instead, try to drink water or sugar-free beverages on a regular basis, especially with each meal.
You may need to drink more water if you’re physically active, have a fever, vomiting or diarrhea, or if you live in a hot climate that causes you to sweat often.
In addition to keeping your skin hydrated, drinking a healthy amount of water has several other major health benefits, from improving your cardiovascular function to flushing bacteria out of your bladder, aiding in digestion and regulating your body temperature.
While it’s okay to enjoy alcohol in moderation, drinking lots of alcohol can cause you to become dehydrated, potentially affecting your skin.
This is because alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it causes you to urinate more frequently than you normally would.
This dehydration is what causes the hangovers you might experience after you enjoy a few too many drinks on a night out.
To prevent alcohol from drying out your skin, limit your alcohol consumption. Aim for the CDC’s recommendation of two drinks or less per day, and keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water whenever you have more than a few glasses of beer, wine or other alcoholic beverages.
As tempting as it may be to work on your suntan, spending lots of time outside in bright sunlight can remove your skin’s moisture and potentially cause serious damage.
Sunlight contains UV radiation. When this UV radiation comes into contact with your skin, it can affect its barrier function and remove the water that’s essential for keeping your skin strong and smooth.
In addition to causing water loss and dehydration, sun exposure can harm your skin and speed up the aging process.
When UV rays come into contact with your skin, they affect it at the DNA level and prevent new collagen fibers from forming properly. Over the long term, this weakens your skin and results in the development of fine lines, wrinkles, age spots and other common signs of skin aging.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 90 percent of the visible changes that affect your skin as you age are caused by photoaging or damage caused by UV radiation.
To keep your skin protected, try to avoid spending too much time in the sun, especially when it’s bright and sunny outside.
Wear clothing that provides a decent level of coverage and make sure to wear a hat and sunglasses to shield your face from light.
On bright, sunny days, make sure to apply a broad-spectrum, SPF 30+ sunscreen to reduce the impact of UV exposure on your skin.
If you have sensitive skin, you might find that common soaps, body washes and other skin care products leave it feeling dry and uncomfortable.
This is because many soaps contain fragrances that can wear down your skin barrier and leave it feeling dry and itchy. Everybody hates itchy skin.
To prevent your skin from losing moisture, try switching from your regular soap or body wash to a moisturizing, fragrance-free soap.
You can find non-irritating, fragrance-free soap online by searching for “fragrance-free soap,” or offline in most supermarkets and drug stores.
Dry air often leads to dehydrated skin — one of several reasons why chapped lips and flaky skin are more common during the winter than in the summer.
Much like dry air can rob your skin of its moisture outside, an overly dry indoor environment can also contribute to skin that’s dry and easily irritated.
If you live in an area with low humidity and notice that your skin gets dry easily, try switching on the humidifier when you’re at home.
Even a modest amount of extra water vapor in your home’s air supply can help to keep your skin hydrated and healthy.
Cleansers are highly effective at washing away the excess sebum and dead skin cells that can clog your pores and contribute to acne breakouts.
However, many facial cleansers contain active ingredients that can strip away too much oil from your skin, leaving it dry and defenseless.
To avoid drying out your skin, consider switching from a harsher cleanser or acne body wash to one that uses a gentle, non-irritating formula.
When you’re comparing cleansers, look for terms such as “non-irritating” and “fragrance-free” to identify skincare products that are less likely to cause dry skin.
Certain things can sap your skin of its natural oils and moisture, leaving it feeling dry and easily irritated.
For example, frequently washing your hands, applying hand sanitizer or handling certain types of cleaning products can cause your skin to become dry and chapped, even if you have a good routine for moisturizing your skin.
To reduce dryness, try to avoid activities that strip your skin of moisture. If you need to handle a product that’s known to cause dryness, make sure to wear protective gloves and carefully wash your hands with a moisturizing, fragrance-free soap once you’re finished.
Sometimes, dry skin can be caused by an existing skin condition, such as psoriasis, ichthyosis or atopic dermatitis.
If you often develop skin that’s dry, scaly or itchy, it’s best to visit your primary care provider or schedule an appointment with a dermatologist to discuss your symptoms.
They may diagnose an underlying skin condition that’s causing your skin to feel dry, itchy and/or irritated.
Most skin conditions can be treated with a combination of over-the-counter skin care products, medications and changes to your skin care habits.
Our guide to common skin rashes lists skin conditions that can cause dryness and irritation, as well as the most effective ways to treat them.
Most of the time, you should be able to keep your skin hydrated and prevent dryness using the habits and techniques listed above.
However, if your skin dries out easily, or if you don’t see results from these techniques, it’s best to talk to a dermatologist.
As specialists in skin care, a dermatologist can examine your skin and find out what may cause issues such as dryness.
They can also recommend medications and other products to promote hydration and keep your skin properly moisturized.
Keeping your skin hydrated strengthens its skin barrier functions, improves its appearance and may help to slow down the effects of aging, making it worth doing regardless of your skin type.
You can keep your skin hydrated by practicing good skin care habits, moisturizing on a regular basis and maintaining a steady intake of water and other healthy drinks.
You can also use science-based skin care products such as our Anti-Aging Cream for Men to slow down the aging process and improve your skin’s appearance.
Not sure where to start? Our guide to anti-aging skin care for men covers everything you need to know about taking care of your skin as you get older, from hydration to sleep, sun protection and more.