Is Water Bad for Dry Skin?

Water: It's Good & Bad

Woman washing her face in water
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Water has amazing skin benefits. Internally, that is. Externally, not so much. You would think that putting water on the skin would moisturize it more, but the opposite is true. When water that has come in contact with the skin evaporates, it takes the skin's natural oils - called the natural moisturizing factor - with it. The more frequently skin comes in contact with water, the drier it gets, especially when that water is heavily chlorinated, like in a swimming pool or hot tub, or excessively hot.

Water isn't unavoidable. How else are we supposed to bathe or cool off in ​a swimming pool on a hot summer day? How can we come in contact with water without it completely drying out our skin?

Avoid Dry Skin by Controlling Your Exposure to Water

Water is just one of the many causes of dry, flaky skin, but it's an unavoidable substance. We shower. We swim. Your exposure to it, however, can be controlled. Dry skin can plague us during any time of year, but it becomes particularly common during the winter when temperatures drop and humidity plummets. Keep the following guidelines in mind year round to keep your skin in good condition, especially during cold weather:

  • Water temperature should be tepid. As wonderful it is to take a hot shower on a cold night, hot water strips the skin of even more oils than cool water. "Cool" doesn't mean "cold." Just try to keep the water warm. If your skin is red after taking a shower, that means the water is too hot.
  • Keep it short. Long, hot showers transform our bathrooms into a spa-like experience, but it can make normal skin dry and dry skin even drier.
  • Use soap strategically. Unless you literally have dirt and grime on you, you don't really need to use soap everywhere on your body. It's okay to use soap in the "pits and parts." That is, in areas where you sweat: your armpits and genital area. Some soaps contain especially harsh ingredients. You might want to switch to a soap formulated for dry skin or one that contains emollients that will replace the skin's natural oils.
  • Pat dry. When drying off after showering or swimming, pat the skin dry with a towel until skin is not dripping with water. Don't vigorously rub skin dry.
  • Moisturize. Does your skin ever get that dry, tight, uncomfortable feeling after taking a shower? Your skin is dehydrated after coming in contact with water, so after drying off, immediately apply a good moisturizer to lock in hydration.


Coderch L, et al. "Efficacy of stratum corneum lipid supplementation on human skin." Contact Dermatitis. 3(2002):139-46.

Johnson, Anthony. "Overview: fundamental skin care - protecting the barrier." Dermatologic Therapy. 17(2004):1-5.

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