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Water and Acne
Since water is a central part of life, it is important to know how it affects acne. Here are answers to the most important acne questions about water.
by Brad Chase
Water is essential to life and it is needed for different functions.
Given that we drink and use water in many ways, it is important to explore its relation to acne. Is water bad for acne? Does it improve acne symptoms? What about hot water? Hard water? Medicinal water? Does it help acne remedies? What does it do to the skin? How can it be put to better use in acne treatment?
Discussed below are the answers to the 10 most important questions about water and acne.
The short answer is no.
It is easy to rationalize that drinking water will reduce or clear acne breakouts but for all the scientific studies done to find such link, it has not been found. Therefore, the common advice to drink eight glasses of water daily in order to keep your face clear of acne is only backed by wishful thinking.
The reasoning behind the popular belief that drinking water helps clear acne is due to the role of water as a detoxifier and the fact that the causes of acne are skin-deep. The two assumptions are right to an extent but do not add up neatly.
Water is definitely needed for healthy skin and it cannot be replaced by beverages, sodas and other high caloric, high glycemic drinks.
These drinks only increase the level of toxins present in the body, and some of them may even contribute to acne breakouts by indirectly triggering acne-causing hormones such as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1).
In contrast, besides all the benefits that drinking water provides, it will not stimulate the production of any acne-causing hormone or increase the toxin load of them body.
Water may only help clear acne because it becomes the fluid replacement for these drinks. On its own, it does not affect acne one way or the other.
Some people also believe that increased water intake helps prevent the dehydration of the skin. This is only partly true. For those concerned by dry skin, oil-free moisturizers provide a better hydration of the skin than water.
No, hot water is actually good for acne.
Hot water especially as steam addresses one of the important causative factors in acne: clogged pores.
Hot water opens up the pores of the skin by dilating them. In this way, it can provide a deep cleansing action that helps remove the dead skin cells, bacteria and excess sebum clogging these pores.
Similarly, hot water can liquefy hardened sebum allowing them to flow out of the pores and off the skin.
In addition, hot water or steam is effective for killing some of the acne-causing bacteria on the skin as long as they are easily destroyed by heat. It also helps reduce the swelling of inflammatory acne lesions.
Hot water allows the skin to “breathe” by clearing off dirt from it and opening the pores. By dilating the skin pores, steam can help drive in active ingredients in home acne remedies especially in facial masks.
Treating acne with hot water at home is simple. Simply boil some water and pour it into a bowl. Then hold your face close to the rising steam of the water but no closer than 12 inches. Drape a towel over your head to keep the heat enclosed for as long as possible. You should keep your eyes closed during this steam treatment or use a sleep mask to cover them.
Do not add essential oils to heated hot water. This is because the medicinal compounds in these oils are easily destroyed and converted to dangerous fumes. A special facial sauna system is needed to safely turn essential oils to aromatherapy steam.
Instead, you can add herbs, fruits and teas to hot water to use.
As a rule of thumb, allow the hot water to rise or settle to a temperature you can comfortably withstand and do not let your skin touch very hot water but let it bathe in the rising steam instead. These precautions will prevent your skin from getting burnt.
Depending on the temperature of the hot water, steaming to treat acne should only take 5 – 15 minutes.
Unlike soft water, hard water has a high mineral content. These minerals directly irritate the skin and interfere with every skincare product type.
For example, soaps and cleanser are rendered useless when combined with hard water. Instead of forming cleansing lather, they rather form a weakly soapy scum after reacting with the minerals in hard water. The calcium in hard water is especially blamed for this interference.
Furthermore, hard water makes it difficult to remove the soap used and scum formed on the skin. Therefore, the skin is irritated for longer and it becomes dry and reddened.
These residual effects can trigger increased sebum production and acne breakouts.
In addition, the scum formed from hard water combine with the ingredients of skincare products to clog the pores. These impurities also change the nature of the sebum from a free-flowing oil to a sticky wax which then clogs the pores too.
The minerals in hard water can also cause damage to the skin by promoting the breakdown of collagen and the development of acne lesions.
Home filtration systems are often unable to remove the heavy metals in hard water. Metals such as iron, copper, lead, zinc and magnesium should not stay for long on the skin since they cause damage to the skin.
To prevent acne breakouts due to hard water, you should switch to soft water.
Alternatively, make sure to use skincare and acne products formulated with chelators which can remove heavy metals from the skin.
Tap water may be free from dirt and most germs but it is filled with chemicals used to treat it.
The commonest chemical found in tap water is chlorine. Chlorine reacts with other organic compounds in water to form a set of compounds called chloramine. Currently, fluorine is also increasingly added to public water supply.
In addition, the pesticides and herbicides used in farming can leach from the soil to the water table and contaminate public water supply. This kind of low level poisoning from tap water soon accumulates in the body.
These chemicals do interfere with different organ-systems in the body especially the endocrine and immune systems.
Chlorinated water irritates the skin and has been shown to interfere with the production and actions of essential micronutrients such as vitamin E. Chlorine from tap water can also wipe out the beneficial bacteria in the gut, and so prevent the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals.
The cumulative effect of the chemicals found in tap water can trigger the hormonal imbalance and immune response that cause acne lesions to break out on the skin.
While the ability of tap water to cause acne is most likely not very significant (at least for clean, moderately treated tap water), you should take steps to purify your tap water by getting a water filtration system at home.
Lemon water is, however, not an actual acne remedy. Its main claim to helping clear acne is its vitamin C content.
Since lemon is a citrus, lemon water contains ascorbic acid. Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is one of the vitamins that have been shown to help prevent acne breakouts. However, even vitamin C should be combined with other acne remedies to provide the best results.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can help protect the skin from damage caused by free radicals.
This protective action lowers the risk of the skin getting damaged by reactive oxygen species. Such damage can open the way for acne-causing bacteria and/or trigger skin inflammation which leads to acne.
Care should be taken to dilute lemon juice with water before ingesting it. Where possible, lemon water should be drunk through a straw. This is because it is acidic and may damage the enamel of the teeth.
Salt water can help remove acne lesions but it has to be used with care and only when other home remedies are unsuitable.
Salt water can kill of acne-causing bacteria. It does this by breaking down their membranes and by dehydrating them. It can also be used to exfoliate the skin, and remove the excess sebum usually found on acne-afflicted skins.
However, salt water can dry up the skin too and then trigger rebound production of excess sebum as the skin tries to moisturize itself.
In addition, using salt water for your acne can leave silt or a layer of residual salt on your skin. This will interfere with other topical acne and skincare products you use, and prevent cleansing soaps, creams and lotions from properly forming lather.
Since salt water can trigger acne breakouts by its harsh actions on the skin, it is not the best acne home remedy. It should be avoided by those with dry and/or sensitive skin types.
However, if you must use salt water, make sure to get sea salt instead of table salt.
Sea salt contains other medicinal minerals which are helpful to the skin. Boil some water and add enough salt to make a concentrated solution. Then apply on the affected area with a ball of cotton wool.
Coconut water contains a high amount of potassium as well as other essential minerals, vitamins, amino acids and plant hormones. It is a low caloric, clear liquid that contains no fat and little carbohydrate and sodium.
While there are no established scientific evidence validating the benefits of coconut water in acne treatment, such link is likely.
Given the unique nature of coconut water, it is possible that it helps clear and prevent acne. This is because coconut water contains the right ingredients. Although, its refreshing taste is provided by sugars, it actually contains low calories. Therefore, it cannot cause acne by increasing glycemic load.
In addition, coconut water contains electrolytes needed to keep the body hydrated and properly functioning. It has been shown to also contain antioxidants which can help detoxify the body and the skin.
Therefore, the overall effect of coconut water on the skin is to help maintain its normal functioning.
Coconut water may contain the right ingredients to help clear acne but it does not contain them in amounts high enough to provide rapid or lasting results. Therefore, it is beneficial for skin health and most likely improves acne symptoms but it is far from being an acne remedy.
Rose water is made from the steam distillation of rose petals. It is a byproduct of rose oil production and although it is not a concentrate of essential oils, it contains most of the same ingredients as rose oil.
Rose water is used in cooking and to make perfumes. It also has some medicinal properties and has been used for centuries to cure skin diseases.
The two active ingredients of rose water which provides the best benefits are phenyl ethyl alcohol and eugenol. These ingredients have antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. Therefore, rose water can help remove the microbial cause of acne.
Besides killing acne-causing bacteria, rose water is also useful for hydrating and improving the skin tone. It has a soothing effect on the skin and is especially recommended for those with sensitive skin types.
Rose water may also help reduce the production of excess sebum because it keeps the skin moist.
It can be applied directly on the area of the skin affected by acne as a facial wash. Rose water is a common ingredient of acne masks. It can even be combined with honey and cucumber to make an all-natural, soothing and effective acne mask.
Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate is a common acne remedy that can be found at home. It is gentle on the skin and well tolerated by most people.
Baking soda can help exfoliate the skin by removing dead skin cells. It also removes excess sebum from the skin and open up the pores to be aerated.
Other benefits of baking soda in acne treatment include its antiseptic property, its ability to neutralize the byproducts of microbial metabolism on the skin and reducing bacterial growth on the skin.
However, baking soda may cause dry skin in some people. Also, since it forms an alkaline solution when mixed with water, long-term use of baking soda masks or toners may change the pH of the skin and trigger new acne breakouts.
Aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid which is similar to the common acne remedy, salicylic acid. However, they are not quite the same although when mixed with water, aspirin does form salicylic acid.
The chief contribution of aspirin solution in acne treatment is its anti-inflammatory effect. This helps reduce the size of inflammatory acne lesions such as pimples. Aspirin with water can also help remove dead skin cells from the skin and prevent the pores from clogging. This is why the skin seems to glow after applying acne masks made out of aspirin.
However, the positive effect of aspirin in acne treatment is not long-lasting and it cannot provide a significant improvement of acne symptoms on its own.
Besides, aspirin does produce some irritation when applied to the skin. It can also cause dry skin and it should be avoided by anyone who is allergic to aspirin or suffers from Reye’s Syndrome. Aspirin may also make the skin more sensitive; therefore, it is recommended that you wear a good sunscreen after washing it off.
Aspirin can be absorbed through the skin. The extent of this absorption is still debated but it is safe to assume that aspirin mask for acne may cause some system side effects.
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