The leading reason for dermatologist consultations, acne is the subject of a wide variety of advice to lessen the appearance of blemishes, such as drinking plenty of water. Fact or fiction? Let's explore together whether water consumption has an effect on this common skin condition.
A potential impact of water consumption on acne?
Acne is a chronic inflammatory disease of the pilosebaceous follicles, characterized by the appearance of inflammatory bumps (papules, pustules, cysts) and/or comedones (blackheads, whiteheads), which can be located on any part of the body (chest, back, face, etc.).
These skin lesions are caused by an excessive production of sebum (hyperseborrhea) or a change in its quality (dysseborrhea), an hyperkeratinization, and the abnormal multiplication of Cutibacterium acnes which is usually well tolerated.
Today, various tips and tricks are frequently shared on forums and social media on how to prevent or combat acne lesions. Drinking plenty of water is among them. But does this behavior actually have an effect on acne?
Increasing water intake internally enhances skin hydration.
A study conducted over 30 days with 49 women showed that an additional dietary intake of water (2 liters per day) appears to increase skin hydration and reduce skin dryness. However, the evidence supporting this observation is weak and the clinical relevance is not yet clear.
Indeed, it has been observed that dry skin can lead to an overproduction of sebum. When the skin's water content is reduced, the skin must "compensate" for this lack of external hydration by increasing sebum secretion in order to replenish the skin's natural protective barrier.
However, the increase in sebum excretion is a causal event associated with the development of acne. Additionally, if the sebum interferes with the process of follicular keratinization, the pores can become "clogged", which contributes to the formation of pimples.
Water consumption would promote detoxification.
The body possesses an efficient detoxification system naturally, and water is a crucial element for the proper functioning of this system. Moreover, it has been demonstrated that drinking water can alter the skin's microbiome.
The sweat glands, primarily the exocrine glands, which are responsible for perspiration, are present on virtually all skin surfaces and continuously bathe the skin's surface with their secretions, which are primarily composed of water and salt.
The primary role of exocrine sweat is thermoregulation through the release of latent heat due to the evaporation of water. However, exocrine glands also function to excrete water and electrolytes, and to acidify the skin, which prevents the colonization and growth of microorganisms, and the elimination of toxins.
For this mechanism to function properly, a sufficient intake of water through diet is essential. Proper toxin elimination could prevent the pores from becoming clogged, which could help prevent skin breakouts. However, research on this subject is limited.
Drinking water could have an impact on the immune system.
A study has highlighted a significant decrease in immune function, through a reduction in the levels of neutrophils, macrophages, natural killer cells ("Natural Killers"), and other immune cells following an effort akin to a marathon.
Such an effort is typically associated with intense water loss through perspiration. It is then hypothesized that a person's hydration status affects the immune system, and that a lack of water intake has a negative impact on immunity.
It's important to understand that the state of hydration is not the only factor contributing to this phenomenon. Energy balance, thermal stress, and stress hormones also significantly contribute to it.
We hypothesize that acne-associated bacteria, such as Cutibacterium acnes, would therefore be attacked by our strengthened immune system, reducing the risk of developing acne. However, additional research is necessary to confirm the direct action of drinking water on protection against bacteria responsible for acne.
Water consumption could regulate blood sugar levels.
A study observed that a low water intake could be associated with a higher risk of hyperglycemia, suggesting that a higher intake could prevent the onset of hyperglycemia. Concurrently, SMITH R. N. and his team demonstrated in a study that 12 weeks of dieting with a low glycemic index managed to reduce the number of acne lesions significantly compared to a diet with a normal to high glycemic index (high carbohydrate intake).
Research suggests that frequent consumption of high glycemic index carbohydrates may also expose us to acute hyperinsulinemia, meaning a blood insulin level higher than normal. However, this condition is implicated in the pathophysiology of acne, due to its association with an increase in the bioavailability of androgens, hormones involved in stimulating sebum secretion, and free concentrations of IGF-1, which increase the production of skin cells that can then lead to pore obstruction through hyperkeratinization and thus the appearance of acne pimples.
Acne: What are the recommendations?
In light of these findings, it can be suggested that drinking water could potentially contribute to acne prevention by impacting various biological mechanisms. However, few results have been observed regarding its direct or indirect action on reducing existing acne. Therefore, these findings should be approached with caution, as research in this field is still developing.
Given the extreme variability of water needs, which are not solely dependent on metabolic differences, but also on environmental conditions and activities, there is no single optimal level of water intake. However, it is recommended to drink enough water, which is approximately 2 liters, not only to potentially reduce the likelihood of developing pimples, but also to improve overall health.
This behavior must obviously be coupled with a varied diet and regular physical activity, and should not replace traditional treatments. It is still wise to discuss it with a healthcare professional before attempting anything.
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