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Is Water Good or Bad for Dry Skin?


Updated May 15, 2014

Question: Is Water Good or Bad for Dry Skin?


You would think that putting water on the skin would moisturize it more, but the opposite is true. Plain water that comes in contact with skin evaporates and takes with it many of the skin's natural oils called natural moisturizing factor (NMF). The more frequently that skin comes into contact with water, the drier it gets -- unless those natural oils are replaced. Since you have to use water for bathing, how do you do so without drying out the skin?


The following are some guidelines to follow when it comes to water and dry skin:

  • Water temperature should be tepid -- hot water takes more oils away than cool water.
  • The length of water contact should be short -- no long, hot showers if your skin is dry.
  • Unless you have mud and grime on you, you really don't have to use soap everywhere on your body. It's OK to just use soap in "pits and parts" -- in areas where you sweat, like armpits and the genital area (private parts).
  • If you need soap, use one of the recommended soaps for dry skin that contain emollients and actually replace the skin's natural oils.
  • Using antibacterial gels for hand-washing does not cause the skin to dry out because the alcohol does not bind to the skin's oils.
  • When drying off, pat the skin dry with a towel until the skin is not dripping - do not rub the skin vigorously.
  • Use a good moisturizer on the skin immediately after any contact with water.


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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