To stand even a chance of keeping the visible signs of aging at bay, you have to know how to hydrate skin. Retaining and replacing moisture in the epidermis means that fine lines and wrinkles may be slower to form, and are less noticeable. Also, well-hydrated skin functions better, meaning that the skin as our first line of defense against pathogens and injury is more robust and resilient.

When considering how to hydrate skin, a holistic approach is most effective. This means making an understanding of how to hydrate skin a priority in every facet of your lifestyle.

How to hydrate skin from the inside out:

1-Eat lots of dark green, leafy vegetables. Surprised? Of course, you may have thought that the first piece of inside-out advice would be to drink 8 big glasses of water a day when wondering how to hydrate skin.

True, drinking plenty of plain, pure water every day– and no, juice, soda (whether diet OR sweetened), milk, energy drinks, tea, coffee, beer, etc. do NOT count– is crucial when it comes to how to hydrate skin. But lately, the optimum quantity has become a topic of discussion. Some nutritionists now say that those 8 huge glasses per day may actually flush out nutrients.

The newer thinking is that eating dark green veggies, or drinking them in blended / extracted form, delivers more hydration to skin, tissues and organs than gallons of water alone. The ideal dark leafy greens to eat as salads, steam, or extract in your Magic Bullet as juices are chard, kale, spinach and dandelion greens. These detoxifying greens are considered a liver tonic, and this is relevant to the discussion of how to hydrate skin: the skin, like the liver and lungs, is a waste-management system which purifies and eliminates.

2-Yes, keep drinking water. And by the way, bubbly water is a no-no, according to many health experts who link carbonation with cellulite formation. Urp.

But consider swapping at least a few of those glasses of H20 for the extracts of dark leafy greens. Not fruit juices, and not even carrot juice: chard, kale, spinach, dandelion. Throw in a chunk of raw ginger for pizzazz, and chug it to keep skin vibrant, moist and glowing.

3-Eat lots of fiber. See above, regarding elimination. The correlation between digestion, fiber and skin condition has not been conclusively researched, but poor eating and elimination visibly affect the function and appearance of the skin. Think bran flakes, a couple of organic figs, prunes or dried apricots as needed, and plenty of cardio, along with generous daily intake of fluids.

How to hydrate skin from the outside:

The human skin has a natural, mildly acidic mantle, or protective lipid layer, when it is healthy and robust. Many things can compromise or dry out this essential barrier layer. Examples: stress, low environmental humidity, smoking, drinking lots of alcohol, sunburn, hormonal changes, air-travel, vegan or super lowfat diet, allergies, and, of course, simply getting old.

According to the earliest known records, humans have covered their skin with various compounds, for religious and cultural as well as cosmetic reasons. Mud, clay, oils, grease, powdered lead, crushed minerals and more have been identified in ancient Egyptian, Persian, Chinese, African, MesoAmerican and Celtic toiletry jars– just to name a few.

An old-school strategy when it came to how to hydrate skin was occlusion, meaning to close off the skin’s surface, thereby trapping precious moisture under an airtight layer. This might sound good in theory, except it’s not.

The skin is a living, breathing organ– yes, it is considered the body’s largest organ. As mentioned, it is an organ which eliminates the body’s waste products through its surface. This is why occlusive substances like petroleum jelly and baby oil in the modern era (you know that these drugstore staples are byproducts of coal production, right?) aren’t good for skin: they prevent the skin from expelling wastes. Using vaseline on the skin, for instance, is a bit like covering it in plastic wrap. If you use these slippery products, your skin may feel soft– but you also run the risk of forming milia (tiny granules under the topside of the skin) as well as blemishes, ingrown hairs and other unpleasant and potentially painful conditions.

The best topical approach begins with gentle exfoliation. When researching how to hydrate skin, remember that moisture cannot effectively reach into skin that is encrusted with dead cell debris (cast-off keratin protein from the skin). As we age, the natural sloughing-off process of these cells slows down. This is one reason that skin in its 4th, 5th and 6th decade often has a dull, dry appearance: cell-debris accumulation.

Exfoliation is easy– but start slow and be gentle. Start with a superfine corncob meal scrub or a microfoliant made with Rice Bran and rice enzymes. Consult with a professional skin therapist before using abrasive scrubber pads, glycolic acid (DANGER!) or anything more drastic. And, a licensed skin therapist can also polish and refine your skin with microdermabrasion and other professional treatments.

When your skin is properly exfoliated, moisturize twice a day, after thoroughly cleansing your skin (tip: cleanse first, then exfoliate, then moisturize). Choose moisturizers which do NOT contain artificial fragrances — the best skin care products are scented only with 100% USDA certified organic essential oils, which also add an aromatherapy benefit. Also avoid products which contain artificial colors, lanolin (it’s the oil from sheep’s skin, and many people are allergic), S.D. alcohol (potentially irritating), petroleum products– start there. Do protect your skin with SPF every day– and consult with a skin care professional at your spa or salon to learn more about how to hydrate skin.