I recently learned that the average woman is supposed to drink 96 ounces of water every single day, which sounds like a lot, especially since I don't really drink water unless it's in coffee or if I'm painfully hungover. But that's what doctors and Michelle Obama recommend, because it's good for your health. So I figured that I should probably give it a shot. I've also been breaking out recently, and I've read in dozens of women's magazines and websites that drinking more water is the magic cure to my acne woes.
I challenged myself to drink the recommended amount of water every day for a full week to see what the effect would be on my skin and my overall well-being. Would the acne on my chin clear up? Would the dark circles under my eyes disappear? Would I look 10 years younger, which this British woman claimed happened to her after drinking three liters of water per day for a month? There was only one way to find out.
The only part of my regular routine that I changed was to drink more water — specifically, the 91 ounces of H2O recommended by the Institute of Medicine. I didn't change my meal plans, my alcohol consumption, my skincare regimen, my sleeping patterns, or my workout frequency (which, for the record, is totally nonexistent, but that's a whole other story). My biggest worry was how my bladder would react to this new influx of liquid, but peeing a lot was a risk I was willing to take, given that the benefits could be miraculous.
It seemed silly to buy a gallon of bottled water every day, especially since I live in New York City, which has some of the world's cleanest and tastiest tap water. So my first step was to dig out a water bottle from the collection that's been amassing under my sink. I ended up choosing my trusty Nalgene, which holds 32 ounces of water. And I set a goal of drinking three full bottles per day, for a total of 96 ounces — a whole five ounces more than the recommended amount, because I'm nothing if not an overachiever.
Carrying my Nalgene around with me everywhere was a crucial move. Keeping the bottle nearby made it easy to continuously drink the water (because it was always right there if I wanted to take a sip) as well as to track the amount of liquid I was drinking.
I was able to get into a routine pretty quickly, and ultimately, I was surprised that drinking that volume of liquid wasn't as challenging as I anticipated — especially over the course of a whole day. When I actually broke it down, I had over 17 hours each day, between the time I woke up and the time I went to sleep, to drink 96 ounces of water. It's a lot of time, especially when I think about how I used to regularly drink a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor in a single sitting when I was in college. (Get at me.) I created a water consumption schedule: One Nalgene-full before lunch, one bottle after lunch, and one bottle to be consumed after I got home for dinner. Breaking it down in that way helped make the task feel more manageable and less intimidating.
Let's just get this out of the way: I peed a lot. I took 12 trips to the bathroom on my first day, but then stopped counting, because it was creeping me out to keep such meticulous track of something so personal. The only time this was an issue was when access to a bathroom was limited — like the time on the fifth day of the experiment I was forced to wait in line at a bar bathroom behind four or five other women after drinking over 64 ounces of water and two beers that day. I seriously feared that I would pee in my pants. But I quickly learned how to adapt to that problem, making sure to use a bathroom when it was available and before leaving any building.
Even with all the extra trips to the ladies' room, though, drinking 91 ounces of water every day for a week was pretty straightforward. I reached my goal six out of seven days, and the day I missed (Sunday) was only by half a Nalgene.
Here's the bad part, though: There wasn't a huge change in my skin over the course of the week — probably because I didn't change anything else about my routine. The acne on my chin subsided a little, but it's hard to know if that's because of the increased water intake or because I just waited it out long enough. On the last day of the experiment, I found a small zit on my right cheek, so really, I ended up slightly worse off than when I started. The dark circles under my eyes that I hoped would be erased totally stayed put. I took a makeup-less selfie every morning when I woke up to track the changes, and to be frank, I can't tell the difference between any of the seven pictures. See for yourself: The picture on the left is me on the first day, and the one on the right was taken on the last day.
So a week of drinking 91 ounces of water each day wasn't enough to make my skin glow. But there were other positive outcomes that I didn't anticipate. Making that one change in my routine made me much more conscious about the other less-healthy aspects of my day. My coffee consumption remained static, because I'm relatively hooked on the stuff (which is another story for another day), but my typical late-afternoon caffeine headaches disappeared, and I was drinking less soda and booze than I normally would.
I also found that when I did drink a glass of wine or a beer, I was actually drinking a glass of water alongside each, as recommended. And because I knew I had a daily quota I needed to meet, I found myself grabbing my water bottle for a sip before I went for a snack, and then eating less food than I probably would have otherwise.
Even if my skin wasn't markedly improved after a week, I'm going to keep on carrying around my Nalgene and drinking my 91 ounces of water. Maybe one week just wasn't enough time to see any significant results. Maybe I'll break out less over time. Maybe my dark under-eye circles will be erased. Since it was so simple to incorporate this healthy habit into my daily routine, and I've found it easy to continue well after my formal experiment ended, why not just keep doing it — especially if that's what doctors recommend, right?
Besides, my friend said my skin looked "radiant" the other day, so at least there's that.
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Images: Author; Giphy