How Electrolytes Affect Your Skin... Dehydration Isn’t Only Internal



Muscle cramps…
Dry, itchy skin?

When I often read about dehydration and the body, that last symptom isn't typically mentioned a lot, but it’s real. It wasn’t apparent to me until one warm, summer day when I was preparing for an upcoming marathon. There were many training runs, but it was on one of my longer training runs which lasted several hours on an August morning along the water in New York City. The day started cool but slowly started to warm up. My body was starting to warm up, so every once in a while when I felt parched I stopped for a drink of water. I knew there were water fountains on my route, so I only kept an electrolyte drink in the car. Over the course of 3 hours, I stopped twice to take a couple of big swigs of the electrolyte drink. With the sun beating down, and the water fountains conveniently available, I believed pausing for a few sips at each fountain would keep me hydrated. Wow, was I wrong!

Knowing the importance of electrolytes, I made sure I had an electrolyte drink in the car for that run. However, I underestimated the heat and the rate at which I was losing nutrients until it was too late. After the run, on the drive home, my legs and arms started to cramp, I was starting to develop a bad headache, dizziness, and I was so tired. Typical, yet more severe, symptoms of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance which I had experienced before. This time I noticed something different. I was very itchy and had localized dry skin.

After reading countless articles discussing the importance of electrolytes such as sodium, calcium, potassium, chlorine, magnesium, and phosphate, I never saw much about itchy, dry skin. They discuss how these special minerals play important roles in:

  • Making sure your muscles, heart, brain, other organs, and nerves work properly
  • Balancing your body’s pH levels
  • Transferring nutrients into your cells and removing waste from those cells
  • Water balance within your body

Here’s a quick video for a high-level understanding of electrolytes:   

What I didn't often see, is how important electrolytes are for the skin!

Electrolytes, especially sodium, are essential to the homeostasis of the body and regulating the body’s fluid levels. As we sweat, an abundance of electrolytes are depleted with the water that’s cooling down our skin. The more electrolytes we lose, the less likely our body will function properly to maintain overall hydration. Your body starts misfiring and failing to perform at its optimal level, and the symptoms discussed above start to occur, including dry, itchy skin. Many suggest drinking more water, but my self-inflicted experiment proves that water alone is not enough. In fact, too much water can also be dangerous and cause over-hydration. Electrolytes become diluted in your body due to the excessive water and can cause a condition known as hyponatremia, which is when sodium levels drop too low.

Without electrolytes keeping our bodies hydrated, and our cells healthy and clean, our skin would be suffering from the inside out. Parched, due to the malfunctioning internal system. And let’s recognize that skin regulates body temperature, but it also protects every one of those other organs from the environment, bacteria, and the mother of all, the sun, so we must take care of it!. We have to be mindful of how important our skin is to us. It is a key indicator of what is internally occurring both physically and mentally. It is your first line of defense against any physical harm. So the next time you’re eating spinach, avocado, or a banana, just remember that those electrolytes are helping you restore your body’s shield to the outside dangers that are looking to do harm.



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