When the temperature drops during the winter months, the air holds less moisture. And one nuisance that comes with that low humidity is dry skin. Though turning on the heat may keep things warmer, it won’t make the air any less dry — and your skin may suffer as a result.
To combat the issue, many people run humidifiers inside their homes. Here’s what you should know about using a humidifier to replenish your dry skin.
Typically, skin reflects the moisture levels of the surrounding air. Since air is generally dryer in the winter, it can lead to a phenomenon known as winter xerosis — or winter dry skin.
When the protective barrier of your skin is damaged, small cracks can form and contribute to moisture loss. Symptoms of this include flaking, itching, or cracked skin. The effects can be even worse if you’re already prone to dry skin. For example, our skin tends to lose oil glands as we age, which can intensify dryness. As a result, roughly 85% of older adults experience the “winter itch” on their skin.
There are several possible remedies for dry skin, such as using thick moisturizers and avoiding long, hot showers. But one of the most effective ways to combat wintertime dryness is to address the root issue. Humidifiers restore moisture in the air by turning water into steam or vapor. Running one through the winter months can help you achieve and maintain an indoor humidity level of 30 to 50% — ideal for preventing dry skin.
For people with preexisting skin conditions, a home humidifier can be an especially useful tool. Winter air, for example, can contribute to eczema flare-ups, or make symptoms worse if you have psoriasis.
There are several types of humidifiers available, allowing you to find the one that works best for you and your home. Cool-mist vaporizers may be ideal, as warm-mist humidifiers heat water to high temperatures and could cause burns. Whichever type you choose, be sure to place the humidifier in a spot where there’s no risk of it tipping over and causing leaks.
One of the best ways to ensure your skin reaps the benefits of a humidifier is to keep it running in your bedroom at night. Just be sure it’s placed several feet away from your bed to avoid mold or mildew growth, and far from any electronics.
Ideally, you should be using distilled water with your humidifier. Water that has been distilled is less likely to leave mineral deposits or scale in your machine, which could make it easier to clean and potentially extend its lifespan. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends a thorough cleaning every three days to prevent the risk of infection. Empty the tank and then disinfect any surfaces of the device that come in contact with water using a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide.
If you’re struggling with dry skin or any other skin woes, turn to Olansky Dermatology & Aesthetics. To schedule a visit with one of our providers, call (404) 355-5484, or request an appointment online.