High humidity is a common complaint during the summer in much of the world. You’re already hot, but now that heat feels twice as intense. Understandably, many people don’t like high humidity.
Although a humid environment can feel unbearable at times, low humidity can be problematic for your skin. Continue reading to learn the relationship between humidity levels and skin health.
Back To Basics: What Is Humidity?
Temperature and humidity are two different things. While temperature is a measure of how hot or cold something is, humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air, no matter the temperature.
For example, Miami, Florida has a whole lot of water in the air year-round, while Los Angeles, California has very little. This is also why it tends to storm and then rain in the middle of summer in some places. The moisture content in the air just becomes too full. It’s also why it rarely rains in some areas (hello, Southern California), as the air is just too dry.
This water vapor is why you become drenched in sweat in humid climates. Usually, your body uses the air around it to cool your skin and evaporate sweat. But when the air is already filled with so much moisture, your sweat can’t evaporate as easily. So, you’re left feeling hotter and wetter.1
Can Humidity Affect Your Skin And Health?
Most people tend to find that a humidity level between 30-60 percent is the most comfortable.2 This is because your body (and your skin) needs a certain amount of moisture to thrive.
You see, low humidity means that the air is very dry. Low humidity can have a negative effect on skin, especially skin that is already dry or skin that is showing signs of aging. This is because it can zap moisture out. One study looked at the effects of humidity on the skin. Researchers found that even just a 30 percent drop in humidity could lead to the formation of fine lines. The study also found that low humidity also has the potential to decrease skin elasticity, increase skin roughness, and worsen already present skin conditions.3,4
But too much moisture is not a good thing either. Very high humidity, especially around the home, can create a not-so-great environment for asthma and allergy sufferers. This is because dust mites and molds grow easily in moist environments (especially in crawl spaces) and are known for making allergies much worse.5
With just the right amount of humidity, your skin tends to look and feel more plump, vibrant, and youthful because the air is providing it with more moisture.
Consider Indoor Relative Humidity Levels In Your Home
Even in a humid winter climate, the use of heaters in the home can quickly dry out your indoor air. And air conditioning units in the summer can do the same thing.6 Of course, both of these units are often much needed.
So, what can you do about low humidity problems in your home?
Thankfully, no matter where you live, you can control indoor humidity levels to a certain extent. The best way to do this? Well, you could boil water on the stove or hang wet towels near a heater duct. But the easiest and most efficient way to increase indoor humidity is to use portable humidifiers.
Humidifiers come in four main types:
- Steam: a “vaporizer” boils water and releases warm steam into the room.
- Impeller: a rotating disc flicks water through a diffuser. These water droplets are then diffused into the air as a cool fog.
- Ultrasonic: a metal frame vibrating at an ultrasonic frequency creates water droplets and produces a cool fog.
- Evaporative: a fan blowing over a moistened wick dipped in cool water helps the air to absorb moisture.7
Investing in a good humidifier that allows you to set the relative humidity level for your home is ideal. Setting a humidifier too high can cause condensation to form on your windows or you to experience a “damp” feeling. This can lead to mold and mildew. Most units will come with guidelines for optimal humidity conditions which will fall within 30-60 percent.
No matter what kind of indoor humidifier you decide on, cleaning it is incredibly important. All humidifiers need to be cleaned regularly to prevent the growth of molds and bacteria that love humidity. Be sure to thoroughly clean your humidifier at least once a week.8
Battling Low Humidity: Skin Health
If you’re battling a dry, low humidity climate – or just the heating and cooling systems within your home – it’s important for your skin that you consider bringing some moisture back in.
Make sure you are drinking plenty of water each day. This is essential no matter the environment, however those in drier climates may need even more. Because the dry air is literally zapping moisture out of your body, you need to keep replacing it. However, just drinking water isn’t always enough if the humidity is really low. Investing in a good humidifier may make a big difference in keeping your skin moisturized and healthy. Talk to your dermatologist if you are battling dry skin issues or have any questions about how to best protect your skin from low humidity levels.
The beauty of humidity is that you can physically feel and see the difference on your skin. So, next time you find yourself sweating buckets in Florida – take comfort in the knowledge that though you may be physically uncomfortable, your skin is lapping up the moisture.
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