A Humidifier Could Be the Secret to Soothing Your Dry, Itchy Skin This Winter
When you think of ways to boost the moisture content of your skin, products are likely the first thing to come to mind. And while cleansers, toners, serums, and moisturizers can absolutely improve hydration, there's one key tool you might be overlooking: humidifiers, which are electronic devices that impart moisture into the air. Oftentimes, these machines—splurge on the Dyson Pure Humidify + Cool ($799.99, bedbathandbeyond.com) if you're looking to invest or pick up the Objecto W7 Ultrasonic Humidifier ($199.99, verishop.com) for a design-savvy option—are recommended to those with colds or scratchy throats. But, as it turns out, they can work wonders for your skin, too. Here, a few dermatologists explain how they help your complexion.
According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Orit Markowitz, our skin looks the most youthful and fresh when it is moisturized. Though layering it with lotions and creams can superficially add hydration to the surface (and even a bit below it), a moisture-rich, humid environment will maximize the results, she says. Of course, if you live in an area with dry weather year round (or a cold, blustery winter season), humid air can be hard to come by. Enter humidifiers. "These machines work by creating a moisture-filled environment by preventing water loss into the surrounding air," she explains, adding that moisture tends to go to the area of least resistance. Dermatologist Dr. Zenovia Gabriel adds to this: "When the air is dry and moisture isn't present, the air will draw moisture from its environment, including your skin," she explains.
In addition to increasing hydration, humidifiers support healthy skin on the whole, says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman. "Think of your skin like a brick wall, where the skin cells are bricks and the mortar, composed of ceramides, lipids, and cholesterol, is what holds the cells together," she explains. "The job of our skin barrier is to keep harmful pathogens out while retaining cell moisture." If you don't have optimal humidity (think 40 to 60 percent), she says, your skin becomes dehydrated—and more susceptible to irritation and infection. For this reason, adding a humidifier also reduces your risk for redness, flaking, and even breakouts.
The winter months are an especially opportune time to add a humidifier to your home, says Dr. Zenovia, if you want to boost the appearance of your skin, since the air indoors is as problematic as the air outdoors (thanks to artificial heat, which keeps you warm). Dr. Engelman recommends using one while you sleep. "It is a little-known fact that our body temperature fluctuates as we sleep (it's why you find yourself kicking off the covers in the middle of the night)," she says. "We lose water trying to regulate our body's temperature. While you're sleeping, the body's hydration rebalances, supporting skin metabolism, cell turnover, and repair."
Without adequate levels of moisture in the air, though, we can actually experience major transdermal water loss, she notes. "Ever notice how great your skin looks after a good night's sleep?" Dr. Engleman asks. "This is because skin regeneration is at its height between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., so this is the best time to help the skin repair. During this time, our hormones increase and repair damaged cells and process waste for renewal. It is critical to support the skin during this time—and humidifiers are a great tool to do that."
A humidifier is a great, but it can't replace a hydrating skincare routine. Take a tandem approach, and tailor your product arsenal to support your humidifier's effectiveness. This means stocking your regimen with moisture-boosting cleansers, like Neutrogena's Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser ($10.99, ulta.com); serums, such as like Dr. Zenovia's Hyaluronic Acid and Peptide Serum ($72, drzenovia.com); moisturizers, including Farmacy's Honey Halo Ultra-Hydrating Ceramide Moisturizer ($45, sephora.com); and body care products, like Peet Rivko Body Oil ($48, credobeauty.com). These types of products will help you stay hydrated from head to toe.
Once you add a humidifier to your skincare regimen, you'll notice a change in your complexion in as little as eight hours. "The results are pretty instant," explains dermatologist Dr. Elyse Love. "If you use the humidifier overnight, you'll notice that your skin doesn't feel dry or stripped in the morning (assuming you have a hydrating evening skincare routine)." So, if you have tried just about everything to rid yourself of easily-irritated, flaky, and dry skin, but have yet to look outside your product regimen, a humidifier could very well be exactly what your complexion needs.