Is Your Home's Air Conditioning Making Your Skin Dry?

Dermatologists reveal how to keep your skin hydrated while you stay cool this summer.

Woman applying lotion or moisturizer
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To many of us, air-conditioning is essential for surviving the sweltering summer weather. Unfortunately, the side effect of staying cool and comfortable is that our skin can often feel dry when exposed to air-conditioning on a regular basis, thanks to the lower humidity in the air. If turning off your air conditioner isn't an option, there are some solutions. Here's how some professionals say you can enjoy the comfort of air-conditioning and avoid dry skin this summer.

Why Does Air-Conditioning Dry Out Your Skin?

The primary function of an air conditioner is to remove humidity or water vapor from the air, condense it, and produce cool air. "The decreased humidity in the atmosphere dehydrates the skin, making it dryer," says Lian Mack, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Glamderm in New York.

Both air-conditioning and heating systems dry out your skin, says Anthony Rossi, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Rossi Derm MD skincare. "Skin becomes dry because moisture is either not provided or is leached out," he says. "You might also notice that your throat feels dry as a result of the same problem."

How to Protect Your Skin from Air Conditioning

Moisturize and Hydrate

Marisa Garshick, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery and a BioRepublic adviser, says that moisturizing the skin is important for keeping it hydrated. "Moisturizers that work to enhance hydration and lock moisture in can assist restore moisture loss," she says.

Dr. Rossi recommends focusing on humectants, an agent found in many types of moisturizers that traps and holds moisture on our skin and assists the top layer of skin to maintain the epidermal barrier, limiting transepidermal water loss.

"[Humectants] live up to their name," Dr. Rossi says. "Biologically in our skin, there is something called the natural moisturizing factor, which is present in the stratum corneum and acts as humectants, which absorb moisture from the atmosphere and are sensitive to humidity of the atmosphere."

Staying hydrated is also important. "Drinking more water on a regular basis will help to moisturize your skin from within," Dr. Mack says.

Use a Humidifier

Since air conditioners remove humidity from the air, all three dermatologists agree that using a humidifier to help alleviate dryness in the air may be beneficial if your skin is very dry. "The best thing you can do is install a humidifier in your home," Dr. Mack says. "It adds moisture to the air and helps to create a pleasant atmosphere. Of course, keep your humidifiers and air conditioners clean to avoid the growth of bacteria and fungi."

Dr. Mack also recommends keeping a plant in a cool room. "Plants contribute to increased air humidity by evaporating water from the soil to the leaves, a process known as evapotranspiration," she says.

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