Now that the winter season is upon us, dry conditions start to take residence in your home and, if you’re not careful, your skin. Less humidity, artificial heat, and warmer showers can all lead to dry skin, so upping moisture levels is a must. Flaky dry skin is irritating enough, but if you're facing other skin conditions like flare-ups of eczema or dermatitis, finding a hydrating solution that keeps your outbreaks under control is vital. And that’s not to mention one of the peskiest skin concerns: acne.
Since all of these inflammatory conditions can be exacerbated by arid environments, how do you turn your home (which, these days, might be doubling as your office) into a tropical paradise in the dead of winter? Enter humidifiers, diffusers, and steamers. We spoke to dermatologists about the benefits of adding these tools to your skincare routine.
The Benefits of Humidifiers in Skincare
Before its use in beauty, humidifiers’ claim to fame was easing congestion and treating the common cold. Now, humidifiers are recognized for their ability to add moisture to the air, which can help combat common skin issues. “Humidifiers increase the air’s water content and help the skin, your body’s largest organ, from drying out,” says Purvisha Patel, MD, a board certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare.
Dry conditions can cause small cracks on the epidermis that expose nerve endings and the deeper layers of skin to the outside world. The result? Itching, flaking, and more sensitivity to products and the environment. “When the skin is moist, water in the upper layer of the skin prevents it from drying out and cracking,” Dr. Patel adds. Increasing moisture levels helps to maintain hydration. When skin is properly hydrated, it naturally combats common winter skin concerns. “In dry environments, we lose more moisture from our skin, so humidifiers can be helpful for conditions like dry skin and eczema,” says Hadley King, MD, New York City-based board certified dermatologist.
The steam from humidifiers can also aid with pimples, breakouts, and acne (yes, even the kind caused by face masks). “Steaming helps with acne because it opens the pores,” Dr. Patel says, adding you’ll want a concentrated humidifier with warm water. Although this won’t cure acne, it will open the pores and prepare the complexion for topical treatments. “Suppose that you are using topical medications for acne that are drying out your skin, and making it difficult for you to continue treatment,” Dr. King says. “In that case, a humidifier may help make your skin feel less dry, so it will be able to tolerate the topical medications better.”
It should be noted that people with oily skin or chronic conditions like lupus or rosacea will not benefit from the increased humidity. “Humidifiers won’t help treat conditions that are not characterized or exacerbated by dry skin,” Dr. King says.
How to Find the Right Humidifier
It’s essential to look for a humidifier that is the appropriate size for the space. “The goal is to achieve a humidity level of 30 to 50 percent,” Dr. King notes. If the levels are too low, the skin and airways will dry out. If the levels are too high, bacteria, dust mites, and mold can form. Needless to say, that growth can exacerbate symptoms for asthma and eczema patients and potentially even lead to infection. To avoid any issues, consider the following:
- Ask Your Dermatologist: Humidifiers can do a lot of good, but it’s important to speak with your dermatologist before bringing one home to make sure it won’t exacerbate any skin concerns.
- Measure the Room: “Small humidifiers work for rooms up to 300 square feet, medium humidifiers work for rooms 300 to 500 square feet, and large humidifiers are best for spaces over 500 square feet,” Dr. King explains.
- Keep It Clean: Be sure to buy a model that you can easily take apart and clean. Dr. King suggests assembling and disassembling it in the store, if possible. If you’re buying online, look for reviews that comment on such features.
Our pick? Specifically designed for skincare use, the Canopy features a 2.5 liter tank that can hydrate rooms up to 500 square feet. It's easy to clean and has embedded UV lights and a paper-based filter to keep the tank clean and block contaminants from entering the air.
The Use of Diffusers in Skincare
What about diffusers? Diffusers are another tool that can add moisture to a space, but the delivery differs. “Diffusers are a great way to deliver the benefits of essential oils along with a little moisture into the air,” says Trevor Ellestad, education manager and in-house herbalist and aromatherapist at Saje Wellness. Diffuser moisture is meant to deliver aromas, not necessarily skincare benefits. “Some essential oils and fragrances, such as citrus oils, are contact allergens,” Dr. Patel says. “I do not recommend direct contact with diffusers and the skin.”
But that’s not to say you can’t enjoy the wellness benefits. Adding a diffuser to your vanity while performing your daily beauty or skincare routine is fine, so long as it’s not diffused directly to the face. Both Dr. Patel and Ellestad agree that some essential oils, like diluted tea tree oil, lavender, or roman chamomile, can have antibacterial, calming, and soothing effects on the skin — especially for acne patients. Even so, be sure to consult with your dermatologist before introducing essential oils to your routine. “Be very cautious about this because essential oils are a common cause of allergic contact dermatitis,” Dr. King says.
If you are looking for concentrated skincare benefits, try a facial steamer instead of a diffuser. The Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Pro Facial Steamer offers a spa-worthy micro-steam experience for up to nine minutes, while the Conair True Glow Moisturizing Mist Facial Sauna System bundle comes with a nasal cone and facial cleansing brush for under $40.
All products featured are independently selected by our editors, however, AEDIT may receive a commission on items purchased through our links.
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