Here’s Why A Humidifier Will Improve Your Skin, According To A Board-Certified Dermatologist
Humidifiers provide many “healing powers” + six suggestions for finding the perfect one.
If there’s one thing I loathe, it’s the patches of dry skin that develop around my nose and mouth that make it look like I’ve bitten into a croissant and refuse to wipe my face. But that “dry skin” is actually “dehydrated skin,” according to L.A.-based dermatologist and founder of Ava MD Dermatology, the SkinFive med spa, and The Box by Dr. Ava, Dr. Ava Shamban, who swears by the healing powers of one of the most overlooked, yet necessary appliances: a humidifier.
Read on to learn more about how to get your own cracked and flaking skin in check and to determine which type of humidifier is right for you.
How Do We Get Dry—Err—Dehydrated Skin?
“Dry skin is actually a skin type. Dehydration is a condition,” shares Shamban. “Dry skin is more about the level of lipids we produce and our lubrication network while dehydrated skin is about water levels or losses.”
In other words, “dry skin” is something we’re genetically born with, while “dehydrated skin” is a result of the moisture content of our skin, typically correlating to the moisture content of the air around us.
“If the air has low humidity, it will suck all of the water out of cells, leading to a shrivel effect,” adds Shamban. “Think about a grape laying on the desert sand out in the hot dry sun. Very quickly, the water would evaporate and a raisin would be left in its place.”
It’s important to note, however, that these dry conditions may not just be a result of Mother Nature, but also man-made. “Air conditioning can dry out the air just as much as heat can.”
Signs Your Skin May Be Dehydrated
“When we are dehydrated, the cells look like little shrunken water balloons leading to a lack of turgor in the skin,” says Shamban. “The skin may start to look shriveled, like the skin of a prune, and it loses all its natural luster, looking dull or sallow.”
Dehydration is typically due to external factors like climate, air conditioning and heating systems, altitude, lack of proper skincare, and excessive caffeine. To measure the air humidity level produced by the first three, you can purchase a hygrometer online for quick readings throughout the day.
Why A Humidifier?
“Our cells rely on adequate water content to function. Using a humidifier will replenish the air with microscopic droplets of moisture when it is low,” says Shamban. “It circulates and permeates the air and will attach to the skin as well as have enormous overall hydration and health benefits.”
What Makes A Great Humidifier?
There are seemingly hundreds of high-rated humidifiers to choose from, but all with the same purpose: to bring moisture into an environment. And while your choice is entirely based on personal preferences, here are the six characteristics that Shamban looks for when selecting a unit that delivers results.
- One You Will Use Consistently
“If it sits in the box because it is cumbersome, loud, complicated, or requires ongoing maintenance, it does no good.”
- One That Is Simple, Portable And Easy To Use
“Keep it simple. You want one portable enough to move with you around your home as needed and is easy to fill.”
- One That Is Easy To Clean
“Changing the water tank is important to ensure that mold, mildew, and bacteria aren’t growing inside,” says Shamban. “One cup of white vinegar will help keep mold at bay and cleaning twice a week keeps a humidifier working well and worry-free.”
- One That Is Ultrasonic
“Ultrasonic humidifiers are usually the best for bedrooms as they are nearly, if not totally silent. They use high-frequency sound waves that are higher than we can hear to create their fine, soothing mist, [and are] therefore significantly quieter than other types.”
- One That Is The Perfect Size
“Look for one where the humidity level hits an optimum range of 30-50 percent,” she says. “More than 50 percent will invite potential visits from bacteria, mold, and other types of dust mites or potential pathogens.”
- One That Is Pet Or Child-Friendly
“Some [people] prefer a steam vaporizer or humidifier that uses electricity to power a heating element [that] boils water and releases hot steam into the air. If it were to be toppled over on the floor or counter, it’s hot enough to produce burns or blisters.”
What Are Humidifier Alternatives to Maintain Your Skin’s Hydration?
While a humidifier may seem like a worthwhile investment, there are other steps you can take to promote hydration in your skin.
- Keep Up With Oral Hydration
“While it is not just specific or exclusive to the derm, you eat and drink your way back from overall dehydration,” reveals Shamban. This can be accomplished by sipping H2O and also integrating water-heavy produce into your diet like lettuce, cucumbers, watermelon, and cantaloupe.
- Follow A Quality Skincare Routine
For starters, shorter and more tepid showers prevent hot water from stripping your skin of water. You should also apply moisturizer to your body and face when your skin is damp to lock in the moisture. These products should be humectants—substances made to reduce dehydration. “We are looking for actives that help attract and carry water to our cells and stop further transepidermal water loss (TEWL) like a topical polyglutamic (PGA) or hyaluronic acid serum, followed by a rich humectant cream for morning and evening.”
- Buy An Areca Palm, a.k.a. Nature’s Best Humidifier
“These palms release copious amounts of water into the air—about a quart every 24 hours—and they help to detoxify by removing chemical toxins in the air, too.”
Do you use a humidifier? Are you happy with its effect on your skin? Let us know in the comments!