Many people retreat to their homes to escape the cold, dry air of winter. But when your forced-air central heating system is sapping the moisture out of your home, it can wreak havoc on your skin. Fortunately, you can combat dry air with humidifiers and a skin care routine that focuses on moisturizing. The most popular time for home improvement projects, including heating system installation, is between the end-of-year holidays and the start of spring. But even without extensive work on the house, there are simple and effective things you can do to make the winter more comfortable. From single-room humidifiers to new home heating systems, learn more about how your home environment is impacting your skin health.
The healthiest and most comfortable relative humidity level is usually somewhere between 40-50%. The humidity differential between the outside and indoor air also matters. In the driest part of winter, keep your home humidity levels under 40% to prevent condensation formation. That said, even a modest increase in the relative humidity level can make a big difference in your health.
Combined with a daily moisturizer, you won’t struggle as much with dry, cracked skin, troublesome rashes, and eczema outbreaks. More humid air is also helpful to those with oily skin and winter acne. Overactive sebaceous glands are the main culprit for oily skin, and these glands tend to go into overdrive when the air gets too dry. The health benefits aren’t just for the skin you can see. Humidifiers can do wonders for your sinuses and respiratory health as well.
Both types of humidifiers can make a big difference. But if your family spends most of its time in just one or two rooms, it may make the most sense to use single-room humidifiers. Some portable humidifiers are also vaporizers that create steam to humidify the air, help your home heating system, and prevent bacterial growth. As the name implies, whole-house humidifiers work on the entire home and deliver a more consistent humidity level. If a friend or neighbor has been singing the praises of their humidifier, there’s probably a good reason.
For those who love humid air, know that you can have too much of a good thing. In addition to condensation, if humidity levels get too high, it may allow mold an infestation to take hold. You could also consult this guide on excess moisture in the home from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Simply put, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines, and there should be no reason to worry or avoid the health benefits of higher humidity levels.
Most space heaters and furnaces use forced-air heating systems that are notorious for drying out the air. One permanent way to fix this problem, especially if it’s time to replace the furnace, is to install a new home heating system that uses radiant heat rather than forced-air heating. A little to the north, Windy City Home Inspection offers this local comparison analysis of Forced Air vs Radiant Heat. Notably, the very first “con” it lists for forced air heating is: “The air circulation can be dry and may potentially irritate skin.” Radiant heat creates a very comfortable and energy-efficient heat without the aid of a whole-house humidifier, but it can be quite expensive to retrofit certain home styles. At the same time, it may worth the investment if you struggle with severe eczema or have chronic issues with other painful skin conditions.
While home humidifiers can help maintain skin health during the winter, it’s no substitute for a daily skin care routine. For many people, any number of daily moisturizing products can do the trick, especially if you’re willing to do some trial-and-error to find a product that works best for your skin type. For people struggling with a serious skin condition, over-the-counter moisturizers and extra humidity may not be enough.
At The Skin Care Center of Southern Illinois, we can evaluate and make recommendations for a wide range of skin problems. We can provide access to medical-grade skin care products as well as other types of skin treatment procedures. Whether eczema, acne, psoriasis, or some other skin condition is getting the best of you, don’t hesitate to get relief. Give us a call or make an appointment with our Mt. Vernon dermatology clinic.