Could humidification ease dry winter skin?
With colder temperatures outside and increaced heating inside, the air in our homes can become dry over winter. With the potential to impact our skin, Dyson scientist Naomi Simpson shares her top tips on how to maintain air quality and moisture levels over the winter.
With the colder months upon us, temperatures begin to plummet. Statistics show people are spending up to 90 per cent of their time inside, with modern air conditioning and heating, increasing potential exposure to dry air. Low humidity is usually associated with heaters based on convection technologies; as indoor air is warmed, relative humidity usually decreases. As air heats, it expands and gains the ability to hold more moisture, which overall reduces the relative humidity.
Skin is constantly exposed to various environmental stimuli. The top of the epidermis - the stratum corneum - is the skin’s protective barrier. Its primary role is to prevent foreign matter from getting into the body while keeping water inside the skin cells from leaching out. The stratum corneum contains ceramides, which play an important role in skin health. This barrier is comparable to a brick wall, with the skin cells as the bricks and the ceramides as the mortar, forming a protective layer. If the stratum corneum is weak, ‘cracks’ begin to appear in the ceramides. Not only can these ‘cracks’ be caused by dehydrated skin, but in turn this weakened layer means water can evaporate easily from the skin in a process called trans-epidermal water loss.
This natural process occurs when water makes its way from the dermis (the deepest layers of skin) and passes up to the epidermis where it evaporates from the stratum corneum into the atmosphere. However, cold dry air can increase the rate of trans-epidermal water loss. Excessive water loss results in dehydration and can lead to symptoms including dry, rough, flaky, itchy and inflamed skin. And it’s a vicious circle - when dry air takes moisture from our skin, its structure changes. Those changes make our skin less able to hold onto moisture.
“A simple at-home device, a humidifier, helps to regulate the moisture levels in the air allowing you to control your indoor environment during harsh weather.”
Naomi Simpson, Dyson Associate Principal Scientist
Top tips for choosing a humidifier:
Take room size into account
To ensure you benefit from a humidifier, consider the humidity of the whole room. Select a humidifier that has a fan function to project humidified air. It’s crucial to ensure an even humidity level across the room so that you benefit from the increased moisture wherever you are in that space.
Keep it clean!
All humidifiers must be kept clean to prevent the build-up of mineral residue that naturally forms over time after exposure to water. Water types vary globally – if you live in a hard water area, you may need to clean your machine more regularly. For some humidifiers, cleaning can be quite tricky, with lots of hard-to-reach parts to clean. Others have regular cleaning alerts or simple cleaning processes – so be sure to get familiar with the manufacturer’s guidance.
It’s well known that standing water is a fertile ground for bacteria to breed. This is no different within the tank of a humidifier. Some machines don’t effectively treat the water within the tank, so look out for those that use UV technology to kill any bacteria in the water, before it is projected into the room.
Maintain the right humidity level
As technology has advanced, most humidifiers have an auto mode that helps maintain the right humidity for you, so you don’t have to worry about it. The auto mode reads the temperature of the room and controls the humidity level in accordance.
Air quality is key
Humidity isn’t the only aspect of air quality that can impact skin. A number of humidifiers combine air purification with humidification to manage moisture and pollutant levels simultaneously. Look for purifiers with HEPA-certified filtration, fully-sealed filters and a high percentage of pollutant capture – both particle and gas, including Formaldehyde.
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- Rosso, James & Levin, Jacqueline. (2011). The Clinical Relevance of Maintaining the Functional Integrity of the Stratum Corneum in both Healthy and Disease-affected Skin. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology. 4. 22-42.
- Purnamawati S, Indrastuti N, Danarti R, Saefudin T. The Role of Moisturizers in Addressing Various Kinds of Dermatitis: A Review. Clin Med Res. 2017;15(3-4):75-87. doi:10.3121/cmr.2017.1363
- Bonté, Frédéric and Slyvie Verdier-Sévrain. "Skin Hydration: A Review on its Molecular Mechanisms." Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. Vol. 6. No. 2. 2007.