Humidifiers: Your Skin’s Best Friend

Humidifiers: Your Skin’s Best Friend

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You break out the humidifier whenever you’re so stuffed up you can’t breathe. But does this steamy invention provide some beauty benefits as well?Turns out, yes.Although chances are you reach for your favorite moisturizer when your skin feels parched, humidifiers also help your skin stay hydrated and supple. “In the winter time when the air is colder and drier, skin can’t hold onto as much moisture as it can with warm air,” explains Park Avenue dermatologist Neal Schultz. “You need to supplement [moisture] because when it gets dry enough, the moisture on our skin evaporates into the air. This is particularly important in the winter. Any way you can add humidity to the air in an environment in which you spend a lot of time is going to be helpful.”Humidifiers infuse the air with moisture, soothing dried out, itchy, cracked skin. So if a humidifier helps combat dry skin, can it also plump it up enough to smooth out wrinkles? Possibly. “It would if the moisture in the air got high enough,” explains Dr. Schultz. “For it to get that high, you’d probably be uncomfortable and your sheets would be damp. So theoretically yes, but practically, we’ll pass on that.”MORE: Caring for Cracked HandsWhile it’s tempting to go tropical for fewer wrinkles, ideally, the humidity levels in your home should be between 30 and 50 percent, according to the Mayo Clinic. You can tell if the humidity is reaching those skin-moisturizing levels by picking up a hygrometer—a thermometer-type device that measures humidity in the air—at your local hardware store or online, such as the Meade Wireless Indoor/Outdoor Hygrometer, ($18.90).Make sure you replace the water in your humidifier daily so bacteria and mold don’t grow, which can make you sick. Otherwise, you’ll have a much bigger problem than just dry skin or a stuffed nose.That’s why Schultz prefers cold humidifiers to hot ones. “The hot water just further increases the multiplication of bacteria and fungi, even if you are changing the water every day,” he says.But you don’t have to go out and buy a humidifier to enjoy its skin-quenching benefits. If you have a free-standing radiator, you can place a metal pot of water on it, suggests Schultz. “Every time the heat comes on, it causes the water to evaporate, adding moisture to the air,” he says.QUIZ: How Old Does Your Skin Look?Just be sure to seal in all of that moisture to make it last. Schultz recommends bathing or showering with warm—not hot—water and decreasing the use of soap on body parts that don’t make any natural oils, such as the outer part of the arms, stomach, chest and legs. “It strips off the oils that would help hold in the moisture,” he notes. Post-shower, immediately slather on a moisturizer to lock in the humidity—and your skin will stay soft and smooth.

Rachel Grumman Bender
Rachel Grumman Bender is an award-winning freelance health and beauty writer and editor. She writes regularly for The New York Times and has written for Women's Health, Yahoo Health, Everyday Health, the New York Post, Cosmopolitan, and many more publications. Rachel has held Health Editor positions at YouBeauty.com and Cosmopolitan magazine. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism at Boston University and her master’s degree in journalism at New York University. She lives in northern California with her husband and her twins.

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