Humidity, or the amount of water vapor in the air, is an important health variable that is easy to overlook. During the winter months, heaters and cold temperatures may lead to dry air with low humidity. This dry air can lead to dry skin, irritated sinuses and throat, and itchy eyes.
Over time, exposure to low humidity can dry out and inflame the mucous membrane lining your respiratory tract. When this natural barrier is no longer working properly, it increases your risk of colds, the flu, and other infections.
Reduced humidity combined with colder temperatures tends to wreak havoc on your skin. As therapists we see many clients suffer with dry, scaly, itchy skin during winter months even if they don't have skin problem like eczema.
This is commonly referred to as "
," caused when your skin is depleted of moisture. Aside from the itching, dry air will draw moisture out of your skin, making small cracks on your skin's surface far more likely.
While it's rare for infectious agents on your skin to cause a problem,cracked skin will increase your risk of getting sick by providing an entryway for potentially dangerous pathogens.
If the air in your home is excessively dry, you're likely experiencing dry skin or a dry, scratchy throat. You may also have noticed your houseplants drying out, wallpaper peeling at the edges, or static electricity, which is a direct result of dry air.
To increase humidity, you can:
- Use a vaporizer or humidifier
- Create a steam bath by taking a hot shower, or filling your sink with hot water, then placing a towel over your head as you lean over the sink
- Breathe in the steam from a hot cup of tea
- Boil water on your stove or simply place bowls of water around your home
A word of caution, especially if you decide to use a humidifier: you must be VERY careful about making sure your humidity levels are not too high, as the high humidity will cause
to grow, which could devastate your health
Tips for Resolving Dry Winter Skin
When it comes to dry, flaky skin, animal-based omega-3 fat, can play a very important role. Besides
drinking plenty of water, it may be one of the best ways to hydrate your skin from the inside out.
Omega-3 fats help to normalize your skin fats and prevent dehydration in your cells. This keeps your skin cells strong and full of moisture and can help calm irritated skin, giving you a clearer, smoother complexion courtesy of its anti-inflammatory activity. So, if you struggle with dry skin, make sure you are taking enough omega-3 fats.
If your skin is dry now, a simple remedy is pure coconut oil, which acts as a wonderful all-natural "anti-aging" moisturizer when applied topically. When absorbed into your skin and connective tissues, coconut oil helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by helping to keep your connective tissues strong and supple. It also helps exfoliate the outer layer of dead skin cells, making your skin smoother.
Hydrating your skin from both the inside and out can make low humidity a bit more bearable, making you more comfortable while you adjust the moisture levels accordingly inside your home.