Is Humidity Good for Skin: 9 Truths
Do you feel like your skin is always oily and prone to breakouts? Or do you feel like your skin is always dry no matter what?
“The humidity of your environment can have a huge effect on your skin health.”
Although there are a lot of factors that can contribute to these situations, one of the main players is humidity. Read on to learn more about your skin’s relationship with humidity and how to take care of it at different humidity levels.
What Are the Effects of High Humidity?
If you’ve ever been down to the southern states, you’re likely acquainted with high humidity. High humidity is considered anything over 50 percent and can be quite uncomfortable – especially on a hot day.
However, your high humidity can be great for your skin! Read on for some of the pros and cons of high humidity.
As part of your skin’s natural hydration mechanism, your skin produces hyaluronic acid. This molecule functions as a humectant, drawing in water from outside the skin and holding it within your skin to release hydration over time.
As far as humectants go, hyaluronic acid is one of the most powerful. This simple molecule can hold up to 1,000 times its molecular weight in water, which means a little goes a long way.
When humidity is high, there’s more water in the air outside your skin. In this case, your natural hyaluronic acid can bring more water into your skin, leading to better overall skin hydration.
Increased Cell Turnover
High humidity can also lead to increased cell turnover since your skin is hydrated enough to support it. Cell turnover is the process through which your skin regenerates itself. Young skin regenerates anywhere between 20 and 40 days while aging skin can take as long as 70 days to completely regenerate.
Lower skin cell turnover is associated with more dead skin cell buildup since there’s less momentum behind the turnover. Not only does higher turnover help keep your skin smooth, it also helps your skin look brighter and feel softer.
Lower Chances of Premature Aging
Hydrated skin is much less susceptible to premature aging. Part of this benefit is due to hyaluronic acid.
HA helps support skin elasticity, which is a term that describes your skin’s ability to snap back into place after being stretched or moved. Higher skin elasticity means that your skin can handle physical stress and absorb movement. This means you’re much less likely to develop premature signs like fine lines and wrinkles.
While high humidity has some benefits for your skin, it can pose a few unique challenges.
Higher Chances of Breakouts
High humidity might make your skin more prone to breakouts. High humidity can open up your pores, which means that it’s a lot easier for them to get clogged with impurities.
When impurities such as dirt, bacteria, sweat, oil, and dead skin cells get into your pores, they can form an unpleasant concoction that can cause irritation in your pores. This irritation often takes the form of blemishes.
High humidity is also associated with high heat, so you’re more likely to sweat. Sweat can easily clog up your pores and cause blemishes if you don’t regularly clean your pores with the right products. Although it’s not technically a breakout, high heat can also cause heat rash, which can feature raised red bumps that look similar to some breakouts.
Increased Sebum Production
High humidity can also increase sebum production. This isn’t as much of an issue for dry skin types because dry skin can struggle to produce sebum. However, oily skin types may feel this acutely.
Excess sebum can give skin a shiny and oily appearance and leave an unpleasant texture. It can also clog your pores more quickly, leading to more breakouts.
Excess sebum can uniquely affect breakouts because some acne-causing bacteria feed on sebum. When more sebum gets into your pores, this bacteria causes further irritation and can cause breakouts.
What Are the Effects of Low Humidity?
Although high humidity can have both positive and negative effects, low humidity only has negative effects. Low humidity is considered anything below 30 percent and is more common in colder climates and northern states. Here are a few key things to watch out for in low humidity.
As we mentioned before, your natural hyaluronic acid supply is only as good as the humidity in the air. Healthy skin should have no problem keeping hydrated in high and normal humidity. However, there’s no moisture for your skin in low humidity.
This means that your skin is in danger of drying up. Dry skin will look flaky, red, and irritated and can also feel very itchy. Dry skin is where most of the dangers of low humidity stem from.
Dry skin can also be more sensitive to powerful ingredients, so it’s important to slowly introduce new products into your skincare routine. Otherwise, you may notice increased signs of irritation like redness, dryness, and itchiness.
Dead Skin Cell Buildup
Dry skin has a slower cell turnover rate, meaning dead skin cells build up much easier in low humidity. Dead skin cell buildup sits on the surface of your skin and can give the appearance of flaky and parched skin.
Dead skin cell buildup also creates a barrier preventing products and moisture from fully entering your skin, making your already dry skin worse. Not only that, but any anti-aging skincare products you use may not be as effective.
Because hyaluronic acid plays a large role in supporting skin elasticity, low humidity can mean lower skin elasticity. One of the main hallmarks of dehydration is skin that is slow to bounce back to its original shape.
Lower elasticity means that your skin won’t retain its original structure and won’t handle physical stress as effectively. This is why dry skin can sometimes appear cracked on highly exposed areas like your knuckles – your skin just can’t stretch as far as it should.
Low skin elasticity can lead to premature signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles. In fact, low humidity can cause shallow lines to show up in as little as 30 minutes.
This is because when your skin has low elasticity, it doesn’t snap back as completely. When you make repeated facial expressions, your skin can remain creased. This speeds up the process of wrinkle development and skin aging.
Don’t panic, though – shallow lines are relatively easy to fade with the right products.
What Is a Good Skincare Routine for High Humidity?
Although high and low humidity are both extremes, you can use skincare products to support your skin in these harsh environments. Here are my recommendations for skincare products to best support your skin during high humidity,
Cleanse Twice Daily
I recommend cleansing in the morning and evening with a gentle cleanser. The ideal cleanser would never strip the skin, but instead, add some hydration back into your skin.
I also recommend cleansing after excessive sweating and physical activity. Since high humidity is associated with high heat, you will likely need to exfoliate more than twice a day.
You should follow your cleanser with a serum. I recommend a serum that exfoliates and brightens, like my Retinol Reform.
This anti-aging serum can also clear breakouts through the multi-functional powers of retinol. Retinol can also support proper skin cell turnover, maintain skin elasticity, and exfoliate.
This serum also includes lactic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) that not only exfoliates and brightens skin but can also ramp up your skin’s natural production of hyaluronic acid.
SPF or Moisturizer
Finally, I recommend finishing your routine with a lightweight moisturizer containing SPF. I recommend finding a lotion or other water-based moisturizer with humectant ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin.
Some moisturizers can also mattify your skin if you have oily skin.
What Is a Good Skincare Routine for Low Humidity?
Low humidity poses unique challenges to any skin type, so it’s important to customize your skincare routine to that humidity level. Here are some of our favorite products to support your skin in low humidity.
Cleanse Twice Daily
I recommend cleansing twice daily with a gentle cleanser with moisturizing ingredients as well as humectants and antioxidants.
My Cleansing Serum features hyaluronic acid to promote hydration, as well as chicory and olive leaf extracts to soothe irritation, and oat bran extract to guard your skin against moisture loss.
Since dry skin can be more sensitive, I recommend starting with a more gentle exfoliating serum. An exfoliating serum can help remove dead skin cell buildup, maintain skin cell turnover, and brighten dull skin.
I recommend my Lactic Acid Serum. This serum features lactic acid, the gentlest of AHAs, and can also support your skin’s natural hydration mechanism. This serum also features aloe vera and green tea extracts to help soothe irritated skin.
Hydrating Moisturizer With SPF
Finally, I recommend finishing up with a hydrating moisturizer containing SPF for sun protection. The Supergoop Play Sunscreen contains SPF to help keep your skin safe during sun exposure while also offering daily moisturization that doesn’t feel heavy.
Humidity varies daily, but it can greatly affect your skin. High humidity can help your skin stay hydrated and look younger, but it can also increase your chances of breaking out.
Meanwhile, low humidity can dry your skin out and increase premature aging. Because of this, it’s important to tailor your skincare routine to your current humidity level. For expert assistance, I recommend scheduling a virtual consultation with one of my skincare experts.
Dermatologist's Advice: How Humidity Affects Skincare | Orlando Dermatology Center
Ambient Humidity and the Skin: the Impact of Air Humidity in Healthy and Diseased States | The Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology
Could Humidity Hold the Key to Looking Younger? | Skin Health Alliance