Do Humidifiers Actually Help Dry Skin? We Asked Dermatologists

humidifier blowing steam on wooden table


Those of us with perpetually dehydrated complexions know that regardless of the season, dry skin can feel parched—no matter how many thick creams and salves you slather on. That's where humidifiers come into play. According to board-certified dermatologists Dr. Marisa Garshick and Dr. Azadeh Shirazi, humidifiers can be an incredibly beneficial part of your dry skin routine. Ahead, they share exactly how to use a humidifier for dry skin to reap the benefits.

Meet the Expert

  • Dr. Marisa Garshick is a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor at Cornell.
  • Dr. Azadeh Shirazi is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of AziMD Skincare.

The Benefits of a Humidifier for Dry Skin

  • Hydrates Skin, Lips, and Hair: "Humidifiers can help to improve the overall appearance of the skin and hair, including cracked or chapped lips," says Dr. Garshick. "When we keep our skin hydrated and moisturized, it achieves a healthy balance. Those with aging skin may notice more fine lines and wrinkles when their skin is drier, so they may find improvement in their skin quality overall when using a humidifier."
  • Reduces Flare-Ups of Eczema and Rashes: By adding more moisture into the surrounding area, Dr. Shirazi notes that humidifiers can reduce flare-ups from conditions like eczema.
  • Strengthens the Microbiome:  "Humidifiers are also beneficial to support the skin’s moisture barrier," says Dr. Shirazi. "[They] can strengthen the skin’s defense against microorganisms like bacteria and viruses, and protect against environmental damage."
  •  May Reduce Breakouts: "Dehydrated skin can cause our oil glands to overproduce sebum so your skin can be dehydrated (lack of water content) and oily at the same time," says Dr. Shirazi. "This can flare up conditions like acne and seborrheic dermatitis, resulting in dry flaky skin in the T-zone.

How Do Humidifiers Work?

"A humidifier is designed to put moisture back in the air, which helps reduce the potential for dry skin," says Dr. Garshick. "By putting moisture in the air, a humidifier helps to keep the skin hydrated; as we know , the skin can become dry and irritated in a low humidity environment."

"Low humidity and dry climates draw moisture out of the skin," adds Dr. Shirazi. "Humidifiers release water vapors into the air allowing us to better control the way our skin responds.  The skin holds onto water more effectively in a humid environment and stays more hydrated.

Who Should Use One?

"While anyone can use a humidifier, it is especially helpful for those with dry, sensitive, or eczema-prone skin," says Dr. Garshick. Dr. Shirazi adds that those who live in dry climates with less than 60% humidity and those in extremely cold climates where you're constantly running the heat can also benefit from a humidifier. And if you're in a particularly hot region where you spend most of your time indoors with the air-conditioning, you could benefit from one, too.

How to Use a Humidifier for Dry Skin

According to Dr. Shirazi, you'll get the best results if you use your humidifier overnight while you sleep, typically between 6-8 hours. "A humidifier can be placed in the bedroom or any room where you may be for an extended period of time," adds Dr. Garshick. "In general, many people find humidifiers especially useful in areas of low humidity and during the cold winter months. That being said, many people find their homes to feel dry no matter what the temperature is outside. For this reason a humidifier can still be helpful to put moisture back into the air. Additionally, for patients who have an impaired skin barrier or dry skin, this can be an issue in all seasons, so it may be useful to have a humidifier all year round."

However, both experts note that it's incredibly important to keep your humidifier clean. " It’s important to clean them regularly as they are prone to breeding yeast, fungi, and bacteria," says Dr. Shirazi. "Using soap and water or distilled white vinegar to keep them clean regularly is important."

Is Using a Humidifier Enough to Treat Dry Skin?

While both of our experts tout the benefits of adding a humidifier to your bedroom, they also agree that a humidifier can not perform on its own; a solid, dermatologist-recommended skincare routine is even more important. (So basically, think of a humidifier as the cherry on top.) "A humidifier can help to keep the skin hydrated, but is not the only answer or solution for dry skin," says Dr. Garshick. "Using moisturizing creams in addition to a humidifier can be helpful to address dry skin. Especially in dry environments or in the cold winter months, it may be recommended to keep the humidifier on regularly and use it is as needed, which may be daily."

The Takeaway

Dermatologists agree that humidifiers can be incredibly useful for those dealing with dry, sensitive, or eczema-prone skin. However, they should not be used as a standalone solution. Make sure you're using a dermatologist-backed skincare routine for dry skin coupled with a humidifier for the best results.

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