Let’s talk about dry skin and lips




Suzanne Coleman, MD


I think we should talk about skin, and for today, specifically dry skin and lips.  It’s that time of year, heaters are running causing dry air, and that leads to dry skin and lips.

You don’t need to suffer these conditions though!  The solution is simple, humidify your air.

It’s the dryness of the air that is sucking the moisture out of your skin and lips, so you need to put that moisture back.  There are several ways to do this.  The simplest one that will work for almost everyone is to go out and buy those small portable humidifiers for your home.  They can usually be found at places like Walmart and Walgreens, but you can also buy them online.  This year I bought two new ones made by Vicks to humidify my home.  I needed two because each unit only fills a certain square footage of air properly; one just wasn’t enough.

If you have a furnace system, you might be able to add on a humidifier right onto it.  I had this type of heating system before and adding the humidifier directly onto the system worked very well to humidify the house, and the price was around $300 installed.

In both of the above cases, the level of humidity is adjustable.  This is important, because depending on the size of your home, you don’t want too much or too little humidity.  When you have too little, that is when you start to see dry lips and skin.  Low humidity can also cause red, dry eyes and painful cracks inside of the nose.  On the other hand, when you have too much humidity you will see condensation on the windows; that is bad because it can lead to mold which can cause health problems and should be avoided.  Some condensation can occur at healthy humidity levels, especially on very cold days if the windows are covered.  But if it continues on an average winter day, you should turn down the level of humidity in that case.

Other ways to humidify are less reliable, but also work.  For one, taking a shower and not using the exhaust fan is a good way to put humidity back into the home.  That is usually not enough humidity in a cold winter though.  You can also use a spray bottle to spray water into the air several times a day.  Other ways to help increase the humidity are to put out pans of water in the home.  If you have radiator heat, this works well.  Just place pans of water on the radiator and the water will evaporate into the air.  It can be messy though if a pan spills, and might cause discoloration or mineral deposits on the pans.

Overall, I recommend the small units or the whole-house furnace unit based on general effectiveness and ease of use.  The small units will need to be refilled on a daily basis when being used, so keep that in mind.  The ones I bought this year make it easier to do this than the ones I used to have.

Also, be aware that there are at least three different forms of small humidifier, based on how they put humidity into the air.  The cold steam ones can leave a white, chalky substance all over everything, so I do not recommend them.  I even tried one that said it didn’t do that, well, it did.  The warm mist ones are the ones I tend to prefer personally.  They also make ultrasonic ones; I tried one once but didn’t like it.  I think it was too loud, but I can’t remember for sure anymore.

The other things to remember in caring for you skin and lips are the following.  If your lips are dry, use something to keep them protected.  They shouldn’t get too dry if your living and working environments are properly humidified, but we all know that sometimes we cannot control our working environments enough to be sure to take care of that.  In those cases, I recommend using Vaseline petroleum jelly.  It comes in small tubes like other lip treatments and is very convenient to take with you anywhere.  Please note, that some lip treatments can actually cause dry lips.  If you try one and your lips seem worse, stop using it.  The Vaseline is good for people who might have sensitive skin or reactions to some lip products like Chapstick and lipsticks.

If you are a parent, your child will appreciate the improved humidity as well.  Plus if they get chapped lips, giving them the Vaseline lip tube to carry around with them will help.  Kids love to lick those lips and this can help!

For the skin, after you bathe, you should apply some type of lotion or oil to keep the moisture at a healthy level.  I have tried many different skin lotions and personally prefer the Vaseline brand no dyes no perfumes type.  It absorbs fairly well (though they keep changing the formula…) and it is not greasy.  Many of the  brands “recommended by dermatologists” actually do not absorb well and are greasy.  The choice is yours.

Another thing to remember in the winter is that washing your hands removes the natural oils, so use lotion after you wash them to avoid chapped, cracking skin.  The whole-home humidity will also help you to avoid this problem.  Also be aware that anti-bacterial soaps are severely drying to the skin, and completely unnecessary in most homes.  Stick with regular soaps and do your skin a favor.

You might also notice that when your home is properly humidified that you and your family may experience less respiratory illnesses like colds and the flu.  Proper humidity is important for your health, all-around.

If you follow the above guidelines you and your family should experience improved skin and lip health.


Someone asked what is a healthy humidity level.  A healthy humidity level is around 50-55% in the summer, above that you risk mold.  In the winter it may be less, the EPA suggests 25-40% would be a good range, below that may be too dry.  In the summer, some people need to own dehumidifiers (especially for basements) to keep the level from getting too high.  This can cause mold which will lead to allergies and possibly other health problems, plus it can ruin your possessions and your home itself in some cases.

[Note, none of the companies mentioned in this article have provided any compensation or support and the recommendations made are made purely on personal experience.  The above article is written to provide general information,  any specific medical questions or concerns should be brought to the attention of your physician.]



Like us on facebook at:  www.facebook.com/SliceIconic

AND click on the blue “FOLLOW” button on the upper right of this page to stay tuned!


%d bloggers like this: