How to Cleanse Skin by Climate

You should adapt your cleansing routine according to the climate.
You should adapt your cleansing routine according to the climate.
© Meharey

If you've lived in the same place for a while, then you probably have your skin-cleansing regimen down. When people find a skin care routine that works, they tend stick with it -- that is, until they find themselves in a different climate and their skin no longer behaves.

Think about the last time you went on vacation somewhere cold or humid. Your skin probably reacted somehow -- maybe it became dry or oily, or maybe it broke out. The point is that climate changes affect your skin and the way you should clean it. But knowing how your skin is likely to react can help you determine the proper skin care regimen [source: Anderson].


There are four different climates that can affect your skin: dry, humid, cold and warm. Caring for your skin in an unfamiliar climate may mean using different products such as a drying astringent or a moisturizing soap [source: Medicine Net]. A vacation or a change in season doesn't have to make your skin uncomfortable or cause you to breakout -- you just need to be prepared.

Keep reading to learn how to cleanse your skin in dry climates.

Cleansing Skin in Dry Climates

Dry climates account for more than a quarter of the world's landmass -- more than any other climate. In the United States, dry climates can be found in western states such as Arizona, Texas and New Mexico.

As the name suggests, dry climates can dry out your skin. They can also cause some skin conditions -- such as eczema, psoriasis and nummular dermatitis -- to flare up [source: WebMD]. To prevent overdrying your skin, keep your showers short and pat yourself dry. Though it may seem counterintuitive, taking long showers further dries your skin and can cause irritation [source: Medicine Net]. Also, try using a moisturizing body wash that's specifically formulated for dry skin, and use it only on areas that really need to be cleaned like your armpits and genitals. As a general rule, if part of your body is dry and itchy, avoid using soap on it [source: James]. In fact, when you're in a dry climate, you may want to shower only every other day [source: Medicine Net].


No matter how you cleanse your skin in a dry climate, the most important step comes afterward: moisturizing. You need to use a moisturizer daily, but steer clear of water-based lotions -- just like your shower, they can further dry your skin. Try using baby oil or a petroleum-based moisturizer instead and apply it within three minutes of bathing or showering to help your skin retain moisture [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. Products that contain shea butter, aloe vera or almond oil are also good moisturizers [source: Christensen].

While dry climates can have a negative effect on your skin, too much moisture can also be detrimental. Read on to learn how humid climates can affect your skin.

Cleansing Skin in Humid Climates

Unlike the lack of moisture found in dry climates, humid climates have an abundance of it. In most humid climates you can literally feel the moisture hanging in the air and it doesn't take much to make you sweat. Examples of humid climates include the southeastern United States and central Europe.

Humidity often causes your pores to go into overdrive -- producing sweat to cool your body -- which leaves you more prone to breakouts, especially if you have oily skin [source: Goins]. To treat this excess sweat and oil, cleanse your skin at least once a day, using warm water and a noncomedogenic skin cleanser -- meaning it won't clog pores. Look for skin care products that contain salicylic acid, which will gently exfoliate skin. And if you have acne, try using a cleanser or topical treatment that contains benzoyl peroxide, a chemical that kills acne-causing bacteria [source: WebMD]. However, both benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can make skin more sensitive to sunlight, so it's best to apply these products at night and wear sunscreen during the day [source: Goins].


Keep reading to learn the best ways to keep your skin healthy and clean in a cold climate.

Cleansing Skin in Cold Climates

The farther you get from the equator, the colder the climate becomes. In North America, these climates -- which are characterized by low humidity and bitterly cold winters -- can be found in Canada and across the northern United States. Cold climates affect your skin in a similar manner to dry climates: They strip skin of moisture and dry it out. When it's cold outside, a long, hot shower may seem appealing, but this will only further dry your skin [source: Mayo Clinic]. So keep your showers short and the water temperature moderate, and use a moisturizing body wash [source: James]. After bathing or showering, apply an oil or lotion on your skin to help it retain moisture -- oil will be more effective than other moisturizers because it prevents water evaporation from the surface of the skin [source: Mayo Clinic].

If your skin is red, tight, cracked or peeling from the dryness, apply an over-the-counter moisturizer that contains lactic acid, urea, shea butter or aloe vera as needed [source: Mayo Clinic]. If your condition is severe, talk to your doctor about a prescription moisturizing cream [source: Mayo Clinic].


Keep reading to learn how to cleanse your skin in a hot climate.

Cleansing Skin in Warm Climates

Warm climates include the southern half of the United States and many popular vacation destinations such as the Caribbean islands. Warm climates can be classified as either humid or dry. For example, Florida is warm and humid, whereas Arizona is warm and dry. If you're headed for a warm climate, do some research to determine whether you'll need to pack a drying astringent or a moisturizing cleanser. If it's a warm, humid climate, be prepared to shower a couple times a day and use a cleanser or body scrub that contains salicylic acid [source: Goins]. If it's a warm, dry climate, take shorter, cooler showers and pack baby oil or a petroleum-based moisturizer to apply after showering or bathing [source: American Academy of Dermatology].

The most important thing you can do for your skin in a warm climate -- or any time your skin will be exposed to the sun -- is wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15 [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. If you get sunburned, cleanse the area with a mild, moisturizing soap and cool water. Afterward, apply a soothing lotion -- such as aloe vera -- or a topical steroid -- such as hydrocortisone cream -- to the burned area to reduce pain and swelling [source: WebMD].


See the links on the following page for more information on how to cleanse skin in different climates.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Dermatologists' Top 10 Tips for Relieving Dry Skin." (Accessed 9/30/09)
  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Dry Skin and Keratosis Pilaris." (Accessed 09/01/09).
  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Sunscreens/Sunblocks." 2009. (Accessed 09/16/2009)
  • Anderson, Eric MD. "Dr. Anderson: Skin and Climate Changes." Lorry Patton's Travel Tips 'n' Tales. January 28, 2002. (Accessed 09/16/2009)
  • Bouchez, Collette. "Oily Skin: Solutions That Work -- No Matter What Your Age." (Accessed 9/30/09)
  • Christensen, Leona June. "SoCal girl's skin suffers in Interior's harsh, dry climate." February 4, 2009. (Accessed 09/16/2009)
  • Goins, Liesa. "Summer Skin Survival Guide." (Accessed 9/30/09)
  • James, Andrew. "Dry Skin." About Kid's Health. June 21, 2004. (Accessed 09/16/2009)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Dry skin: Lifestyle and Home Remedies." November 26, 2008. (Accessed 9/30/09)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Dry skin - Treatments and drugs." November 26, 2008. (Accessed 09/16/2009)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Heat Rash." (Accessed 9/30/09)
  • Medicine Net. "Definition of Dry skin." February 10, 2004. (Accessed 09/16/2009)
  • WebMD. "10 Ways to Prevent Flare-Ups." (Accessed 9/30/09)
  • WebMD. "Benzoyl Peroxide." (Accessed 9/30/09)
  • WebMD. "Sunburn: Home Treatment." (Accessed 9/30/09)
  • WebMD. "Winter Skin Hazards." (Accessed 9/30/09)