How to Moisturize by Climate

Portrait of young smiling woman in fur hooded jacket, applying moisturizer to cheek
Getting Beautiful Skin Image Gallery Your skin needs moisture no matter what climate you live in. See more getting beautiful skin pictures.

Maybe you live in an area where the summers are hot and humid, or maybe you live in place where the winters are cold and bitter. Either way, the climate can impact the health of your skin.

Your skin type -- whether it's normal, dry or oily -- often determines how you approach your skin care. However, the climate you live in -- whether it's dry, humid, hot, cold or windy also affects your skin -- especially how you moisturize it. Moisturizing is an important part of caring for your skin, and you should tailor your choice of moisturizer to your climate. Moisturizing products help your skin retain water, and they often contain ingredients called humectants and emollients. Humectants -- such as urea, glycerin and alpha hydroxy acids -- work by absorbing water from the air around you. Emollients -- such as lanolin, mineral oil and petrolatum -- lubricate skin and improve its appearance [source: Mayo Clinic].


Keeping your skin moisturized will help it maintain a young, smooth appearance -- no matter where you live. Read on to learn how to keep skin moisturized in a dry climate.

Moisturizing in a Dry Climate

Living in a dry climate can take its toll on your skin. Even if the area where you live is warm and humid during the summer, you may experience a period of excessive dryness during the winter. Your furnace may even intensify this effect by adding dry, hot air to your indoor environment. To help keep your skin moist in a dry indoor setting, you may want to use a humidifier. Humidifiers add moisture to the air, which helps prevent dryness [source: American Academy of Dermatology].

When choosing a moisturizer, consider using an oil-based product, which will help retain more water in your skin's outer layers. Ointments that contain 80 percent oil and 20 percent water are especially helpful in low-humidity climates. However, don't apply oil-based moisturizers on body parts that are acne-prone or likely to sweat -- this can cause breakouts [source: American Academy of Dermatology].


While a hot shower may sound appealing during cold winter months, hot water can further dry skin. Take short showers with warm water and lightly pat yourself dry afterward. Also, be sure to apply baby oil or a petroleum-based moisturizer within three minutes of bathing or showering to help your skin retain moisture [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. Oil will be more effective than other moisturizers because it prevents water evaporation from the skin's surface [source: Mayo Clinic].

While a lack of moisture can be damaging to your skin, so can too much moisture. Keep reading to learn how to moisturize your skin in a humid climate.


Moisturizing in a Humid Climate

Although humid locations have plenty of water in the air, that doesn't mean you don't need to moisturize. Even if you have oily skin, you still need to use a daily moisturizer -- oil seals in moisture, but it doesn't replace the moisture you lose each day [source: Bouchez]. But be sure to use a noncomedogenic moisturizer -- meaning it won't clog pores -- because when dirt, oil and dead skin clog pores, your skin can break out [source: Mann].

Moisturizers that contain humectants work best in humid areas -- they absorb water from the air and require a high level of humidity to be effective. Look for urea, glycerin or alpha hydroxy acids on the ingredient list [source: Mayo Clinic]. You may also want to try a moisturizer that contains sunscreen. Whenever your skin will be exposed to the sun -- even on cloudy days -- you should wear a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15 [source: American Academy of Dermatology].


Humid weather often goes hand in hand with high temperatures. For tips on how to moisturize in hot climates, read the next page.

Moisturizing in a Hot Climate

Heat can be your skin's worst enemy: It can dry out skin, cause burns, increase oil production and cause breakouts. Just like people who live in a humid climate, you need to moisturize every day -- but be sure your moisturizer is noncomedogenic. Excessive heat combined with pore-clogging moisturizers can make your skin more prone to breakouts [source: Mann].

You may also want to consider using a moisturizer that contains sunscreen -- the sun's ultraviolet rays can cause skin damage, contributing to early signs of aging and skin dryness. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using a moisturizer that contains a broad-spectrum sunscreen -- meaning it blocks both UVA and UVB rays -- with an SPF of at least 15 [source: Clark].


While it may be tempting to take a dip in the pool or ocean during hot summer days, be aware that it could dry out your skin. Your body's natural moisture can evaporate with the water after your swim -- but that doesn't mean you can't lounge in the pool. You can prevent your skin from becoming dehydrated by exfoliating after your swim and applying a moisturizer [source: Chung].

Although hot weather can be a pain for your skin, cold weather can also be damaging. Keep reading to learn how to moisturize your skin in cold climates.


Moisturizing in a Cold Climate

Cold air typically contains less moisture than warm air, which can cause skin to dry, crack and peel. And spending more time indoors can further dry your skin -- furnaces generate warm, dry air, so you may need to use a humidifier in your home to add moisture to the air [source: American Academy of Dermatology].

If your skin is extremely dry, you may want to try a maternity skin care product. Even if you're not pregnant, your skin can benefit from these products, which are especially hydrating. Maternity skin care products are especially good for sensitive skin -- they're designed to be baby-friendly, so they often contain fewer ingredients, meaning they're less likely to cause an allergic reaction [source: Dakss]. Also, avoid taking long, hot showers, which can further dehydrate skin. Instead, take short showers in warm water, and apply a moisturizer within three minutes of showering to help your skin retain moisture [source: Bruno].


Although your face is more likely to be exposed to cold outdoor air, don't neglect the rest of your body when moisturizing. Your elbows, legs and knees have fewer oil glands than your face and are likely to become dry and scaly as well. Also, shaving can strip your legs of moisture, so be sure to use a moisturizing shaving cream, and apply an oil or lotion that contains petrolatum or shea butter after shaving [source: Wu].

With cold weather often comes wind, which can be even more abrasive to skin. Read on to learn how to combat wind's harmful effects.


Moisturizing in a Windy Climate

Wind -- especially a cold, dry wind -- can be brutal on your skin. The best defense is to cover your body during windy weather, but there are other ways to protect your skin. Your face is most at risk for chapped, dry skin because it's frequently exposed to the elements -- cold, windy weather can cause dry patches to form on your cheeks and lips because these areas have fewer oil glands. Always apply a facial moisturizer before heading outside and be sure to wear a lip balm [source: Wu].

If you know you're going to spend an extended period of time outdoors in cold, windy weather, you should layer on a series of products to build a barrier between the elements and your exposed skin. First, clean your skin with a mild cleanser. Then, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen, followed by a rich moisturizer to prevent windburn and sun damage [source: Cooking Light]. Also, protect your hands from drying wind by wearing gloves, and dress in layers so you can remove a layer to avoid overheating and sweating [source: American Academy of Dermatology].


For more information on moisturizing your skin by climate, see the links on the following page.

Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Dermatologists' Top 10 Tips for Relieving Dry Skin." (Accessed 910/2/09)
  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Sunscreens/Sunblocks." 2009. (Accessed 10/1/2009)
  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Winter Skin Care Guidelines." (Accessed 9/7/09)
  • Bouchez, Colette. "18 Travel Beauty Tips -- to Go." WebMD. 2/22/08. (Accessed 9/7/09)
  • Bouchez, Collette. "Oily Skin: Solutions That Work -- No Matter What Your Age." (Accessed 9/30/09)
  • Bruno, Karen. "Women's Skin Care for a Soft Body." WebMD. 8/6/09. (Accessed 9/7/09)
  • Chung, Sue. "Dry Skin … In the Summer?" Health Central. 11/9/07. (Accessed 9/7/09)
  • Clark, Susan, P. "Sunscreen and Your Makeup Routine." (Accessed 10/2/09)
  • Cooking Light. "Face Facts: Weathering Winter." (Accessed 9/7/09)
  • Dakss, Brian. "Moisturizing Your Dry Winter Skin." CBS News/The Early Show. 1/3/06. (Accessed 9/7/09)
  • Davis, Susan. "10 Winter Skin Care Tips." WebMD. 12/21/07. (Accessed 9/7/09)
  • Hertzig, Alyssa Kolsky. "Nine Summer Makeup Tips." Good Housekeeping. (Accessed 9/7/09)
  • Mann, Denise. "Summer Skin Makeover." WebMD. 7/2/08. (Accessed 9/7/09)
  • Marino, Christina. "Skin Physiology, Irritants, Dry Skin and Moisturizers." Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. 6/06. (Accessed 9/7/09)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Dry skin: Lifestyle and Home Remedies." November 26, 2008. (Accessed 10/2/09)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Moisturizers 101: Options for Softer Skin." 12/16/08. (Accessed 9/7/09)
  • Metzger, Erica. "Summer Beauty: Hot-Weather Hair and Skin." Ladies' Home Journal. (Accessed 9/7/09)
  • Patz, Aviva. "Instant Skin Fixes." WebMD. 5/1/08. (Accessed 9/7/09)
  • WebMD. "Skin Conditions: Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)." 3/1/07. (Accessed 9/7/09)
  • Wu, Jessica. "What Kind of Moisturizer Is Best for Cold Weather?" Everyday Health. 10/10/08. (Accessed 9/7/09)