Is Air-Conditioning Bad for Your Skin?

Being indoors with air-conditioning can be tough on the skin. UV70/Shutterstock

These days, especially in South Florida, air-conditioning is essential to daily life. The sweltering sun outside is blissfully tempered by the blast of cool air that greets you in every coffee shop, grocery store or office building.

Because I’m always cold, we keep our house at a positively tropical 77 degrees, which alienates everyone around us (and, heck, that’s fine by me). By Florida standards, anything over 70 is considered too hot. But as it turns out, colder is not always better when it comes to your skin.

We already know that air-conditioning can have some harmful effects on your health in general. In fact, in the summertime, going from the hot outdoors to an air-conditioned building can make you more susceptible to illness. And air-conditioning systems that haven’t been maintained properly can be detrimental to your health, causing bacteria to blow all around you instead of helping to keep it at bay.

But what about your skin?

Turns out that air-conditioning isn’t so great for that either.

Sitting in an air-conditioned room for an extended period of time (say, a regular workday) can dry out your skin. If you already have skin conditions like eczema, rosacea or psoriasis, air-conditioning can make them worse, sending the skin’s natural moisture balance out of whack. Even if you don’t suffer from any of these conditions, air-conditioning can dry out your skin, making your skin itch and flake.

But it’s not just the cold air that could be detrimental. One study of hospital workers showed that synthetic fibers from an air-conditioning filter actually caused skin irritation.

The good news: You don’t have to quit your day job to get some relief.

How to cool down without air conditioning

drinking water
It goes without saying that drinking water throughout the day will keep you hydrates and cool. Vladimir Gjorgiev/Shutterstock

First, you can moisturize your skin. Make sure to keep a moisturizer near your desk, and apply it at least three times a day. This will help counteract the drying effects that air-conditioning has on your skin.

Also make sure you’re drinking enough water — not diet soda — as this will help keep your skin and body hydrated.

If the issue is in your home and not your place of business, you can take all the above steps and go a step further by raising the temperature (I know, it seems extreme) or upping the humidifier a bit — between 30 and 50 percent is usually ideal — so the air doesn’t get too dry.

If you like sleeping in a cold bedroom but dislike waking up with cracked, dry skin, you can also try sleeping with a cool mist humidifier near your bed. This will help keep your skin moist. Also make sure that you change your air-conditioning filters regularly, generally every four to six weeks (look up your exact filter for a more accurate recommendation).

If you happen to be one of the lucky ones who’s not indoors all day, take comfort in knowing that being in the great outdoors will help keep your skin moist and supple, even if happens to be 90 degrees in the shade (at least that’s what I tell myself). And remember, fall is almost here, friends!

View Article Sources
  1. Ohno, Hideo, et al. “Effects of Water Nanodroplets on Skin Moisture and Viscoelasticity during Air-Conditioning.” Skin Research and Technology, vol. 19, no. 4, Nov. 2013, pp. 375–83., doi:10.1111/srt.12056

  2. D’Amato, Maria, et al. “The Impact of Cold on the Respiratory Tract and Its Consequences to Respiratory Health.” Clinical and Translational Allergy, vol. 8, no. 1, Dec. 2018, p. 20., doi:10.1186/s13601-018-0208-9

  3. Stalder, J. F., et al. “Fragility of Epidermis and Its Consequence in Dermatology.” Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, vol. 28, June 2014, pp. 1–18., doi:10.1111/jdv.12509

  4. Patiwael, Jiska A., et al. “Airborne Irritant Contact Dermatitis Due to Synthetic Fibres from an Air-Conditioning Filter.” Contact Dermatitis, vol. 52, no. 3, Mar. 2005, pp. 126–29., doi:10.1111/j.0105-1873.2005.00526.x

  5. Housh, Will. "What Is the Ideal Humidity Level for Your House?."