If you live in an area that experiences cold weather, you know how brutal winters can be. The frigid temperatures and snowy conditions are bad enough, but the bone-dry air can make things especially miserable. For me, that often means waking up with a scratchy throat or stuffy nose and noticing that my skin looks and feels dry no matter how much I moisturize. If that sounds familiar, a humidifier might just be the thing that’s missing from your self-care lineup.
In fact, many experts agree that everyone should be using a humidifier, especially during the winter. But what type should you buy, and how do you use one? We spoke to two experts—Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City, and Ani Baran, wellness expert and owner of NJ Acupuncture Center—for their expert insight into why humidifiers are a key part of any wellness routine.
Dr. Zeichner is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. He is one of the key opinion leaders in treating acne and rosacea and an expert in cosmeceuticals, skincare, and cosmetic dermatology.
Baran is the owner and lead acupuncturist at NJ Acupuncture Center where she customizes treatments for patients to aid in pain management, infertility, stress relief, anxiety, weight loss, and inflammation.
What Is a Humidifier?
Humidifiers are at-home appliances that aerosolize water to replace moisture in the air, Zeichner explained. They typically come in two varieties: cool mist or hot steam. “They are both equally effective but use different technologies to achieve the same goal,” he said. “I usually recommend cool mist humidifiers because they are a safer option and won’t cause a thermal burn if you get too close to it.”
Both cool mist and hot steam humidifiers increase the humidity or moisture in the air, which improves hydration for your skin and has other health benefits, too.
What a Humidifier Can Do for Your Skin
When it comes to your skin, humidifiers are an easy addition to your skincare routine. The best part? All you have to do is fill it up and remember to turn it on. Seriously, it’s even easier than keeping up with your skincare routine.
By hydrating the air with humidity, your skin will retain moisture, too, which is key during the colder seasons. “Winter is really harsh on the skin, especially the cold, dry months, and having forced hot air in our homes is very drying as well,” Baran explained. She believes everyone can benefit from consistent use of a home humidifier but especially people who naturally have dry skin as well as those with eczema, psoriasis, or any other skin condition.
“Our skin is a dynamic organ that can adjust to different temperatures in climates,” Zeichner said. “However, extreme cold and dry air can take a toll on our skin barrier, stripping the skin of essential oils needed for proper functioning.”
Other Health Benefits of Using a Humidifier
In addition to helping moisturize and hydrate your skin, humidifiers can help other parts of your body, too. “Besides helping your skin, humidifiers are useful if you have a cold and are blowing your nose a lot, which can lead to dryness of your mucous membranes,” Zeichner said.
“It can loosen congestion in your sinuses, and keeping the air moist also helps with breathing and overall dryness,” Baran added. “Humidifiers can protect your throat by not letting it get too dry overnight.”
When to Use a Humidifier
There are virtually no downsides or side effects of consistently running a humidifier, as long as it is properly cleaned and maintained. This is really important—follow all the cleaning instructions for the model you use and properly maintain it! Otherwise, harmful bacteria and mold can grow inside, and that’s the last thing you want circulating in the air.
“You can essentially run the humidifier all day if you’re home. Just make sure to unplug it when you leave the house,” Baran said. However, she said it’s most important to have it up and running at night when the heat is on and your body is restoring itself.
“Sleep is time for rejuvenation, and good quality of sleep is linked to a proper immune system,” Baran said. “Adding a humidifier will aid in how well you sleep, since it won’t let the air dry out and cause sinus congestion or an uncomfortable dry nose or mouth.”
Pro tip: If you are still shopping around or aren’t ready to invest in a humidifier yet, an easy DIY remedy is leaving a big bowl of water on your nightstand, which Baran explained could act as a natural humidifier.
Shop the Best Humidifiers
Simple and chic, the Canopy humidifier is easy on the eyes and even easier to keep clean. It’s specially designed to prevent mold growth and filter out bacteria before it hits the air. Plus, the main components are dishwasher-safe, which earns it a must-have ranking in our book.
With a cloud-like shape and soothing color options, this cool mist humidifier makes a stylish addition to your nightstand. It’s also whisper-quiet, so it won’t disrupt your sleep.
Limited space on your nightstand? This humidifier is just 6 inches wide but is powerful enough to humidify rooms up to 500 square feet.
A thoughtful design makes this humidifier easy to clean and refill by simply removing the lid. And with a large 3-liter water tank, it’ll last you multiple nights before you need to refill it.