As you age, it becomes increasingly more difficult for your skin to retain moisture. Heat, cold, harsh soaps, frequent bathing and sun exposure also take their toll on your skin. Formerly plump epidermal cells shrivel, leaving rough, scaly and itchy patches on your arms, legs, back and other areas of the body. In severe cases, this lack or loss of moisture may even cause your skin to crack and bleed. Increasing the humidity in your home, however, can often help relieve dry skin, especially in those rooms most frequently used.
A portable humidifier in the living room, bedroom, office or den can add enough moisture to the air to keep your skin from drying out. If you hope to increase the humidity in your entire house, you can buy a humidifier that attaches directly to your furnace to pump additional moisture into each room.
The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology recommends a humidity level between 45 and 55 percent, while the CNN Health website suggests keeping humidity a little lower, approximately 30 to 50 percent. You can measure humidity in the air with a hygrometer or relative humidity gauge. These devices are available at most hardware stores.
Like furnaces, heaters and air conditioners, it isn't always necessary to run the humidifier all year. During the fall and spring, most homes maintain a good humidity level. It isn't until the temperature drops that humidity levels tend to plummet. However, central air conditioning can also lower relative humidity, and you may need to run your humidifier in the summer as well.
Caring for Humidifiers
Though humidifiers can improve the humidity level in the home, they can sometimes pose a health problem. To minimize the risk, change the water after each use and clean the reservoir regularly. Clean the humidifier every three days with a 3-percent hydrogen peroxide solution, says CNN Health. This is available at pharmacies as well as at stores that stock humidifiers.
Treating Your Skin
Sometimes it isn't enough to run a humidifier to improve dry skin. If you find your skin is still dry and flaky, use a high-quality moisturizer, cleanse with a gentle soap and minimize time in the shower. Hot water leaches moisture from your skin, so bathe in slightly warm water.