Have you ever traveled to bustling Bangkok and witnessed your skin go from dewy to downright oily in the blink of an eye? Or maybe you ventured to the arid plains of the Australian Outback, where your complexion thirsted for moisture? Whatever places you go, one thing is sure: your skin is in for a wild ride every time it experiences a new environment. It’s actually completely natural for your skin to undergo changes when you move to a new area with different weather conditions or transition from scorching summers to harsh winters. So let’s take a closer look at how skin reacts to different climates and how to adapt your skincare routine between humid and dry climates.
Environmental factors that affect your skin when you move to another climate
When you move from a humid tropical climate to a dry desert, your skin will be put to the test by a whole host of new environmental factors. Elements like air humidity, temperature, UV index, and pollution impact your skin differently in each environment.
For example, a dry climate like Phoenix, Arizona has an average humidity level of 52%. This affects the skin’s natural ability to draw moisture from the air, which means your skin will tend to be dry, flaky, and tight. On the other hand, high humidity levels combined with the warm temperatures in a tropical environment can make your skin feel sticky, sweaty, and greasy and increase the likelihood of clogged pores and breakouts.
With these factors in mind, it’s clear-cut that you need to rethink your skincare strategy to give your skin the best chance of weathering sudden climate changes. And no, it’s not all about the type of moisturizer you use. While it may seem intuitive to moisturize more in a dry climate and less in a humid climate, this can actually be a recipe for disaster.
Skincare routine in dry climates
You are more likely to have dehydrated skin in a dry climate. This is because the lack of water in the air causes the skin to lose moisture and affects its ability to attract water and hydrate itself.
So if you’re planning to travel to Arizona, Egypt, Las Vegas, or anywhere where the humidity levels are below 70%, you have to prioritize two things: products that help your skin pull water from the air and products that stop moisture from evaporating from your skin.
Essentially your skincare routine in a dry climate should include a good hydrating serum with hyaluronic acid, a lightweight daytime moisturizer, occlusive facial oil, and a mineral sunscreen.
Serum and moisturizer
The serum and moisturizer will do the hard work of helping your skin pull every drop of water from the air. Look out for products with humectants like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and panthenol, as these moisture magnets attract and transport water molecules through your skin layers.
We learned above about the importance of humectants. However, relying solely on them to hydrate your skin in a dry climate will likely work against you. Humectants are good at attracting moisture but really bad at keeping it in the skin. So even though hyaluronic acid gives your skin a burst of hydration, the moisture will quickly evaporate back into the air if you don’t seal it in. This is where facial oils come in.
Most oils are occlusives, which are a group of compounds that create a protective film over the skin’s surface. This protective film reduces the amount of water that evaporates through your skin, which means your skin will retain more moisture and stay hydrated for longer.
Applying facial oils like squalane, jojoba, rosehip, grape seed, and hemp seed is especially helpful in low-humidity environments as they combat dryness and provide skin with ample hydration. These oils are lightweight, don’t feel greasy or clog the pores, and work great on all types of skin, including dry, oily, and acne-prone.
You can either mix the facial oil with your moisturizer or apply them separately after your moisturizer.
You must commit to daily sun protection all year round, regardless of the climate. However, you may benefit more from mineral sunscreens than chemical ones if you live in a dry environment. Mineral sunscreens are formulated with naturally-occurring minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are both UV filters and occlusive. They sit on top of the skin instead of penetrating it and not only help protect against sun damage but go the extra mile by reducing moisture loss.
Other skincare essentials in dry climates
- Avoid hot showers
- Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air and reduce dryness caused by indoor air conditioning or heating tools
- Drink eight glasses of water per day
- Eat fatty acids-rich foods
- Consider using an overnight mask that provides intensive hydration and nourishment to the skin while you sleep
- Have a lip balm in your beauty bag to combat chapped lips
- Avoid waterproof makeup products
Skincare routine in humid climates
While in low-humidity environments the focus was on increasing and sealing hydration, taking care of your skin in a highly humid climate is more about regular cleansing and exfoliation.
Humid weather can make your skin oilier and more prone to congestion, so there’s a greater chance you’ll be dealing with acne breakouts and a greasy and sticky feel. That being said, it’s really important to cleanse your skin every day and use chemical exfoliants two to three times a week if you live in a humid climate. Both cleansing and exfoliation help keep clogged pores and pimples at bay by eliminating the buildup of oil, sweat, dead cells, and other impurities from the skin’s surface.
For hot, humid weather, turn to a light and water-based moisturizing lotion. Avoid formulas with comedogenic ingredients or heavy oils. Moreover, consider using a primer after moisturizer if you plan to apply makeup.
Cleaning becomes even more important in humid climates due to increased sweat production and bacterial infections. Opt for a sulfate-free face wash and use it daily just before you start your skincare routine. If you have dry skin, it’s best to skip the morning cleanse and only use the cleanser at night to preserve your skin’s natural oils.
Skin’s sebaceous glands naturally produce more oil in response to the humid weather. The excess moisture can also hinder the natural shedding of dead skin cells. These two factors lead to the same thing: a greater need for exfoliation. Exfoliants like alpha and beta hydroxy acids (think glycolic and salicylic acids) work to reduce excess oil and slough off dead skin that often clog the pores and cause breakouts and a dull appearance. For the best, exfoliate up to three times a week, preferably with a facial peel, and follow up with a moisturizer to reduce dryness.
Other skincare essentials in humid climates
- Use an oil-free and non-comedogenic sunscreen
- Once weekly, apply a clay mask to draw out impurities, control oil production, and tighten your pores
- Carry oil-blotting sheets in your bag to absorb excess oil and reduce shine during the day. Gently blot the T-zone or other oily areas without rubbing or scrubbing