Surprising Ways Your Home is Affecting Your Skin

There are at least three things in this photo that could be bad for your skin.
You may notice irritated or itchy skin or sudden rashes and assume that the reaction came from a beauty product you used. You could actually be having a reaction to household cleaners, dust and other airborne substances in your home.

To protect your skin, limit exposure to potential toxic substances, environmental pollutants and indoor air conditions that harm the skin.  This article shows you how.

Some cleaning products can cause skin reactions.Some cleaning products can cause skin reactions.
Chemicals in Household Products

You may be aware that antibacterial and harsh soap can be bad for the skin. But in addition to releasing gases into the air called VOCs , many household cleaners from carpet cleaners, furniture polish, oven cleaners, window cleaners to dish detergents, have caustic ingredients that can irritate and even burn skin.

In the laundry room: Since laundry detergents tend to irritate sensitive and dry skin, use fragrance-free detergents and skip the fabric softeners.

Fabric dryer sheets and fabric softeners cause rashes in some individuals.  Also be careful with the types of fabric worn—such as wool, which can be irritating to the skin. 

Switch to greener cleaning products or clean with vinegar, and other eco-friendly ingredients that can be use around the home.  Always wear gloves when using household cleaners, even natural cleaners.

Let the sunshine (and the fresh air) in.
Poor Air Quality

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals that “off-gas,” i.e. enter the air as gases from solids and liquids, like carpets, paint, air fresheners and cosmetics.  One well-known substance is formaldehyde found in some nail polishes and other products.

The main concern is with these substances being inhaled and entering the body, but chemicals from the air can also land on the skin and be absorbed or cause reactions in some individuals.

Instead of using chemical air fresheners make sure your home has proper ventilation, using fans and fresh air from open windows (when weather and the environmental conditions permit).  Lower temperatures and humidity decreases the amount of some VOCs in the air. Airing out the house with dry, cold air can also help if you have problems with dust mites.

You can also use an air purifier or humidifier to improve air quality.  There are some products available that work as both a humidifier and purifier, like the Venta Airwasher, which uses cold evaporation and uses water as the filter, instead of actual filters that need to be cleaned. (The company also has aromatherapy fragrances in lavender, vanilla and eucalyptus essential oils, which can be used in conjunction with the Airwasher.)

Low humidity can lead to dry, scaly skin.
Low Humidity Levels

Increase humidity levels to avoid dry skin: There is less moisture in the air in cold weather, as well as in homes with air conditioning. The cold, dry air contributes to what has been called “winter itch,” caused when the skin is depleted of moisture. It can cause uncomfortable skin even if you don’t have dry skin conditions like eczema. 

Dermatologists have been recommending the use of humidifiers for healthy skin for years.

Correct indoor humidity is important for healthy skin.  Low humidity can decrease the water content in the outer layer of skin.  This can cause rough and scaly skin texture, fine lines and wrinkles, and eventually reduces skin elasticity. Humidity that is lower than 40%  also causes health issues such as scratchy throats, drying out of mucous membranes that cause susceptibility to colds and respiratory illnesses.

If plants are getting too dry or there is static electricity throughout the home (noticeable when you touch your hair, clothing and other items), those are signs that the air is too dry. 40 - 60% humidity is considered optimal for soothing and alleviating dry skin, chapped lips and itchiness.

Even in humid climates, the use of humidifiers is suggested for indoor environments made dry by air conditioning units.

But there are downsides to too much humidity:


Some health professionals consider humidifiers to be a breeding ground for bacteria, which circulates through the air and gets into the lungs.

 The Dyson AM 10 Humidifier has UV technology that kills 99.9% in the water sending an hygienic mist through the room.

You also need a humidifier with a hygrometer, a humidity sensor to measure the moisture content in the air.  This article has facts about humidifiers to help you find the right one for your home and needs.

Some people simply use bowls of water throughout the home or boil water in the kitchen to send more moisture into the air.  The steam from showers, facial steaming or even getting a little moisture from vapors while sipping on a warm cup of tea, can contribute to hydrating the skin.

Too much humidity in an environment can lead to mold. Mold can cause skin rashes.  You might smell a musty odor or notice black and white specks on the affected area, in discolored carpets or water stains on the wall.  If humidity is a big issue in your home, there are dehumidifiers for mold.

Not only can humidity that is higher than 60% lead to mold, it can also lead to the proliferation of dust mites, both of which are also bad for allergies and asthma and can be bad for the skin.

Dust can do more than just make you sneeze.

Some people that appear to be allergic to dust, could actually be reacting to dust mites and their feces. Dust mites are harmless, but are sometimes Bad for those with allergies.  Typical reactions can be red and itchy skin and skin irritations that resemble insect bites. Scratching can further damage the skin. Dust mites can also worsen atopic dermatitis (eczema). Only a dermatologist or allergist will be able to determine if dry, itchy skin is due to dust mites.

Having dust mites doesn’t mean you have a filthy home.  They are hard to get rid of and it will be even more difficult if your home is cluttered and you have items that attract dust, like stuffed toys, dried flowers, books and knick knacks. Keep rooms cool and well-ventilated.

Dust and dust mites can float in the air when vacuuming and dusting. So use a damp wipe and a vacuum with a HEPA filter.  You can also invest in a HEPA air cleaner. 

Dust mites are too tiny to see with the naked eye,  but they often live in bedding, upholstery and carpets and feed off of dead skin cells and dandruff.  Dust mites thrive in warm, moist conditions. They are not typically found in dry climates (some people are against the use of humidifiers for this reason) and don't live below 50% humidity. 

To kill and reduce dust mites, wash linens weekly in hot water between 130 - 140 degrees. Flip mattress and pillows regularly and use protective (mite-proof) mattress coverings and pillowcases that have tightly woven fibers to prevent them getting inside bedding (or from getting out) and feeding on dead skin cells.

 If you have carpet you will need to do frequent carpet cleaning or if dust mites and reactions become a problem you should probably remove carpeting. 

Dust can be filled with a lot of other things that cause skin reactions, such as pet dander, pollen and other triggers.  Dust allergies can also be from mold particles and spores, feathers, bird droppings, insect parts, in household dust.

Proper skin cleansing and moisturizing your skin can help keep reactions under control.  If your skin continues to be itchy or irritated, to prevent scratching and risking infection you might need to use a corticosteroid or an antihistamine or consult a dermatologist.

By Gerrie Summers |


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Lifestyle Magazine: Surprising Ways Your Home is Affecting Your Skin
Surprising Ways Your Home is Affecting Your Skin
Lifestyle Magazine
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