Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that causes dryness, itchiness, rashes, scaling, and occasional blistering. While there’s no scientific evidence that humidifiers help eczema, some people find them helpful for relieving dry skin.

More than 31 million people in the United States have some type of eczema, according to the National Eczema Association. Some people have mild symptoms, but others have severe flares that disrupt their quality of life.

The exact cause of the condition isn’t known, but it’s likely due to genetic and environmental factors.

Common therapies to manage symptoms include using over-the-counter topical creams, avoiding triggers, and taking prescription medications. These aren’t the only possible remedies, though. Some people also use a humidifier.

If you’re curious about whether you should be using a humidifier for your eczema, keep reading.

A humidifier is a device that adds moisture to the air. It works by releasing water vapor or steam.

Although there’s no scientific evidence that humidifiers help eczema, some people find them helpful for relieving dry skin.

There are various types of humidifiers. Humidifiers are designated by size:

  • Central humidifiers are built into your home’s cooling and heating system.
  • Console humidifiers are larger units meant to remain stationary.
  • Portable humidifiers are smaller units that can be easily moved from room to room.

They can also be categorized by the way they create and disperse air mist. For example:

  • Ultrasonic humidifiers use ultrasonic vibrations to create a mist.
  • Cool mist humidifiers use a rotating disk to create a mist.
  • Evaporative humidifiers use a fan to blow air through a moistened material.
  • Warm mist or steam vaporizers use a heating element to create mist.

While all work to add moisture to the air, some doctors recommend a cool mist over a warm mist because it’s safer. The water doesn’t heat up, reducing the risk of burns.

However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that cool mist and ultrasonic humidifiers are more likely to disperse microorganisms or minerals into the air. The EPA states that breathing mist containing these pollutants has been implicated as causing a certain type of inflammation of the lungs.

If you’re looking for the simplest and most cost-effective solution, you can put out a bowl of water in a warm room. Just be sure to clean the bowl and change the water regularly.

Both a cool mist and warm mist humidifier can help add moisture to the air and relieve skin dryness. But under certain circumstances, a humidifier can potentially worsen eczema symptoms.

This might happen when you don’t clean the unit.

It’s important to properly clean a humidifier. This can prevent the growth of bacteria, yeast, mold, and fungi. If a humidifier isn’t cleaned or sanitized on a regular basis, the device could release harmful microorganisms into the air.

This can cause respiratory illnesses and possibly worsen eczema and other skin conditions, like psoriasis.

Proper cleaning is also important because using the wrong cleaning products can be harmful.

A 2012 study from South Korea found that adding a disinfectant (which has since been banned) to the humidifier water had devastating effects. As such, use caution with any products or additives. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions.

In addition to proper cleaning methods, you may want to also talk with your doctor about using a humidifier if you or a family member has allergies. Dust mites thrive in humid air, which could make allergies and eczema worse.

Humid weather and humidity can often reduce symptoms of eczema in some people.

The skin contains 64% water. Therefore, the skin begins to dry out when there’s too little humidity in the air.

Higher humidity, on the other hand, puts moisture back into the air, which in turn helps hydrate dry, itchy skin.

Humidity levels are higher during the warmer months. Therefore, your eczema symptoms might improve during the spring or summer.

Increasing the humidity level indoors might also provide relief from symptoms. This is where a humidifier comes in. In addition to helping you manage dry, itchy skin, a humidifier might also improve cracked lips and dry eyes.

However, while humidifiers are sometimes effective at increasing moisture, there’s no evidence that they have the same effect as humidity related to outdoor weather.

They also aren’t a substitute for a healthy skin care routine. So along with using one to increase moisture levels in the air — and subsequently draw moisture back into your skin — it’s best to also use daily creams and moisturizers.

Too much or too little humidity in the home can worsen eczema, so it’s important to maintain a comfortable level whenever possible.

To prevent dry skin, keep an indoor humidity level of 30–60%. Humidity above this level can encourage the growth of mold.

Your bathing habits can also improve or worsen eczema. A good skin care routine helps reduce the severity of eczema flares, and can even prevent some flares.

Hot showers and baths aren’t the best options for eczema. These can worsen symptoms because too much exposure to hot water can dry out the skin, stripping it of natural oils.

Instead of long showers and baths, keep bathing time short, perhaps 10–15 minutes. Also avoid hot water and bathe in lukewarm water. Additionally, use a gentle cleanser, pat dry your skin, and liberally apply moisturizer over your body after drying off.

Some people also experience eczema flares in the winter. This is due to dry air caused by low humidity, which extracts moisture from the skin.

This can be more of an issue in areas with dry climates, like Arizona or Colorado. It may also be amplified when using heaters during the winter, which tend to draw moisture out of the skin.

Eczema symptoms might appear worse on parts of the body exposed to cold air, such as the hands and face. Wearing a scarf, drinking plenty of fluids, and moisturizing your skin can help reduce symptoms.

You may also want to avoid wool, as lanolin allergies can lead to eczema flares. Lanolin is found in wool. Some people also react to compounds found in leather gloves and hats. Silk, bamboo, or cotton are preferable materials.

Also, turning up the heat during the winter can cause overly dry air. A humidifier in the home, however, helps combat dry air and keeps skin moisturized.

Eczema is a chronic, inflammatory, itchy skin condition that can wax and wane. Managing symptoms involves keeping skin moisturized with lotions and creams.

Depending on the severity and type of eczema, your doctor may prescribe a combination of topical, oral, or injectable medication to control flares.

Along with these therapies, you can make adjustments to help improve skin health, like using a humidifier, regularly moisturizing, and taking shorter, cooler showers.

There are also benefits to avoiding triggers, such as known allergens and scented products, along with decreasing stress.

If you have questions about your allergens or whether a humidifier is a good choice for you, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor.