Why does our skin become dry in winter?

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Why does our skin become dry in winter?
« on: 06/02/2011 17:30:03 »
Sonali asked the Naked Scientists:
   Why does our skin become dry in winter?
What do you think?
« Last Edit: 06/02/2011 17:30:03 by _system »


Offline CliffordK

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Why does our skin become dry in winter?
« Reply #1 on: 06/02/2011 23:02:42 »
I suppose it would depend on the environment...
Here, winter is like standing in the shower all day!!!!!!

I think there are a few issues.

Absolute humidity, or the water carrying capacity of air will depend on temperature.

So...  Say if it is 20F (-5C) outside, then while the relative humidity at the outside temperature might be high.  If you then artificially raise the temperature to 70F (20C), then the relative humidity will be much lower.

However, in the Midwest, the humidity is dependent on a local evaporative cycle that would necessarily decrease in the winter.  This doesn't seem to be as big of an issue for coastal environments.   [xx(]

Heating with burning tends to be more drying than electric heating (I think).  I'm not quite sure why.  Perhaps the fuel burning process continually sucks in low humidity air from outside whereas the relative humidity would have a chance to equilibrate somewhat inside with electric heat.

There has been debate about the merits of exhaust-free heating with Methane or Propane.  This would necessarily produce water vapor, and moisture.