The Universal Plight Of Dry Office Skin (& How To Fix It)

There is an especially cruel kind of white-collar suffering that occurs mainly between the months of November to March, depending on the extent of your office supervisor's god complex. You're wearing tank tops under your sweaters in case you need to shed your otherwise seasonally-appropriate turtleneck, your keyboard is sticky with the hand cream you need to apply 10 times a day, your T-zone is oily and your cheeks flaky, and you have to stash eye drops and an extra pair of contacts in your drawer. It's dry office-heating-system season, baby, and it's the worst.

"Our skin is primarily composed of water," says dermatologist Ava Shamban, MD, founder of Ava MD and the SKINxFIVE clinics. "In the winter, when temperature and moisture levels drop drastically, external air conditions have very low humidity. Combine that with artificial indoor heat, and you've got almost 100% dry air." The air quality is made worse by the fact that, when it's cold outside, most office buildings are pumped with heat for 24 hours straight — not because they're trying to kill you (probably), but because it simply requires too much time and energy to reheat an entire building every morning before you get to work.

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Between that dense, dry heat and the lack of any fresh air from the outside, Dr. Shamban explains, the humidity levels in the air are at an extreme low. Suddenly, your usual morning skin routine doesn't suffice; you need more serum, more moisturizer, more... water. That's because, after just a short time indoors, the water in your skin is sucked out through the process of osmosis. "It literally just evaporates into thin air," she says. "An entire day in the office can wreak havoc."

That doesn't mean you have to quit your job just to keep your skin moisturized (unless, of course, you want to). Improve your work-life-good skin balance with the expert tips and product recommendations ahead: They'll help you stay hydrated until the long-awaited March day that the heat finally switches off, and ensure you become a workplace hero in the meantime. Employee of the Month, here you come.

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A dry-skin panacea that will also make you very popular among the other victims your colleagues, the humble humidifier will put much-needed moisture back into the air. "Keep a portable model by your desk and fill it with water throughout the day," Dr. Shamban says. This plug-in version offers six hours of continuous runtime (or 12 hours, used intermittently) and has a soft color-changing LED light for you to stare at listlessly when you should be filing expense reports.
HoMedics Ultrasonic Aroma Diffuser$29.99 Buy
Because of its unrivaled ability to lock moisture into the skin, hyaluronic acid is a nice addition to any routine, any time of year. Right now, though, Dr. Shamban says the humectant is an essential weapon against transdermal water loss, since it helps bind existing water into the skin cells so it can't evaporate. This light, fragrance-free essence is the perfect way to get your fix: Just splash a few drops into your palms and pat it into still-damp skin before layering on your other products.
Hanskin Hyaluron Skin Essence$46.00 Buy
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In addition to the hydrating boost from hyaluronic acid, Dr. Shamban suggests using a heavier cream to seal in the moisture for both day and night. "You can look for ones with a lot of emollient oils rich in fatty acids, which will support hydration within the cells and help keep it in there," she says. Formulated with 21 seed oils, this nourishing cream soothes and protects delicate skin, for serious moisture that isn't overly heavy or greasy.
Votary Super Seed Nutrient Cream$102.00 Buy
"During the night is the best time to use products that even out and refine the skin, as well as quench it with moisture," says dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank, MD. He recommends formulas that contain fruit acids, like this intensive night treatment, which pairs papaya, lemon, sugar cane, orange, and bilberry enzymes to gently slough away dead skin cells with shea butter, aloe vera, and hyaluronic acid to moisturize.
Herbivore Botanicals Moon Fruit Superfruit Night Treatment$58.00 Buy
Dr. Frank stresses that thirsty skin still needs exfoliation — it just needs to be gentle, and work to shed dead skin-cell buildup without exacerbating dryness and irritation. "For skin that's feeling especially dry, a light application of Aquaphor is beneficial after exfoliating," he says.
Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment Skin Protectant$11.99 $6.99 Buy
There is a common misconception that an afternoon spritz with a face mist should be enough to keep skin refreshed and hydrated; done incorrectly, that facial mist can actually worsen dryness. Dr. Shamban says that proper use is key, which means sealing in the moisture a mist offers. "Think of the idea of 'sitting' water in a dry, arid desert," she says. "It almost immediately evaporates, and the same will happen on your skin in those conditions." After you mist, apply a sealant in the form of a moisturizer or humectant, to reap the benefits without the desert metaphor.
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