Professional Opinion: Can I do anything to avoid feeling sticky when it's humid?

rdamgen@beaufortgazette.comMay 26, 2014 

Carmen Traywick is a dermatologist is May River Dermatology in Bluffton


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This week, Carmen Traywick, a dermatologist at May River Dermatology in Bluffton, talks about what, if anything, can be done to minimize the effects of humidity.

Question. If it's humid and hot outside, I'm guaranteed a bad hair day and I've noticed if I'm outside, my skin starts to feel sticky and damp with sweat. Why does humidity make my hair frizz and cause me to sweat even if I'm barely exerting myself? What, if anything, can be done to stop those effects?

Answer. High humidity is definitely part of life in the Lowcountry and it makes hair frizz and skin feel "sticky." When the air is humid, this means the air is saturated with water vapor. When the percent of saturation is high, it makes us feel more hot and sweaty because the sweat we produce on our skin has a harder time evaporating.

Imagine trying to dry your car with a dry towel. At first, it soaks up a lot of water. After a while, the towel gets saturated with water and it is harder and harder to get the water off the car and onto the towel. When the towel is saturated it does not dry the car as well. This is the same thing that happens with your skin. It is hard to get the water off of your skin and into the air when the air is saturated, just like it is harder to get the water off the car and onto the wet towel when the towel is saturated.

Evaporation of sweat off the skin is what actually makes our skin feel cooler, rather than temperature. If you are outside on a hot and humid day, you are sweating because you are hot, but the sweat does not evaporate very well. This makes you feel more hot and also makes you have that "sticky" feeling.

There are some ways to combat this. I always recommend wearing sunscreen on hot and sunny days. A mineral sunscreen powder is a great combination in this instance. The powder will help soak up some of the sweat and avoids the "sticky" feeling that some sunscreens have. Jane Iredale and Colorescience are two great brands that have tinted, or non-tinted, powder based sunscreens that can be worn alone or on top of makeup or other creams.

Your other option: Move to Arizona.

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