Air Conditioning: Summer Salvation or Skin Stressor?

With global temperatures soaring, city summers getting hotter and humidity levels on the rise, it’s only inevitable that our air conditioners are running full-time. While A/C is definitely a blessing, especially in subtropical Hong Kong, full days spent under the cool blast of air conditioning at the office and at home can prove to be too much of a good thing.

How does air conditioning work?

If you’ve ever strolled the streets of subtropical Asia, you might be familiar with the sudden splashes of water from above, or “aircon drip.” In fact, aircon drip is actually condensed moisture from the air indoors.

Photo by Jana Sabeth on Unsplash

That’s right: Air conditioners draw in warm air from the room and process it using a coolant to lower the temperature of the air. They lower it by so much that the process ends up removing water vapor, dehumidifying the air.

For the more scientifically-minded: the air conditioning system lowers the temperature beyond the dew point, or the temperature that air needs to be cooled to in order to be saturated with water, i.e. hold as much water as air can hold.

Once the air temperature drops below the dew point, excess moisture forms; as the air already contains the maximum amount of water vapor that it possibly can at its current temperature, this moisture condenses into water droplets—which drip onto unsuspecting passersby!

Photo by Jimmy Ofisia on Unsplash

Dry, dehumidified air might sound like a good thing, especially to those with oily or acne-prone skin. But the old maxim that all things are best in moderation (sun exposure, sugar and stress are just a few examples) holds true for environmental factors, too. Excessively dry air disrupts the skin’s natural moisture balance, which can be damaging to all skin types. 

What’s the difference between air-conditioner dryness & a low-humidity climate?

In general, dry air isn’t the best for our skin. When air is low in humidity, it pulls moisture from skin, drying it out. In the long term, having dry skin can impact your skin’s texture and elasticity, potentially resulting sensitive skin that’s more prone to fine lines and irritation.

Photo by Natalia Valverde on Unsplash

The difference between switching on the air conditioner every morning and living in a dry climate, though, is the stress it puts on your skin. The shock of entering an 18-degree air-conditioned space after sweltering in 36-degree summer humidity makes it difficult for your skin to adjust and can impair its regenerative processes over time.

The huge change in humidity and temperature in an air-conditioned room could mean your skin struggles to regulate, becoming dry and irritated. On the other hand, oilier skin might overcompensate with excessive sebum (and struggle to cope in the hot, humid outdoors), upsetting the skin’s natural oil-water balance. 

What can I do to protect my skin?

Staying hydrated, leaving a glass of water out and turning on a fan instead are great ways to combat aircon dehydration. But for a more targeted skin solution, building an optimized skincare routine is key.

Building a skincare routine that works for you is all about adapting. Adjust your everyday routine to take into account where you’ll be and what you’re doing, whether you plan on drifting off to dreamland with the whirr of the air conditioner, or facilitating meetings in a cool, dehumidifed office. Here are our top tips for battling sensitive, dehydrated aircon skin:

Step 1: Cleanser

Hydro-Power Brightening Cleanser (HK$360)

Whether you’ve got dry skin or oily skin, a mild cleanser is the way to go. Remove impurities and soothe clogged pores with the Hydro-Power Brightening Cleanser to replenish the moisture your skin’s missing after a long day at the office. Avoid rinsing with hot water, which can aggravate dry, irritated skin.

Step 2: Toner

Antioxidant Hydrating Toning Essence (HK$480)

An essential skincare step, especially for people with sensitive skin! Applying toner with cotton pads immediately after cleansing helps to lock in moisture, protect the skin barrier and restore balance to the skin’s oil-water levels. If you have an existing skin condition like eczema or rosacea, using the Antioxidant Hydrating Toning Essence regularly can soothe redness, inflammation and irritation.

Step 3: Serum

Advanced Hyaluronic Serum (HK$720)

Treat dry skin to a spa day with the Advanced Hyaluronic Serum! A light, nutrient-rich serum will moisturize your skin without feeling heavy or greasy. Adding a dash of hyaluronic acid to your routine will ensure your skin is getting the nourishment it needs—keep your skin in stock with a super-value serum combo!

If your skin’s feeling dry or cracked, mix in 1-2 drops of Miracle Glow Facial Oil for a unique serum cocktail!

Step 4: Moisturizer

Intensive Water-Glow Moisturizer (HK$580)

The best way to relieve moisture-deprived skin is by moisturizing, of course! Rubbing too hard can irritate skin and cause wrinkles, so gently pat Intensive Water-Glow Moisturizer into your skin to help it replenish hydration and nutrients. Even if you’ll be indoors all day, remember to apply sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher to protect your skin from UV rays.

Step 5: Night Mask

Hydro-Rescue Repairing Night Mask (HK$820)

Our favorite skincare product for a night in! Dotted with ultra-hydrating cellulose, the Hydro-Rescue Repairing Night Mask is perfect for aircon-damaged skin. Use more on areas that need a little moisture oomph, or slather on a thick layer: this versatile cream-based mask will fit your nighttime skincare routine however you want.

Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash 

While we might not be able to escape the siren song of air conditioning on a hot day, a good skincare routine can ensure your skin is happy, healthy and hydrated all summer long.

To save your skin from dehydration doom, check out our Sensitive S.O.S Combo. Concerned about the environmental impact of air conditioners? See our tips for recycling your used Pretti5 products and building an eco-friendly skincare routine.


Written by Fion Tse