How Do Different Climates Affect Your Skin And Hair?

Whoa whoa whoa. So this might not be news to anyone but me, but I feel like I cracked a mystery of the beautyverse last week. I  was blessed enough to spend 8 days at Rancho LaPuerta in Tecate, Mexico, just a few miles from the U.S. border, in the desert. You should click that link and then you should feel free to hate me for getting to go there, but know that it was a loooong overdue and much needed holiday and besides, I went in the name of…research!

Anyway, I’m going to write more about the Ranch, because I had a life-changing, holy-cow kind of a week (literally! Cow story to come!) and I want to share what I learned there. But in the mean time, there is a much more important topic at hand:

I want to tell you what the dry-heat desert did to my skin and hair.

First of all, I was smart this time and packed all my skin and hair products for the week, so there was no cheating with other products or anything. Second, Alexandra and I often talk about how whenever she comes here to New York, she feels dirty and her hair is unpredictable, whereas at home she can not wash her face and her hair looks the same every day (in a good way—just look at her!). That’s because New York has seasons. It’s also frequently very humid here, the water is different, and the pollution is of the particulates-in-the-air-that-stick-to-you-and-make-you-feel-gross variety. Simply put, it’s a tough place to be among the great unwashed.

I grew up in Montreal where the weather, punishing winters aside, is similar to New York’s.

I’ve always just assumed I’m the type who has to shower, wash hair, wash face daily or… well, or else I’d be a gross person. Turns out that’s not really the case.

I should restate that I love washing my hair, and I like feeling clean. Rituals of personal care and maintenance are important to me, and I perform them every single day. Except at summer camp, apparently.

Yes, the Ranch is basically summer camp for grownups, but unlike kids’ summer camp, where you bum around in old sweats and  wifebeaters, the Ranch is populated by people who look presentable every day—even on 7 mile hikes. I say that just to explain that looking like a shlub wasn’t really an option. And yet…washing my hair was. Also, my face.

On day one I washed my hair and face as usual. The next day, I woke to find my skin felt balanced and ungreasy, and my hair looked…like it did the day before. The same thing happened the next day, and the next—even after hikes, yoga, pilates, dance classes. My skin was just clear and balanced, and my hair simply never got gross. I celebrated the feat by washing my hair on the morning I left.

The only explanation I have is that the climate really makes a huge difference.

Has anyone else traveled somewhere else and noticed dramatic changes in their hair and skin?

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Comments
34 Responses to “How Do Different Climates Affect Your Skin And Hair?”
  1. eva says:

    I noticed this when I went hiking in Yosemite this summer. We stayed up in the mountain, where the air is cool and crisp and non-humid and my skin and hair looked a million times better than it does in NYC. This was after a week of hiking, no showering, sleeping in tents, getting honestly DIRTY and sweaty and doing nothing more than occasionally swiping my face with a bit of 100% Pure tonic and using Hope Gillermann’s Neroli oil. I was actually thinking of writing a separate comment on how easy and pleasant it was to hiking using only natural products.

    We’re now seriously moving to CA, for many reasons but the overwhelming awesomeness of non-humid air is really high up on the list. Oh, and the NATURE as well.

  2. comagirl says:

    Hotel climates adversely affect my skin and redden my eyes. There always seems to be some hotel fragrance along with the climate control, so perhaps there is a connection there.

    I live on the west coast and we have had some unusually humid days here lately. I’m not enjoying that muggy/sticky feeling. I do enjoy the fog and the rain, but I end up with limp and lifeless hair that goes straight to pony tail.

  3. Beka says:

    I live in a high-desert (plus hard water) so the air is really dry, making my hair and skin really dry. Whenever I go somewhere that is more humid and/or has soft water, my skin feels so soft and smooth and my hair curls beautifully and doesn’t look all dry and frizzy like it does at home. I definitely think climate has an impact on our looks.

  4. Amelia says:

    I moved to London from the East Coast four years ago and my skin and hair are COMPLETELY different now! It’s not so much the climate that caused the change but the water. British water is much harder and initially wrecked havoc on my skin, in particular. I’ve learned to work my way around it; namely stop bathing as much! I use oil to cleanse my face and homemade powders to freshen up my hair and altogether I shower much less.

    It is rather interesting to consider how women of different cultures from different countries cleanse themselves, depending on their climates/environmental factors…

    In France, where the water is even harder than in Britain, I’ve heard that women sometimes rinse their hair with a bottle of Evian!

  5. Naomi says:

    Definitely! Firstly, like Amelia I find the water is so different in different places. I, too, lived in London and the water there wreaked havoc on my skin & hair and when I travel back I find that it’s still incredibly tricky even with my new fantastic clean products. I’m based in NYC now and the water is much kinder, but the pollution is a challenge – I noticed a significant different when I recently spent 10 days in Vancouver where it felt so clean and fresh and my skin & hair really responded to that. (Although I believe that, since I was on holidays and not a business trip, the lowered stress levels contributed at least to a small extent – stress is my biggest enemy. Plus I didn’t wear a scrap of make up the entire time so I imagine that was a factor as well.) In contrast, when I travel to Jacksonville (Florida) the pollution levels seem a lot lower than NYC or London, but the water there is just the epitome of evil for my hair and complexion and nothing I do works with it. (So when I was recently offered a job there I couldn’t say “no” fast enough although decided not to mention the water as a reason why it wasn’t suitable for me. ;) ) Even now, in NYC, as the climate is changing and there are no other real variables my skin is struggling a little to adjust and I’m a lot drier / flakier than I was in the summer. (Does anyone have any opinions / facts on how often I can exfoliate as I usually only do once every week or two, but right now my poor face is crying out for it every couple of days. This seems excessive to me but I am visably flaking!)

  6. Absolutely! I just got back from a trip to Texas, and found that my hair was less dry and shinier. Although, I think the area I was staying in has much softer water than at home. The humidity kept my skin from drying out too — I needed way less product.

  7. jenny says:

    I agree completely. I work in NYC September-April and Santa Fe May-August. After 14 years of this routine, I am still not used to the gigantic shift in beauty regimens my environment change requires me to make. I have a very low-key hippie mom, and had actually never used moisturizer on my body before moving to Santa Fe (she advocated minimal soap instead of soap + moisturizer). I always thought moisturizer was superfluous– In New York I use very few moisturizers even on my face, except in the very dead of winter. But in Santa Fe, even with bare-necessities soaping in my alternate-day showers, I have to use oil daily on my entire body or I get horrible rashes. The hair switchover is also particularly cruel. I have a ton of very fine wavy hair, and every time I manage to find a routine that works for it, I move back to the other city and have to re-start from scratch. In Santa Fe I can wash my hair once or maybe twice a week. In NY it starts feeling gross around day 2. The difference in everything is really striking!

  8. MM says:

    Ahhhh! Siobhan, I have seriously been to the Ranch over a dozen times. (Mom first took me when I was 15!) I really love it there. Glad you had such an eye-opening time!

  9. Alyssa M says:

    My skin always improves so much when I go to warm, mostly dry climates (the opposite of Ottawa, which is either humid as all heck or dry and freezing). I have found now that I am out of my acneic teenage years though, that my skin is MUCH better in the winter. In the summer, my face is a sweaty, oily, breakout-prone mess. By the spring, it’s nearly perfect.. and then the cycle begins again!

  10. Martha says:

    I live in Perth, Western Australia (very dry climate) and I grew up in Toronto, Canada (humid, hot, cold, damp). The change in my hair and skin when I hit Toronto is amazing. I get zits, my hair looks like crap, etc etc.

    Living in a dry climate makes me much more attractive :)

  11. Savanna says:

    I live in NYC, and it will take handfuls of hair cream to keep my curly, frizzy hair at bay (even on non-rainy days). However, whenever I go out to Arizona, which I do several times a year, I barely need anything in my hair to keep it tame at all (which I, of course, LOVE!). My skin seems to get drier quicker in the desert climate though, although that may be due to increased sun exposure (not without SPF). Arizona is also particularly notorious for its hard water, and I’m still trying to figure out how that affects my hair and skin.

  12. Brittany says:

    This is so funny! Because I HATE washing my hair! And one of my least favourite sensations in life is when my hair line is wet after I wash my face. So much so that I often consider shaving my head. Seriously.

    Which makes this as good a time as any to ask – what is the best water free, not overly oily product you can recommend? I’m picturing smoothing something over my face then using one of those fantastic reusable pads that Alexandra mentioned a little while ago.

  13. Ariana says:

    I love that you wrote this! My skin and hair looked 1000xs better in Iran (went to visit family) than it does at home, in Atlanta. In Tehran, the summer is hot and dry, but not very humid at all. I’ve leared that a drier climate is much better for me :)

  14. stark says:

    Crazy, I was actually just writing a blog post about this! I just came back from a visit to Kuwait, and like Ariana, my hair is SO much better in a dry climate! In Montreal, my hair takes forever to dry what with all the sticky humidity. In Kuwait, it dries in a flash and feels light and soft. Only downside is swimming in the uber salty Gulf, which I did 3-4 times, really really dried out my hair and skin. One day my lips were completely salt and wind-burnt from being in a boat for a few hours.
    Another thing I felt was that my skin felt pretty congested over there as it’s really dusty, and when you’re not out in the dry desert heat, you’re inside in freezing A/C. I did face masks every second day and wore my own facial oil every day, and had to use twice as much (I rubbed a little through my hair too).
    Now back in la Belle Province, skin and hair is back to normal (ie. no dry except on my shins, not very oily), but I had to trim my hair immediately as the ends got really dry. I think my hair even changed colour a little! :(

  15. Madelene says:

    I went to Asia for tree weeks ago and the second day there my hair looked awful:( it stood up.Litteraly stood UP. I have long hair but the small hairs wouldn go down.Its becouse the humidity there.In Norway it is seasons too but not so dry air like in Asia. I fixed the problem with some Argan oil i bought there for 10 dollars. My hair stayed down rest of the trip.Thank good. The nice thing was when i went to the beach i put the argan oil in my hair the night before and it didnt get saltwater sticky.No Tangles and no frizz:) Now i use the argan oil before i wash my hair and it has never looked so good.Off course i use J.Master lavros shampoo too and air dry it. It has never looked so good in years. And ihad hair issues before:) I have to add that i got a lot of pimples on my face and one big bad one on my shoulder and i never get pimples.

  16. Sydney says:

    I definitely agree with you! I traveled for business to New York( I live in L.A.) in June (so hot!) and my hair went crazy. I have very curly/kinky hair that up until recently I had always straightened with the help of my good old flat iron. I decided to change things up and go curly in February. I had finally found a ritual that worked for the most part with minimal frizz. New York did a number on my hair. The moment I was off the plane it felt like my hair was trying to escape from the lovely twist and clip hair style I had been donning. I decided to run some conditioner through it and see if that would improve things but I woke up in the morning with hair still wet and limp unhappy curls. I couldn’t believe it! I even used a blow dryer to get most of the moisture out (or so I thought) the night before but I still woke up looking a mess. My skin was wet from the day I arrived in NYC to the day I left and typically my skin is oily but not like that. Needless to say the picture from that trip are of me and my friends looking less than ourselves but we had a great time! I’m going back to NYC in October and I’m going to straighten my hair (not taking any chances!)

  17. heath alysa says:

    Yup! Moved from Texas to Istanbul and my curls disappeared. Now it’s much shinier and healthier, and my skin is much more balanced. Although the pollution here is strong, I find a nice salt scrub does the trick!

  18. Tani says:

    Yes! I too have noticed the difference climate plays on skin and hair. I was born and mostly raised in southern Cali, all that time living there I’ve always had long thick bra strap length (maybe even longer) hair, also I’d never had acne. 17yrs later in my life i moved to las vegas, a VERY HOT DRY climate! For all 8yrs living here, my hair became brittle, damaged and started getting short (shoulder length) and acne started popping up only in my forehead & temple region. Then I moved to Atlanta, GA. A nice humid climate, hot, not at all dry. Needless to say the acne went away the whole year I lived there,after nine months of living in ATL I cut the split ends, i had from the vegas weather, in September, by December my hair was already reaching my bra strap!! When April came along my hair was waaaaaaaaaaaaay past that. So YES climate definitely plays a role on hair & skin. Unfortunately, im back in lame vegas and hair and skin have gone right back to the same position this climate puts them in.

  19. kelly says:

    definitely noticed this! i recently moved from sacramento, CA (suburban valley, hot as hell during the summer, but a fair balance of humidity and dryness) to newport beach, ca (pretty warm, quite humid [at least since ive been here {2 weeks}]) i have naturally combination skin, but its extreme combination, my t zone gets crazy oily and the areas around my mouth and cheeks CAN get really dry. but since ive moved down here my skin is balanced perfectly. but my hair still gets oily and i hafta wash it everyday as usual. even the skin on my body, sooo soft. but one part of my skin is behaving weirdly. the soles of my feet are peeling, all over the balls of my feet. i know its not athletes foot, im assuming its just from the humidity and moisture, but its just weird, theyve never peeled this much. anyone wanna take any guesses as to why?

  20. Britany says:

    I moved from sea level, ca to the high desert of new mexico. Here, it is very dry and have ‘hard water’. I have extensions and I go home to the beach to get them put in (brand new) they are perfect, even with swimming in the ocean daily. When I get back to new mexico, my very expensive and new hair wigs out! uncontrollably tangled! anyone have suggestions on how to prevent this?

  21. Hebe Severin says:

    I just travelled in central mexico (very dry) for 11 days, I did my usual daily shower routine, my hair didn’t change too much, but my facial skin is completely dried out, even after I apply layers and layers of lotion every day. Now I am back to NYC for a few days, and I am still in the process of recovering from that, I’ve been trying to give myself coconut oil facial in addition to lots of lotion, but it still feels dryer than normal.

    Mexico was absolutely beautiful, but merely 11 days there destroyed my skin. Good thing I am still quite young. But anyways, I do agree that climate does so much to one’s skin.

    I lived in Paris for 6 months, and didn’t think it was too different from living in NYC, I also spent quite a few years in Beijing, where the pollution forced me to shower daily.

  22. Anna says:

    I went to Costa Rica in the summer and I saw a huge change in my skin and hair. I live in Ontario, Canada as well and my hair for the most part smooth but my skin gets oily and I often have mild break outs at one point in the month. But my skin cleared up within days of being in Costa Rica and looked dewy and fresh. My hair on the other hand got very frizzy.

  23. Ivan says:

    I have coped with the desert in Phoenix, AZ for 30 some years, on and off. I have to say that desert climates are Hell on men or women, on people and even their pets. Every third person has asthma. There is a horrible, deadly disease known as Valley Fever that flourishes in the low deserts of Arizona (and some of them in CA). Anyone who spends significant time in the desert is exposed. Even if one is in excellent health when he comes here, he or she can get Valley Fever, which can leave one sick permanently or cause death. Wrinkles appear on the skin so fast you don’t know what hit you. Your hair feels like straw and becomes so dry you hate to look at it, whether you’re a woman or a man. Every ailment you ever heard about in cold, wet climates flourishes here, too. Flus and cold, and fungal diseases unique to the desert, go round and round at all times of the year.

    If you want to look and feel old fast, come to the desert and stay. If you stay, you’d better buy fish oil and other oil supplements if you want to stay on your feet. Everything needs to be hydrated and oiled, all the time. The heat is so terrible for nearly six months that you need to plan to stay indoors with drying A/C going all the time.

    If you like gardening with green plants, forget it. Everything withers and dies.

    I’ve met people who’ve come here, and within an hour after arriving at the airport cannot even talk because their vocal chords dry out so badly. People who sing have to take extra throat sprays and coatings if they are to be able to sing and refrain from constant throat-clearing.

    You’ll need eye drops too, all the time. Dry-eye syndrome is extremely common. Your eyes itch all the time, and many say they feel as though they could just tear their eyes out of the sockets they are so dry.

    DRY IS NOT GOOD. The human body requires moisture, as it is composed of a large percentage of water. Some people leave the desert so they can retire where there’s moisture, like on the coasts of Oregon.

    I crave moisture all the time. Tension just goes away when I get out of the damned desert.

    Leave the dried up desert to the snakes, reptiles, scorpions, and cacti. Stay where there are real seasons, where there’s plenty of moisture. Stay out of smog — of course that will mess you up anywhere. By the way, Phoenix has horrid smog problems. The ozone pollution all summer is extremely bad, and the air is full of particulates, like dust, all the time. Huge dust storms occur during much of the summer. You have to have filters on everything and have to clean your living quarters five times more often.

    Do you need a Dust Bowl for your health? Let’s be realistic.

  24. Tina says:

    I live in the suburbs of Toronto and I remember when I visited Vancouver my skin improved a lot. I was younger and my acne was pretty bad. Now it has improve a lot, I don’t get breakouts after breakouts anymore. I still wonder if my skin would be completely cleared if I was to move to the west coast. My skin doesn’t like the dryness in the winter and the the sticky humid air in the summer. I notice my skin looks the best in the spring here because it’s cool and rainy.

  25. Meghan says:

    I live in Maryland and in the spring/summer months it is sooo humid! This makes my hair so frizzy and if I’m wearing makeup makes my skin feel disgusting. Right now I want to go wash my face it feels so gross!

  26. Carly says:

    I think the heat is better for my skin. I’ve never gotten breakouts, but I recently came to Uruguay and my skin is looking worse. In Florida, just a few short weeks ago, it was looking clear and normal. But now I feel like my face has become uneven and not smooth. I don’t know if they have a different kind of water here or if it’s because of the dramatic climate change. In Florida, it was 85 and sunny and here it’s been around 45 because it’s winter!

  27. Tochi says:

    Thanks for this awsome article… God bless

  28. Samantha says:

    This summer, as a part of a leadership convention for my school, I traveled to Las Vegas for a week. Coming from a more damp mild climate, I expected the arid heat and dryness of the desert to dry out my skin and hair, however I found that after the first day my skin was immediately cleared of all acne and required little to no moisturizer after washing, even though I was showering several times a day some days. Even the pool didn’t dry me out. My hair, additionally, naturally more dry due to curl, was perfect the entire time. It was predictable, unlike it’s wild mind of its own at home. Since nothing monumental change in my routine while I was there, I can only say it was the climate that had that kind of effect on it. It was incredible how much the heat changed my appearance, and

  29. Heather says:

    I recently went to the smoky mountains ( gatlinburg) and I am from Mississippi and it’s very humid in ms but I noticed when I was in the mountains that my hair did so well, it was shiny and it layed flat and straight just like it did the last time I visited there, and my two daughters hair did the same. When we got home to mississippi our hair went right back to curls and hard to manage, so I was thinking today as I was trying to make my hair lay flat like it did last week in the mountains that this had to be due to a climate change. I loved the way my hair looked there and I love the mountains. That all in all is a great reason for me to move there.

  30. Tara says:

    SO true! I moved from Montreal to Ottawa and let me tell you… My skin has never looked WORSE! Its dry, flaky, super itchy. I have never had to use lotion before and now just putting it on makes my skin burn because its so dry. The water here in Ottawa is much harder and my eyes are always dry and red. My hair is now always limp and dry and no shine left.

    The only thing that made a difference for me was when I bought a shower head filter. This filters out a lot of chlorine and just made my skin much softer by the second use. However, this filter broke after only about a week. Looking into a much more expensive one where the filter is built into the shower head itself.

    I hope this helps!

  31. Sabrina says:

    My dad recently moved to Santa Monica. I’ve always lived in the inland deserts of California, and whenever I go to visit him (sometimes for weeks at a time) I find that I have to wash my hair everyday opposed to my usual routine of washing it every other day. I’ll wake up with greasy hair and skin almost everyday when I’m there regardless of when I last washed my skin and hair. It must be the moisture.

  32. Cat says:

    Oh I just moved to Canada, and my skin is terrible… like few days after arriving my skin face started to have lots and lost of white spots… and full of oil. I really dont know what to do. If somebody can help me and guide me I will appreciate it a lot.

  33. Sarah says:

    I am from Christchurch New Zealand where there is little humidity and my hair behaves wonderfully have never had problems with it. I moved to Northern Queensland In Australia 2 months ago and my hair is a dry hot mess, doesn’t matter if i wash it, it is frizzy and tangles and i’ve never had that problem before… My skin has broken out, and I’m getting close to cutting my hair short.

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  1. [...] been talking lately about how changing seasons and different climates can affect our skin (and our sleep—wah!). And even though it’s revolting balmy in New York [...]



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