02/24/2012 05:26 pm ET

Toasted Skin Syndrome: Car Seat Warmers Could Lead To Unsightly Condition

Heated seats in your car may be a godsend in the dead of winter, but two new studies show that they could also pose a risk to your skin if you use them too much.

In two studies in the journal Archives of Dermatology, the study authors found that a skin-discoloration condition called "erythema ab igne," or "toasted skin syndrome," is linked with skin exposure to the car seat warmers. [You can read about the two cases of toasted skin syndrome here and here.]

Being exposed to the heat -- even if it's not scalding hot -- can lead to skin discoloration in the form of brown patches and red lines on the skin, Reuters reported.

Repeated exposure was a big part of it, since the two women described in the studies drove (and used the seat-warmers) for 45 minutes or more each day, for days at a time, according to Reuters.

According to MSNBC, prolonged use of heating pads and hot water bottles -- and hot laptops, when you rest them on the skin! -- could also lead to toasted skin syndrome. "It's probably related to some blood vessel changes and changes in the pigment cells," Dr. Eliot Mostow, who wrote about one of the cases in the journal, told MSNBC. "You get more severe cases with longer exposure, But to be honest, everybody's different. Some people will get it sooner with the exact same exposure. They're more sensitive."

Don't worry, though -- Reuters reported that the condition, while unsightly, isn't too serious.

Yet, skin discoloration isn't the only thing to be cautious about with car seat warmers. Consumer Reports published an article last year showing that some car seats can get too hot. The publication reported that an Oregon law firm has already handled some cases of people being burned by their seat warmers, which may reach temps up to 120 degrees. (Blisstree reported that third-degree burns can be caused just by having 120-degree water run over the skin.)