Learn what causes dry skin and how you can treat dry skin

When the weather turns cold, it’s not uncommon to experience dry, flaky skin on your face and neck. These dry patches can be uncomfortable — and sometimes unsightly. While a good moisturizer can help address flaky skin, a combination of prevention and treatment is the best approach.

Here’s what you can try at home and when to contact your doctor or dermatologist.

Get expert dermatology care in Pennsylvania, when you need it. Learn more about UPMC eDermatology.

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What Causes Dry Skin on the Face?

Most cases of dry, flaky skin on your face are mild and will clear up with time. However, dry patches can sometimes indicate something more serious, so contact your dermatologist if dryness doesn’t go away or is severely itchy. Seeing a doctor is especially important if you don’t know what’s causing the dryness.

Common conditions that can trigger dry skin include:

If your doctor rules these out, a lack of moisture in your skin may be the cause of the dry skin on your face. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can try at home to get softer, smoother skin.

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What Is Dry Flaky Skin a Symptom Of?

Dry skin can flare up in winter, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors. But sometimes dry skin can be a symptom or side effect of something else.

Aging — After age 40, your skin produces less oil and becomes drier.

Certain medications — Dry skin can be a side effect of some prescription medicines, such as statins and diuretics.

Certain skin conditions — Psoriasis, dermatitis, and eczema can make your skin prone to dryness.

Dehydration — Not drinking enough water may lead to dry, itchy skin.

Diabetes — High blood sugar can contribute to dry skin.

Kidney disease, especially if you’re on dialysis — Dialysis removes water from your body, which in turn dries out the skin.

Menopause — With the hormonal changes of menopause, women’s skin tends to become — and stay — drier.

Thyroid disease — Dry skin is a common symptom of hypothyroidism.

Vitamin or mineral deficiency — Lack of vitamin D, A, niacin, zinc, or iron can contribute to dry skin.

4 Tips to Get Rid of Dry Skin

To soothe dry patches on your face and body, these four tips can help:

  • Bathe wisely.
  • Moisturize.
  • Check your skin products.
  • Address the air.

Bathe wisely

Water can strip your skin of its oils, leading to dryness. Limit baths or showers to five to 10 minutes, and use warm water, not hot. Choose mild soaps, and don’t over lather.

When it’s time to dry off, blot your skin with a towel rather than rubbing it.

Moisturize

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it’s better to use moisturizers in cream or ointment form rather than lotions, since these are more effective at trapping moisture in the skin. For many, petroleum jelly is a safe and cost-effective way to moisturize skin without clogging pores.

Look for products that contain soothing ingredients such as:

  • Jojoba oil
  • Shea butter
  • Acetic acid
  • Urea
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Dimethicone
  • Glycerin
  • Lanolin
  • Mineral oil
  • Petroleum jenny

Apply moisturizer immediately after bathing and each time you wash your face, following the instructions provided.

Check your skin products

You may get dry patches on your face because you’re sensitive or allergic to fragrances, dyes, or a chemical in the product. Stop using those products to see if that makes a difference.

When you’re shopping for cosmetics, choose products labeled hypoallergenic and fragrance-free. Products that contain retinoids or alcohol are especially drying, so avoid them in the winter.

Address the air

Dry indoor air can contribute to facial dryness, particularly in the winter. Use a humidifier in your home to add moisture and prevent dry, flaky skin.

Dry skin can be irritating, but it doesn’t have to interfere with your life. For more advice on healing dry skin, contact your doctor or make an appointment with the UPMC Department of Dermatology.

About Dermatology

The UPMC Department of Dermatology diagnoses, treats, and manages numerous hair, skin, and nail conditions and diseases. We care for common and uncommon conditions, and our treatments include both surgical and non-surgical options. We operate several specialty centers for various conditions. The UPMC Cosmetic Surgery and Skin Health Center is the most comprehensive dermatologic laser facility in the region. With UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, we offer a Skin Cancer Program that provides complete care from screenings, diagnosis, treatment, and beyond.