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, the dry skin on your face may be caused by a lack of moisture in your skin. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can try at home to get softer, smoother skin.

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Tips to Combat Dry Skin

These tips can help to soothe dry patches on your face and body.

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.


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. Look for products that contain soothing ingredients such as:

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

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.