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 moisturizing cream 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.
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What Causes Dry Skin on the Face?
Dry facial skin may result from many factors. These include exposure to changing temperature or humidity levels, using harsh soaps, and skin conditions such as eczema.
Most cases of dry skin patches on your face are mild and will clear up with time. However, dry patches can sometimes indicate something more serious.
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 issues out, then 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.
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. Dry skin can be caused by:
- 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, vitamin A, niacin, zinc, or iron can contribute to dry skin.
To soothe dry patches on your face and body, these four tips can help.
Avoid hot showers.
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 for dry, itchy skin. They are more effective than lotions at trapping moisture in the skin. For many, petroleum jelly is a safe and cost-effective way to moisturize the skin without clogging pores.
Look for products that contain soothing ingredients such as:
- Jojoba oil
- Shea butter
- Acetic acid
- Hyaluronic acid
- Mineral oil
- Petroleum jelly
Apply moisturizer immediately after bathing and each time you wash your face, following the instructions provided.
And don’t forget to moisturize internally by drinking lots of water.
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 or skin products for dry skin, choose those that are labeled hypoallergenic and fragrance-free. Products that contain retinoids or alcohol are especially drying, so avoid them in the winter.
Invest in a humidifier.
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.
Home Remedies for Dry, Flaky Skin on the Face
There are many products you can buy on the market to treat dry facial skin. But there also are also a few natural remedies you can try with items you probably already have at home — and for much less. Here are a few options:
- Olive oil — Olive oil is a great natural cleanser and moisturizer. Rub a little oil on your face, then drape a warm, damp washcloth over your face until it cools. Wipe away excess oil afterward. Another option is to combine 1/4 cup sugar with 1 tablespoon olive oil to make a scrub. Gently rub the scrub onto your skin, then wash it off. Add a moisturizer to lock it in the freshness of newly exfoliated skin.
- Oatmeal — Oatmeal can be used to make a great exfoliating mask. Mix 2 tablespoons of oats with 1 tablespoon of honey and a dash of warm water. Mix it up and rub it onto your skin. Wash it off right away or leave it on for 15 minutes for a soothing, hydrating mask.
- Milk — Milk has natural anti-inflammatory and anti-itch properties, as well as lactic acid — a mild natural exfoliant. Soak a clean washcloth in a bowl of cool milk and hold it in place over dry areas for five to 10 minutes. Lactic acid can sting extremely dry skin, so use carefully with cracked 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.
Editor's Note: This video was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .
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 nonsurgical options. We operate several specialty centers for various conditions. The UPMC Cosmetic Surgery and Skin Health Center is a comprehensive dermatologic laser facility, offering a full range of cosmetic services and procedures. With UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, we offer a Skin Cancer Program that provides complete care from screenings, diagnosis, treatment, and beyond. Find a dermatology provider near you.