Rough and Bumpy Skin
What Causes Rough, Dry Skin Patches & How To Get Rid of Them
Dry skin can have an uneven, rough texture that feels coarse to the touch. Common on the face and body, rough skin patches are often the result of dryness or a buildup of dead skin cells. If you’re wondering what you can do to help reduce rough, dry skin patches, there are a few simple, yet effective steps you can take—starting with a targeted skincare routine. Ahead, learn more about how a daily regimen that combines exfoliation and hydration can help improve the appearance of rough, dry skin.*
If you’re experiencing dry skin patches, you’re not alone. Dry skin is a common concern that affects people of all ages—including over 50% of adults over 40.1 It can affect your face or body, often in the form of dry, scaly skin patches on the legs, bumpy skin on the backs of the arms and thighs, or rough skin on the face and neck. Excessive dryness is often behind rough skin patches, but there are many factors that can cause patchy skin. To help you understand and care for patchy dry skin, we’ve compiled some key facts below. We’ll also be sharing simple, yet effective skincare tips to help you achieve smoother, healthier-looking skin.
What To Avoid When You Have Dry, Rough Skin
For people who struggle with dry patches of skin, the Mayo Clinic recommends avoiding the following five things:2
Long, hot showers
Vigorous scrubbing and over-exfoliation
Scratchy fabrics and tight clothing
What Causes Patches of Dry Skin?
The first step in caring for dry skin patches is understanding their root cause. When it comes to dry skin, there may be a number of factors at play, from genetics to over-washing your skin. Keep reading to learn more about the possible influences that may contribute to a rough and bumpy skin texture.
Seasonal and temporary dryness
Skin that feels rough to the touch (especially on the hands and feet) is often caused by temporary skin dryness. This occurs when the skin loses too much moisture. For many people, seasonal shifts can cause increased dryness—particularly during the dry, cold winter months when temperatures and humidity are at their lowest. According to one CeraVe survey, 77% of people said they experienced dry skin during the winter season and 41% reported itchiness.3
Research shows that there may be a genetic component to dry skin.4 In other words, if a relative struggles with dryness or a dry skin condition, there might be a higher likelihood that you will experience it as well.
The skin naturally renews itself and eliminates dead skin cells; however, this process can slow down with age (especially after 40). When this happens, it can cause a buildup of dead skin cells that leads to dry, flaky patches of skin.
Contact with allergens
Exposure to an allergen can irritate some people’s skin and cause rough, dry skin patches on the face or body. This is often referred to as contact dermatitis, a skin condition that can cause itching, redness, and dryness after coming into contact with an allergen (such as certain jewelry metals or detergents).
Lifestyle and skincare practices
Many everyday behaviors can impact how your skin looks and feels. Some examples include over-washing your skin with harsh cleansers or taking excessively long, hot showers. These practices can strip your skin of its natural oils and lead to dryness. According to the Cleveland Clinic, dehydration may also play a role in causing dry, rough skin.4
What Do Dry Skin Patches Look Like?
Dry skin patches can look different from one person to the next. In many cases, they will be red, white, or brown in color, with a dull, flaky appearance. Dry patches can also be scaly, depending on their root cause. Some patches may be smaller and reserved to one area, while others can take on a larger, irregular-shaped appearance that spans multiple areas of the body.
The color of rough skin patches can sometimes be an indicator of their cause. But remember: Only your doctor or dermatologist can assess your dry skin and make an accurate diagnosis. If you experience dry patchy skin that cracks, bleeds, or is painful, it’s important to seek prompt medical attention.
Where Can Rough Skin Patches Appear?
Dry, rough skin patches can show up anywhere on your face or body. But it’s important to remember that your skin is unique, and therefore, the location of dry patches on the skin can vary. Here are a few locations where rough skin patches may appear.
Face: Your face is often one of the first things people notice about you. Because dry, rough patches on the face can be difficult to hide, they may cause feelings of self-consciousness in some people.
Hands: Your hands are exposed to a variety of harsh environmental factors throughout the day, such as hand-washing, contact with chemicals, and harsh weather conditions. Factors such as these can all deplete moisture from the skin and lead to rough, dry skin.
Feet: The skin on your feet can be prone to chafing and dryness. Rough skin on the feet can also be accompanied by calluses due to friction caused by wearing shoes, and cracked heels that result from the feet supporting the body’s weight.
Elbows and knees: Rough and bumpy skin texture can be common on the skin around your joints, such as the elbows and knees. Applying a rich cream or ointment, such as CeraVe Healing Ointment, is one effective way to help reduce dryness on your elbows and knees.
Neck: For men who shave regularly, rough skin on the neck may be due to razor burn or ingrown hairs. If you shave frequently in this area, your dermatologist might also assess your skin for signs of folliculitis (also known as “barber’s itch”).
How To Care for Skin With Dry, Rough Patches
Now that you have a better idea of what causes dry skin patches and where they might appear, let’s dive into what you can do about them. Since dry skin is a primary cause of rough skin patches, we recommend using ingredients that help soothe the skin, maintain the skin’s barrier (such as ceramides), and provide gentle exfoliation (such as salicylic acid and lactic acid). When used together as part of a consistent, well-round skincare routine, this combination of hydration and exfoliation can be helpful for improving the look and feel of dry, rough skin patches.
Read on to discover more skincare tips for managing dry, rough patches and restoring the appearance of smooth, hydrated skin.
Apply moisturizer regularly
One way to help visibly smooth and soften dry, rough patches is with skincare products that provide hydration. We recommend applying moisturizers daily onto clean, slightly damp skin (after bathing) to help lock in moisture.
Choose products that offer gentle exfoliation
Since dry, rough patches of skin can be caused by a buildup of dead skin cells, using exfoliating lotions or creams can be beneficial. Look for products that feature chemical exfoliants, such as salicylic acid and lactic acid, which help promote the skin’s natural exfoliation process by gently dissolving dead skin cells from the skin’s surface.
For dry skin that has a rough and bumpy texture, we recommend CeraVe SA Cream and SA Lotion for Rough & Bumpy Skin. These fragrance-free formulas with salicylic acid and lactic acid are designed to improve the skin texture of very dry, rough and bumpy skin by exfoliating and hydrating it.
Don’t neglect body care
Dry, rough patches can appear anywhere on your body, so it’s important to choose the right body care formulas for your skin’s needs. For a gentle body cleanser option with three essential ceramides and salicylic acid, we recommend our SA Body Wash and SA Cleanser Bar for rough and bumpy skin.
Use a gentle, non-drying cleanser
For dry skin patches on the face, we recommend choosing a gentle face wash with hydrating ingredients, such as ceramides and hyaluronic acid. CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser, for example, includes all of these ingredients, plus salicylic acid for gentle exfoliation. It’s formulated to cleanse, soften, and smooth the skin—without disrupting its protective barrier. Other gentle cleanser options to consider for dry skin include CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser with hyaluronic acid and CeraVe Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser with amino acids.
Protect your skin from harsh weather
If you’re heading out into dry, cold weather conditions, it can be helpful to wear protective clothing, such as gloves and scarves. A nourishing hand cream, such as CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream, can also help moisturize and soothe dry hands on-the-go.
Look for fragrance-free products
Fragrance chemicals may be irritating for dry, rough skin. We recommend choosing skincare formulas that are fragrance-free, allergy-tested, and developed with dermatologists.
Treat your skin with care
When bathing, it’s helpful to use lukewarm (not hot) water and limit showers to 5-10 minutes to avoid stripping natural oils from your skin. A humidifier can also be beneficial for keeping moisture in the air at home.
Try over-the-counter creams for itchy skin patches
CeraVe Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream can help provide temporary, yet long-lasting itch relief for extra-dry, flaky patches of skin. This anti-itch cream is formulated with 1% hydrocortisone (the maximum strength available without a prescription), as well as niacinamide and three essential ceramides.
Note: In many cases, using a specially-formulated rough and bumpy skin lotion daily can help restore the appearance of smooth, soft skin. However, if exfoliating and hydrating skincare products don’t help improve the appearance of dry, rough skin—or you think your rough skin may be a sign of a skin condition—it’s best to seek the help of a dermatologist. They can diagnose the root cause of dry skin patches and suggest additional treatment options.
To learn more about choosing the right products for your specific skin type and skin concerns, use our Find My Skincare Solution tool.
*This article is provided for informational purposes and is not a substitute for medical advice. If you believe you may have a dry skin condition, or have questions about your condition and treatment options, consult with your doctor or a board-certified dermatologist.
More Rough & Bumpy Skin Articles
- Stepko, Barbara. “Beyond Wrinkles: Fixes for Later-in-Life Skin Issues.” AARP, 8 Aug. 2022.
- “Dry Skin.” Mayo Clinic, 25 Jan. 2022.
- “Survey Reveals Itchy Skin Ranks Among Americans’ Top Winter Troubles.” PR Newswire, 7 Jan. 2019.
- “Dry Skin (Xeroderma): Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention.” Cleveland Clinic, 2022.
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