Skincare tips & advice
4 Common Causes of Dry, Flaky Skin on Your Face
There are many factors that may cause dryness and flaking on your face. Keep reading to discover some of the common causes of dry skin, which habits to avoid, and who may be most likely to experience this skin concern.
Dry, flaky, or itchy skin on your face can cause ongoing discomfort and feelings of self-consciousness in some. While dryness and flaking are usually temporary—and can affect all skin types at any age, based on our research—it is most common in people with chronically dry or sensitive skin. If you believe that you may be experiencing symptoms of dry skin, we recommend seeking the advice of a board-certified dermatologist first and foremost for the best recommendations on how to address dryness and restore the appearance of hydrated, healthy-looking skin.
What You Should Avoid When Your Skin Is Dry or Flaky
- Long, hot showers or baths
- Harsh astringents or toners, which can strip the skin of its natural moisture
- Excessive sun exposure or skimping on sunscreen
- Aggressive chemical peels and exfoliators
- Over-cleansing with drying cleansers or soaps
- Highly fragranced skincare products containing drying alcohols
- Vigorous scrubbing, over-exfoliation, or scratching your skin
Who May Be Most Likely To Experience Dry, Flaky Facial Skin?
Dry skin generally experiences facial peeling or flaking more often than other skin types. This is because people with dry skin produce less sebum (natural oils) than other skin types—such as normal, combination, or oily skin. This lack of sebum can be more noticeable on the face and result in a complexion that appears rough, flaky, and dull.
Because this skin type produces less oils, the skin is left without proper moisture and protection from the environment. In fact, one thing that most dry or sensitive skin types have in common is a compromised skin barrier. When this important protective barrier is weakened, it allows moisture to escape and potential irritants to enter the skin.
However, people with dry skin are not the only ones who may experience dry, flaky skin on their face. Other people who may also be more susceptible to a dry, flaky complexion include those who live in very dry or cold climates, individuals with certain illnesses, smokers, and anyone middle-aged or older. As you age, your skin produces less sebum—with levels dropping significantly in your 40s and beyond.
4 Common Causes of Dry Facial Skin
Although dry, flaky skin can appear anywhere on your body—from your hands to your feet, elbows, or legs—it can be particularly troubling when it affects your face. If you’re experiencing dry skin and subsequent flaking or itching on your face, there are a number of elements that may be at hand. Here are some of the most common factors that can impact excessively dry facial skin.
1) Harsh Soaps or Skincare Products
Skincare products containing harsh chemicals are often at the root of dry or flaky skin on your face. This is especially true for some alcohol-based products, like aggressive toners or astringents, that can strip your skin of natural oils and result in increased dehydration or irritation. This can also be true for highly fragranced products, deodorant soaps, perfumed soaps, and other products containing drying alcohol ingredients.
If you have dry skin on your face, it’s usually recommended to seek out non-comedogenic, gentle, fragrance-free products developed with dermatologists—or to consult a board-certified dermatologist directly for personalized guidance. CeraVe recommends gentle hydrating products, such as CeraVe Moisturizing Cream, that contain ingredients designed to help retain moisture, like hyaluronic acid, and ceramides to help restore the skin’s protective barrier.
2) External Factors
If patches of flaky skin occur seasonally, you may have environmental factors to blame. Increased dryness can appear on your face whenever there are changes in temperature or humidity levels. A general lack of available moisture in the air can affect your skin’s appearance, on the face or on any area of the body. Fortunately, these bouts of seasonal dryness tend to be temporary and usually aren’t cause for concern.
Additionally, other possible external causes of dry, flaky skin are long, hot showers or baths. Because these habits can strip natural oils from the skin, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends limiting bathing time to no more than 5-10 minutes in warm water when treating dry skin.1
3) A Pre-Existing Skin Condition
Itchy and dry skin are among some of the common skin concerns for people with chronic skin conditions, like eczema and psoriasis. Since individuals who experience these skin conditions may suffer from a compromised skin barrier, CeraVe recommends products formulated with ceramides, which can help restore the skin’s protective natural barrier.
4) Certain Medications
It’s possible that certain medications may also contribute to dry, flaky skin on your face. If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of dry skin as a result of your medication, consult with your doctor for the best personalized treatment options.
Despite the many possible causes of dry skin on your face, a dermatologist can help by recommending hydrating products, such as CeraVe products that are developed with dermatologists, fragrance-free, non-comedogenic and non-drying. To learn more about dry skin, read our helpful guide to choosing a facial cleanser for dry skin.
- “Dermatologists’ Top Tips for Relieving Dry Skin.” American Academy of Dermatology, 2021.
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