Dry, Flaky Skin On Face: Causes And Treatments

two womans faces with some dry, flaky skin
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Flaky and peeling skin on the face is often a result of excessive skin dryness brought about by skin conditions or lifestyle choices. You might find that skin peels more in the winter months where skin is drier and you’re taking hot showers more frequently. Below are some of the main causes of flaky and peeling skin on the face, and treatments for it.

Causes of flaky, peeling skin on face

Flaky skin has various causes which include chronic skin conditions, the climate, weather and certain lifestyle choices. Below are some of the main causes of flaking and peeling skin;

Dry skin

Dry skin is often the culprit for flaky and peeling skin. Dry skin has several causes; lack of hydration; genetics; over-cleansing/product misuse; skin conditions and hot showers to name a few.

Eczema

Eczema is a skin condition characterised by excessive skin dryness, red patches, cracking, peeling and inflammation. While eczema is usually a condition diagnosed during childhood, even adults can develop eczema with no prior symptoms.

Sunburn

Excess unprotected exposure to UV rays can lead to sunburn. Sunburn causes skin to become red and inflamed which can accelerate aging and lead to skin cancers. Your skin will naturally heal from sunburn over-time, during the process however the old skin might begin to peel and flake off.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a skin condition characterised by red, flaky and crusty skin patches covered with silvery scales. Most common places these appear include the elbows, knees and scalp but they can appear anywhere on the body. These patches can cause skin dryness and irritation, and even lead to flaky and peeling skin.

Over-exfoliation

Physical exfoliating scrubs are harsh on the skin. It is recommended that you use them no more than 2-3 times a week. Excess use of physical exfoliants can compromise the skin’s natural lipid barrier function which can cause skin dryness, inflammation and flaking.

Chemical exfoliants

Chemical exfoliants work to improve cell turnover and slough off the outermost layer of dead skin cells on your face. It’s this exfoliating action that can cause mild skin irritation and flaking at first, this generally subsides a couple weeks into the treatment.

That being said, excessive use of chemical exfoliants can also lead to flaky skin. You should also know that certain skincare ingredients/chemicals should never be used together.

Hot showers

Believe it or not those hot showers might be causing your skin flakiness and peeling. Regular hot showers have the potential to strip the skin of essential oils, damaging the natural barrier function and causing dryness. What’s worse is that we tend to take hotter showers during winter months where skin is naturally drier anyway. This means even drier skin which can lead to cracking, flaky and inflamed skin.

Rosacea

Rosacea is a common, long-term skin condition that mostly affects the face. Rosacea is a result of broken blood vessels which can lead to skin redness and blushing around the cheeks, forehead and chin that comes and goes. Other symptoms include dry skin and swelling which can bring about flaky skin.

Allergic reactions

Allergic reactions are a common culprit for flaky and peeling skin. You might be allergic to certain skincare or cosmetics products, common signs of allergic reactions include redness and inflammation. Once your skin begins the natural healing process, this damaged skin is then shed which means flakiness and peeling.

Treatments and remedies for flaky and peeling skin

woman doing face treatment for flaky skin
Photo by karelys Ruiz on Unsplash

There are multiple treatments available for flaky and peeling skin; some of which include the use of medicated creams and ointments and others requiring changes in your lifestyle.

Use hyaluronic acid

If your skin is flaking/peeling as a result of excessive skin dryness, try using a serum or moisturiser that includes hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a phenomenal skin hydrator which can hold up to 1000x it’s weight in water. It’s also a humectant meaning it can draw water from it’s surrounding to deliver outstanding skin hydration all day long.

Use mild, soap-free skin cleansers

Cleansers that include fragrances and soap can overly dry the skin and have the potential to cause allergic reactions. You should use a cleanser that is pH balanced and soap-free to ensure necessary oils aren’t stripped from the skin. This will mean improved skin hydration and reducing flaking and peeling.

Try a natural anti-inflammatory ingredient

Some research has shown that aloe vera and turmeric can help with skin inflammation and redness. Both of these ingredients possess anti-inflammatory qualities and are packed with anti-oxidants which work to rejuvenate the skin. A turmeric mask can be made easily with greek yoghurt, honey, and turmeric powder; leave on for 10-15 minutes then wash off. Aloe vera gel can be applied directly to the face for an immediate cooling sensation.

Always patch test new products

Bit of a no-brainer, you should always ensure you patch test on a small inconspicuous area of skin prior to use. It can be tempting to jump right in with the product, especially considering an effective patch test can last between 24 and 48 hours. A few hours of waiting however is far better than having an allergic reaction which can lead to skin hives, redness, and inflammation.

Pat dry your face

You should always pat dry your face using a soft towel. Using a rough towel and rubbing your face can lead to inflamed skin which can cause peeling and flakiness.

Drink more water

Drinking water is essential in keeping yourself and your skin hydrated. By drinking enough water you’re allowing the skin to function more effectively and replenishing transepidermal water loss.

Always apply SPF

Stepping outside into the sun? Apply a minimum of SPF 30+ before you do so. Ensure your sunscreen has broad spectrum UVA + UVB protection, this means maximum protection from damaging UV rays and sunburn.

Take colder showers

Not only are cold showers excellent for the skin, they also have other health benefits including boosting the immune system and reducing stress. Hot showers strip the skin and scalp of it’s moisture and this leads to skin dryness and flaking. Cold shower have quite the opposite effect, they can help lock in moisture and improve circulation.

Try hydrocortisone

Hydrocortisone creams are used to treat skin swelling and irritation which can prevent and minimise peeling and flaking. It’s commonly used by sufferers of eczema and psoriasis to alleviate symptoms. Hydrocortisone can also be used on insect bites and rashes.

Try a room humidifier in the winter

There is significantly reduced moisture in the air in the winter months, this combined with the cold means drier skin. If you suffer from dry skin as a result of these conditions, a room humidifier might be the product for you. Humidifiers introduce moisture into the air which can prevent skin from drying out in the first place.

To sum it up

Most dry, flaky skin is either a result of a medical condition or dryness. Dry skin can be remedied by moisturising daily with a product including hyaluronic acid. Be extra wary in the winter months where the climate and temperature can adversely affect skin moisture as a result of transepidermal water loss.

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