Some people are more prone than others to dry, flaky skin on the face. Moisturizing, exfoliating, and other home remedies can often help someone manage and prevent dry skin on their face.
Dry skin on the face may be a symptom of skin conditions such as eczema, or other factors, including changes in temperature or humidity and using soaps with harsh chemicals.
In most cases, people can get rid of dry skin using home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) treatments.
In this article, we look at why some people experience dry skin on their faces and discuss treatments and home remedies.
The skin naturally produces an oil called sebum. When the skin produces too much oil, this can lead to pimples. However, having some sebum on the skin is important for keeping it hydrated and protecting the cells from infection.
Skin that is not creating or replenishing enough sebum can become dry.
Dry skin can be itchy, and it may look flaky and bumpy or have discolored patches. Dehydrated skin lacks water and appears dull or rough.
Common causes of dry skin
Some potential causes of dry or dehydrated skin on the face include:
- cold weather
- dry air
- exposure to harsh chemicals in soaps or other products
- washing the skin excessively
- unbalanced skin pH
- skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, and psoriasis
- spending too much time in direct sunlight
People can treat dry skin using several different methods. The best treatment option will depend on the cause of someone’s dry skin and its severity. Treatments also vary among different skin types, which can be normal, dry, oily, or combination.
Moisturizing overnight can provide extra benefits. A person can apply moisturizer to their face before bed and wash it off with a gentle cleanser in the morning.
Gentle, face-friendly moisturizers often contain the following beneficial ingredients:
Some moisturizers and other skin care products contain drying agents that can make dry skin worse. In general, people should avoid products that contain:
- artificial fragrances or colors
Some people may prefer to use natural moisturizers to help relieve dry skin on the face. These include:
Coconut oil and shea butter contain natural oils. Some people with normal, oily, or combination skin types may experience breakouts after using these products.
Soaps that contain fragrances, colors, and other chemicals can irritate and dry out the skin. People may benefit from opting for mild, fragrance-free cleansers or facial soaps and avoiding products that contain alcohol, artificial colors, and plastics.
Ingredients to avoid include:
- sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
- those that derive from mineral oil, including petroleum and paraffin
- diethanolamine (DEA)
- monoethanolamine (MEA)
- triethanolamine (TEA)
The skin continuously makes new cells and sheds old cells. When dead skin cells become stuck on the surface, people may notice dry patches and clogged pores.
Exfoliating helps remove dead skin cells, which can reduce dry patches and improve the skin’s overall texture. Exfoliators can be either mechanical or chemical.
Mechanical exfoliators include:
- cleansing brushes
- exfoliating washcloths
- facial scrubs
This form of exfoliation works by physically removing dead cells from the surface of the skin.
Although they sound harsh, many people consider chemical exfoliators to be gentle alternatives to mechanical exfoliators. People often refer to these as chemical peels.
Chemical exfoliators include alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs).
AHAs dissolve dead cells on the surface of the skin, while BHAs penetrate the deeper layers of the skin to remove dead cells from pores. Both AHAs and BHAs increase cellular turnover, which helps keep the skin soft and supple.
How to use exfoliators
People can use mechanical and chemical exfoliators alone or in combination.
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However, it is important to note that overusing these products can make dry skin worse. People using an exfoliator for the first time should test it on a small area of their face and wait a few days to see how their skin reacts before using it more extensively.
It is best to use warm, not hot, water when bathing or washing the face because hot water can strip the skin of its natural oils.
Spending too much time in water can remove sebum from the skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends limiting showers and baths to 5–10 minutes or less to help heal dry skin.
After bathing or washing the face, people should immediately apply a moisturizer to help lock in moisture.
Constantly running air conditioning (AC) and central heating units indoors removes moisture from the air and the skin.
A person with dry facial skin may wish to try limiting their use of AC and heating or start using a humidifier to add some moisture to the air indoors.
A skincare specialist, known as a dermatologist, or another healthcare professional may prescribe a topical ointment or cream for people who have skin conditions or those who have dehydrated skin that does not respond to conventional treatments.
The type of medication will vary depending on the cause of the dry skin. Medications commonly contain hydrocortisone, a steroid that helps keep the skin hydrated.
People can use the following tips to treat or prevent dry skin on their face:
- washing the face daily with a gentle cleanser
- wearing sunscreen every day
- applying moisturizer after bathing or washing the face
- using warm, not hot, water when washing the face and bathing
- staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water
- limiting caffeine intake
- limiting time in direct sunlight
- avoiding artificial tanning
- using a humidifier
- quitting smoking, if necessary
If a person has consistently or excessively dry skin, they should contact their doctor or a dermatologist.
Excessive dry skin can increase a person’s risk of skin infection and other complications.
A dermatologist can help people to develop a bespoke treatment plan to treat their dry skin.
Environmental and lifestyle factors can contribute to the development of dry skin on the face. People can manage and prevent dry skin on this part of the body by using gentle treatments and home remedies.
If dry skin does not improve or it worsens, a person can see their doctor or dermatologist. People with dry skin that does not respond to OTC treatments or home remedies may benefit from using a prescription-strength cream or ointment.