Some people are more prone than others to dry skin on the face. Gentle treatments and home remedies can relieve dry facial skin and prevent it from coming back.
What causes it?
- 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
1. Moisturize dailyMoisturizers, ointments, and creams improve the skin’s natural barrier function, which promotes water retention. 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. Many different moisturizers are available to purchase. It can take some trial and error for a person to find the best one for their skin type. Gentle, face-friendly moisturizers often contain the following beneficial ingredients:
- hyaluronic acid
- colloidal oatmeal
- artificial fragrances or colors
- petrolatum or petroleum
- pure aloe vera gel
- coconut oil
- shea butter
2. Use a gentle cleanserSoaps that contain fragrances, colors, and other chemicals can irritate and dry out the skin. It is generally better to opt for mild, fragrance-free cleansers or facial soaps and to avoid products that contain alcohols, 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)
3. Exfoliate to remove excess dry skin
Mechanical exfoliatorsMechanical exfoliators include:
- cleansing brushes
- exfoliating washcloths
- facial scrubs
Chemical exfoliatorsAlthough they sound harsh, many people consider chemical exfoliators to be gentle alternatives to mechanical exfoliators. 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 exfoliatorsPeople can use mechanical and chemical exfoliators alone or in combination. A recent small-scale study examined the effects of combining an AHA-containing chemical peel with mechanical exfoliation. The authors observed that the combination treatment led to more significant improvements in hydration and skin elasticity than the chemical peel alone. 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 react ts before using it more extensively. A person should avoid exfoliating every day as this can irritate and dry out the skin. Applying a good moisturizer immediately after exfoliating will help lock in moisture.
4. Practice better bathing habitsIt 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 recommend 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.
5. Use a humidifierConstantly 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.
- 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
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. Sources:
- Algiert-Zielińska, B., et al. (2019). Effects of lactobionic acid peel, aluminum oxide crystal microdermabrasion, and both procedures on skin hydration, elasticity, and transepidermal water loss [Abstract]. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30661294
- Dermatologists’ top tips for relieving dry skin. (n.d.). https://www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/skin-care/dry-skin
- Dry skin. (n.d.). https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/dry-sweaty-skin/dry-skin
- How skin grows. (n.d.). https://www.aad.org/public/kids/skin/how-skin-grows
- Skin care and aging. (2017). https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/skin-care-and-aging