Skip to main content

How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

  1. blog
  2. > Skin Concerns

5 effective ways to treat dry skin on your face, according to experts

Dry skin can be uncomfortable, but luckily, there are products and treatments that can help relieve it.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Dec 21, 2023 • 9 min read
Medically reviewed by Erin Pate, NP-C
Woman looks at her dry facial skin on mirror
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Dec 21, 2023 • 9 min read
Medically reviewed by Erin Pate, NP-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

In this article

More

Summary

  • Dryness may result in flaky, itchy, and tight skin.

  • Advanced age, occupational hazards, environmental factors, dehydration, and malnutrition may cause dry skin.

  • Dry skin may affect different areas, including the lips and face.

  • Some practical ways of improving dry skin include gentle skin exfoliation and using hyaluronic acid products, moisturizers, and gentle cleansers.

Dry skin can be a frustrating condition, resulting in itchiness, tightness, and sometimes flakiness.¹ It is a common skin concern and occurs due to a wide range of factors, including underlying diseases, responses to environmental changes, or advanced age.² While you can have dry skin anywhere on your body, the skin on the face is more prone to dryness due to its thin top layer.³

Dry facial skin can feel physically uncomfortable and can also make some people self-conscious about their appearance. Fortunately, there are treatments that can help. In this guide, we will discuss five effective ways to manage dry facial skin.

What is dry skin on the face, and what causes it?

Dry skin is a dermatological condition that arises due to an impairment in the skin barrier function. When the skin barrier is damaged, the skin cannot retain its moisture, which leads to symptoms including roughness, dullness, and tightness.⁴

Knowing what causes dry facial skin may help you determine how to get rid of this dead skin and care for your skin better overall. The common causes of dry skin include:

  • Advanced age: Older people are more susceptible to dry facial skin. In fact, studies show that people above the age of 60 are particularly affected by this condition.⁵

  • Environmental factors: Harsh weather conditions may cause dry skin to develop. For instance, cold weather typically experienced during the winter may cause skin dryness due to low humidity. At the same time, dry indoor heating devices may promote moisture loss, increasing the chances of developing dry skin.⁶ Sun exposure may also result in

     dry patches forming on your skin.⁷

  • Occupational hazards: When sensitive facial skin comes into contact with irritants such as chemicals used in hairdressing and housekeeping, dry skin may result.⁸ People in professions that expose them to irritants should wear protective gear to protect their skin.

  • Inflammatory skin disorders: Skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis, and psoriasis may make you more vulnerable to developing dry skin on your face.⁹ Chronic infectious skin conditions including fungal infections and systemic diseases such as diabetes mellitus may also make you susceptible to this condition.¹⁰

  • Dehydration: Not drinking enough water throughout the day can increase the chances of developing dry skin, as can excessive sweating.¹¹

  • Malnutrition: Having a deficiency of vitamin A, vitamin D, and minerals like iron and zinc may increase the risk of skin dryness.¹²

If dry skin persists, dead skin cells may accumulate, which may lead to more serious skin issues.¹³ Properly caring for your skin and keeping it hydrated is essential to keeping it healthy.

Symptoms of dry skin

The common symptoms of dry skin include:¹⁴

  • Burning sensation

  • Itching

  • Skin tightness

  • Pain

Being aware of these symptoms makes it easier for you to take action to prevent the condition from worsening. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should consult with your dermatology provider to find an effective remedy.

5 expert-backed ways to treat dry skin on the face

Here are some general ways to treat dry skin on the face, according to dermatology providers. If you have a specific skin condition that’s causing dry skin on the face, consult with your dermatology professional for specific guidance and treatment.

1. Skin exfoliation

Exfoliation removes dead skin cells to get smoother and more radiant skin. It’s a popular treatment because of its more immediate, visible benefits.¹⁵ You can exfoliate your facial skin in two ways: with a chemical exfoliant or a mechanical (physical) exfoliant.

Common chemical exfoliants include lactic acid, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and malic acid which can help remove dead skin cells from the face.¹⁶ Physical exfoliation involves using granular substances or mechanical tools including facial brushes to remove dead skin from the face, inducing immediate skin shedding.¹⁷

Dermatologists recommend you follow these tips when exfoliating:

  • Consider the skincare product: Some skin products may react with dry sensitive skin, so be aware of the ingredients included and avoid those that are known to be irritating or drying.¹⁸

  • Choose an exfoliation method suitable for your skin type: For example, if you have thick, oily skin, a stronger chemical exfoliant or mechanical exfoliation may work better for you. If you have dry, sensitive skin, it’s recommended to use a gentle mechanical exfoliator like a washcloth or konjac sponge or a mild chemical exfoliator.¹⁹

  • Be gentle when exfoliating: Exerting too much pressure while exfoliating may cause skin injuries. As a best practice, avoid exfoliating if you have wounds or cuts.²⁰

  • Use a moisturizer after exfoliating: Applying a moisturizer on your face immediately after exfoliating may help keep your skin hydrated.²¹

  • Create a suitable exfoliation schedule: While the effects of exfoliation can feel great and bring immediate relief, be careful not to over-exfoliate as it could lead to skin irritation and redness.²²

2. Use products containing hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid is a humectant that can help provide hydration to the skin. For example, a study published in 2021 found that facial hyaluronic acid serum was effective in increasing skin hydration and plumpness and enhancing the overall facial appearance.²³ A different study found that taking oral hyaluronan capsules significantly improved skin hydration and elasticity, and minimized wrinkle volume.²⁴

3. Use moisturizers to hydrate your skin

Moisturizers are skincare products used to prevent skin dryness. There are different types of moisturizers that function to restore skin hydration and include:²⁵

  • Emollients are primarily oils and lipids, which hydrate and enhance skin flexibility, softness, and smoothness.²⁶

  • Humectants, as mentioned above, attract water from the skin and the environment to improve skin hydration.²⁷

  • Occlusives prevent transepidermal water loss by creating a protective barrier over the skin.²⁸

Generally, moisturizers help prevent water loss through the skin.²⁹ They also work effectively to help overcome dry skin conditions and maintain skin softness.³⁰

Other ingredients commonly found in moisturizers that help sustain skin hydration include dimethicone, petrolatum, and glycerin.³¹ In fact, some studies show that petrolatum may minimize epidermal water loss by as much as 99%.³²

4. Use gentle cleansers

Facial cleansers are surface-active substances like soaps, emulsifiers, and surfactants. They help lower skin tension and remove dirt, oil, and sebum on the face from skincare products, exfoliated cells, and bacteria.³³

An ideal cleanser should remove dry skin and other impurities without irritating or damaging the skin. In fact, they should try to keep the skin surface moist.³⁴ Some synthetic detergents and lipid-free cleansers tend to fit this bill. Many of these have an acidic pH similar to your skin’s pH level, making them less irritating than traditional soaps.³⁵

Avoid using harsh soaps as they alkalize the skin and can worsen the dryness.³⁶ Curology’s The Cleanser is an excellent option if you’re looking for a skin-friendly cleanser.

5. Avoid overwashing your face

Overwashing your face may strip your facial skin of its natural oils, causing dryness, itchiness, and flakiness. It may also cause skin inflammation and redness, especially with repeated washing.³⁷

Some best practices to heed when washing your face include:³⁸

  • Use warm water instead of hot water.

  • Use gentle or mild fragrance-free cleansers.

  • After washing, dry your skin gently with a soft towel.

  • Apply a moisturizer immediately after drying.

By following these steps, you could quickly see an improvement in your skin’s hydration. However, if these dry skin removal techniques don’t bring any relief, you may want to consult a licensed dermatology professional. These professionals will examine your skin and determine effective ways to reduce your dry skin symptoms.

Let Curology help you with your skin concerns

Facial skin dryness is one of the most common skin concerns. Lifestyle factors, environmental factors, nutrition, and even skin disorders may contribute to the development of dry skin on the face. Fortunately, there are remedies for managing, preventing, and treating this skin condition.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

curology bottle
curology bottle

Curology’s Gel Moisturizer may help combat dry skin. It has a lightweight texture and hydrates the skin with ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acid. This moisturizer is dermatologist-designed and non-comedogenic.

FAQs

What does dry skin look like?

If you notice that you have rough, itchy, or flaky skin, it could be a result of dry skin.³⁹

What ingredients in skincare can help dry skin on the face?

Ingredients in skincare that help treat skin dryness include silicone, ceramides, petrolatum, and lactic acid.⁴⁰ Some ingredients target certain skin concerns over others so be sure to consider skincare products that help address your skin type best.

Can a dermatologist exfoliate your facial skin?

Yes. A dermatologist may use professional exfoliation techniques such as chemical peeling to remove dead skin cells from your skin. Chemical peeling involves applying acidic solutions that stimulate skin exfoliation like salicylic acid, lactic acid, or glycolic acid directly to the skin.⁴¹

Which techniques can you use to remove dead skin from the face?

There are different ways of removing dead skin cells from the face. Some expert-backed methods include exfoliation, cleansing, or using hyaluronic acid products or moisturizers.

Is exfoliating dead skin painful?

Generally speaking, exfoliating dead skin isn’t painful. If you feel pain while exfoliating, you could be using the wrong type of exfoliant for your skin type or over-exfoliating. 

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Gade, A. et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. (2023, October 29). 

  2. Gade, A. et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  3. Tagami, H. Location-related differences in structure and function of the stratum corneum with special emphasis on those on the facial skin. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. (2008, November 5). 

  4. Gade, A. et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  5. Gade, A. et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  6. Park, E.H., et al. Effects of winter indoor environment on the skin: Unveiling skin condition changes in Korea. Skin Research & Technology. (June 2023). 

  7. Gade, A. et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  8. Gade, A. et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  9. Gade, A. et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  10. Gade, A. et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  11. Gade, A. et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  12. Gade, A. et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  13. Park, E.H., et al. Effects of winter indoor environment on the skin: Unveiling skin condition changes in Korea. Skin Research & Technology. Ibid.

  14. Gade, A. et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  15. Rodan, K., et al. Skincare Bootcamp: The Evolving Role of Skincare. Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. (December 2016).

  16. Rodan, K., et al. Skincare Bootcamp: The Evolving Role of Skincare. Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. Ibid.

  17. Rodan, K., et al. Skincare Bootcamp: The Evolving Role of Skincare. Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. Ibid.

  18. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to Safely Exfoliate at Home. (n.d.). 

  19. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to Safely Exfoliate at Home. Ibid.

  20. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to Safely Exfoliate at Home. Ibid.

  21. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to Safely Exfoliate at Home. Ibid.

  22. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to Safely Exfoliate at Home. Ibid.

  23. Draelos, Z.D., et al. Efficacy Evaluation of a Topical Hyaluronic Acid Serum in Facial Photoaging. Dermatology and Therapy (Heidelb). (August 2021). 

  24. Hsu, T.F., et al. Oral Hyaluronan Relieves Wrinkles and Improves Dry Skin: A 12-Week Double-Blinded, Placebo-Controlled Study. Nutrients. (June 2021). 

  25. Harwood, A., et al. Moisturizers. StatPearls. (2022, August 21). 

  26. Sethi, A., et al. Moisturizers: The Slippery Road. Indian Journal of Dermatology. (May-June 2016). 

  27. Sethi, A., et al. Moisturizers: The Slippery Road. Indian Journal of Dermatology. Ibid.

  28. Sethi, A., et al. Moisturizers: The Slippery Road. Indian Journal of Dermatology. Ibid.

  29. Sethi, A., et al. Moisturizers: The Slippery Road. Indian Journal of Dermatology. Ibid.

  30. Purnamawati, S., et al. The Role of Moisturizers in Addressing Various Kinds of Dermatitis: A Review. Clinical Medicine & Research. (December 2017). 

  31. Harwood, A., et al. Moisturizers. StatPearls. Ibid.

  32. Kang, S.Y., et al. Moisturizer in Patients with Inflammatory Skin Diseases. Medicina (Kaunas). (July 2022). 

  33. Mukhopadhyay, P. Cleansers and their role in various dermatological disorders. Indian Journal of Dermatology. (January-February 2011).

  34. Mukhopadhyay, P. Cleansers and their role in various dermatological disorders. Indian Journal of Dermatology. Ibid.

  35. Mukhopadhyay, P. Cleansers and their role in various dermatological disorders. Indian Journal of Dermatology. Ibid.

  36. Gade, A. et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  37. Voegeli, D. The effect of washing and drying practices on skin barrier function. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. (January-February 2008).

  38. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Dermatologist’s top tips for relieving dry skin. Ibid.

  39. Gade, A. et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  40. Gade, A. et al. Xeroderma. StatPearls. Ibid.

  41. Grajqevci-Kotori, M. and Kocinaj, A. Exfoliative Skin-peeling, Benefits from This Procedure and Our Experience. Medical Archives. (December 2015). 

Erin Pate is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She earned her Masters of Science in Nursing at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Erin Pate Nurse Practitioner, NP-C

Erin Pate, NP-C

Related Articles

The best retinol eye creamsHow to choose the best toner for dry skin (plus a few of our favorites!)Is my skin purging?Best tinted non-comedogenic moisturizerHow to take off your eye makeup the easy way

Popular Articles

Ask Curology: Is my cold breaking me out?Slugging: The dermatologist-approved skincare hack going viral on TikTokTretinoin vs retinol: What’s the difference?How to create a self-care routine that actually sticksYour 2023 skincare horoscope
Try prescription skincare
30-day trial. Subject to consultation. Cancel anytime.
Get routine essentials
A display of Curology Custom Formula bottles on a white shelf.

Good skin days ahead

Join the 1M+ patients who’ve tackled everything from acne, to fine lines, to hair thinning with prescription-powered treatments, personalized by a Licensed Dermatology Provider.
Ingredients proven to tackle
  • Breakouts
  • Redness
  • Fine lines
  • Dark spots
  • Hair thinning
$29.95/month
*Subject to consultation. Cancel anytime.
Get StartedShop ProductsWhy CurologyHow It WorksOur StoryCommunity
SupportBlogReviewsCareersContact Us
Follow @curology
Terms of ServicePrivacy Notice
Do Not Sell My Personal Information
All Rights Reserved © 2024 Curology