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How to treat dry skin under your beard

You don’t have to shave! Skincare can improve dry skin, even under your beard.

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Curology Team
Jan 04, 2023 · 6 min read

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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.
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Dry, flaky skin under your beard is uncomfortable enough on its own, but it doesn’t just stay there. It can—and often does—make its way to the surface, in the form of white flakes of dead skin throughout your facial hair. If you have a beard, chances are you know this dreaded situation all too well.

Beard dandruff is a common skin condition that can result in white flakes of skin throughout your beard that may also fall onto your clothing. After months of growing that perfect beard, the last thing you want to do is shave it off to deal with the condition occurring underneath.

Luckily, you don’t have to. There are ways to treat and help prevent dry skin under your beard—all of which keep your beard intact. Here we’ll explain contributing factors to beard dandruff and what you can do to treat it.

What is beard dandruff?

Technically speaking, the flaky, irritated skin under your beard may be seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis is a common condition causing red, flaky, itchy skin usually on the scalp, face, and chest in adults. Seborrheic dermatitis is closely related to its non-inflammatory variant that affects the scalp and beard region characterized by the shedding of small flakes of skin aka “dandruff.”¹

Although the exact cause is uncertain, both dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis are likely related to Malassezia, a fungus that grows in oily areas of the skin with abundant sebaceous glands, often the scalp and face. Malassezia breaks down sebum, which leaves behind unsaturated fatty acids such as oleic acid that can cause skin changes. These changes may disrupt the skin’s barrier function and ultimately trigger an inflammatory response.²

If you don’t have skin irritation associated with your “beardruff,” you might just have dry skin.  

What can cause dry skin under your beard?

To get rid of the flakes, you need to identify what’s causing dry skin under your beard and mustache. Here are some possible contributing factors:

  • Harsh soap. Some soaps, such as certain bar soaps or soaps with fragrance, can dry or irritate your skin. It is recommended to use a gentle non-comedogenic cleanser designed for your skin type instead.³

  • Long, hot showers. Next time you hit the shower, turn down the heat and limit your time to less than 10 minutes. Hot water can dry your skin—even under a full beard. Apply lotion after drying off to hydrate your skin.⁴

  • Genetics. Research has shown that there may be a genetic component to the development of seborrheic dermatitis or dandruff, which could lead to dry/flaky skin.⁵ Beyond seborrheic dermatitis, genetics can contribute to other skin conditions, such as eczema,⁶ under your beard.

  • Harsh weather. Arid climates, high altitudes, strong winds, and temperatures below freezing contribute to dry skin (xerosis).⁷ Dry air zaps moisture from your skin. 

  • Seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff. As previously mentioned, dry, flaky skin may be from dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis.

Young man touching his beard - How to treat dry skin under your beard

How to treat dry skin under your beard

Although you can’t change your genes, there are definitely things you can do to keep skin conditions such as dandruff/seborrheic dermatitis, and eczema in check. And as for dry skin, that’s treatable and often preventable—it starts with proper beard maintenance and skincare.

Here’s what you need to know to send red, flaky skin under your beard packing:

Remove dead skin cells

Use a stiff-bristled brush or beard comb to fluff your beard, tame strays, and buff the skin underneath to get rid of dead skin cells. There’s no need to rub vigorously—gently brushing your beard is enough to exfoliate the underlying skin. Bonus: It will also help distribute the natural oils from your skin evenly throughout your facial hair.

Wash regularly

Just as you would shampoo your hair, you’ll need to wash your beard. Use a beard shampoo or beard wash formulated specifically for facial hair. If your issue is dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis, try an anti-dandruff shampoo with one of the following ingredients:⁸ 

  • Selenium sulfide controls dandruff through its anti-Malassezia effect and anti-seborrheic properties. Selsun Blue Antidandruff Shampoo uses selenium sulfide to help prevent and treat dandruff and soothe the scalp.

  • Tar is a common psoriasis treatment that’s also effective in managing dandruff. It has antiproliferative properties to help stop dandruff from occurring. Unfortunately, it can be a bit messy and odorous, and can stain lighter-colored hair. Tar shampoo can also leave your scalp or skin more sensitive to sunlight.⁹ Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo uses coal tar as its active ingredient.  

  • Zinc pyrithione (ZPT) may work by normalizing sebum production. One study demonstrated a decrease in the amount of Malassezia with the use of ZPT.¹⁰ Selsun blue Itchy Dry Scalp Antidandruff Shampoo and Vanicream Dandruff Shampoo use ZPT.

  • Antifungal agents like ketoconazole can help with seborrheic dermatitis as well. Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo uses ketoconazole as its dandruff-fighting agent. Studies suggest a 2% ketoconazole cream, among other formulations, is effective in treating seborrheic dermatitis.¹¹

Apply beard oil

Optional? Yes, but a quality beard oil not only promotes a smooth-textured, well-manicured beard, but it also moistens the skin beneath the fuzz. The best way to distribute beard oil is with a comb or brush, as mentioned above. In addition to beard oil, you can massage a non-comedogenic moisturizer into the skin beneath your beard.  

Stay consistent to help prevent dry skin

Consistency is key to maintaining a healthy-looking beard and taking care of the skin underneath. It’s good to treat dry, flaky skin once it appears, but it’s better to keep it away. That’s where adopting a regular skincare routine comes in. It doesn’t need to be complicated—in fact, it shouldn’t be. 

Your skincare regimen should consist of at least these three components: cleansing, moisturizing, and protecting. If you’re dealing with other skin concerns, like acne or photoaging, you can include a treatment cream with acne-busting superpowers or anti-aging ingredients such as tretinoin.

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Men touching his face - How to treat dry skin under your beard

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We’ll send your prescription formula and any other products we recommend straight to your door.

FAQs

What can cause dry skin under your beard?

Some contributing factors include harsh soap, long, hot showers, genetics, harsh weather (dry air zaps moisture from your skin), and seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff.

What is beard dandruff?

The flaky, irritated skin under your beard may be seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis is a common condition causing red, flaky, itchy skin usually on the scalp, face, and chest in adults. Seborrheic dermatitis is closely related to its non-inflammatory variant that affects the scalp and beard region characterized by the shedding of small flakes of skin aka “dandruff.”

If you don’t have skin irritation associated with your “beardruff,” you might just have dry skin

How to treat dry skin under your beard?

It starts with proper beard maintenance and skincare. Here’s what you need to know to send red, flaky skin under your beard packing:

  • Remove dead skin cells by rubbing gently with a stiff-bristled brush or beard comb.

  • Wash regularly, try an anti-dandruff shampoo.

  • Apply beard oil.

• • •

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

  1.  Borda, L.J. and Wikramanayake, T.C. Seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff: A comprehensive review.Journal of Investigative Dermatology. (December 2015).

  2.  Borda, L.J. and Wikramanayake, T.C. Seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff: A comprehensive review.Ibid.

  3.  American Academy of Dermatology Association. A dermatologist's top tips for a healthy beard. (n.d.).

  4.  American Academy of Dermatology. Dermatologists’ top tips for relieving dry skin. (n.d.).

  5.  Borda, L.J. and Wikramanayake, T.C. Seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff: A comprehensive review. Ibid.

  6.  American Academy of Dermatology. Eczema types: Atopic dermatitis causes. (n.d.). 

  7.  Stick, C. and Proksch, E. The influence of climate on the treatment of dry skin with moisturizer.Treatment of Dry Skin Syndrome. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. (2012, January 1).  

  8.  Ranganathan, S. and Mukhopadhyay, T. Dandruff: The most commercially exploited skin disease.Indian Journal of Dermatology. (April-June 2010). 

  9.  American Academy of Dermatology. How to treat dandruff. (n.d.).

  10.  Leong, C., et al. Effect of zinc pyrithione shampoo treatment on skin commensal Malassezia. Medical mycology. (2021).  

  11. Tucker, D. and Masood, S. Seborrheic dermatitis. StatPearls. (2022 August 1).

Nicole Hangsterfer is a licensed physician assistant at Curology. She obtained her masters in physician assistant studies at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern in Chicago, IL.

• • •
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.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
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Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

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