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How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

What causes dry skin and how you can help prevent it

There are a lot of things that contribute to dry skin, including environmental factors, medical conditions, age, and showering preferences.

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Curology Team
Aug 26, 2022 · 7 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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  3. > What causes dry skin and how you can help prevent it

Be it on your face or anywhere else on your body, no one likes dry skin—plain and simple. Dry skin causes symptoms such as tightness, itchiness, and flaking. Unfortunately, some of us are prone to it because of where we live. Cold climates and dry air are culprits for flaking skin. We’re here to explain some common conditions associated with dry skin and factors that can result in dry skin. And we’ll also talk about ways to treat and help prevent dry skin.

What is dry skin on your face?

Generally speaking, there are four types of skin: oily, dry, normal, and combination. Dry skin produces less oil (sebum), which is a complex mixture of lipids that coats, moisturizes, and helps protect the skin.¹ Dry skin might have less of an ability to retain moisture and build a protective shield from external factors, like climate. In case you were wondering, it is possible to have oily or combination skin that’s dry and lacking moisture. This is sometimes described as dehydrated skin, rather than dry skin. Dehydrated skin describes a skin condition, not a skin type. If you’re wondering whether your skin is dry or dehydrated, check out our guide here.

What conditions can cause dry skin?

There are many factors that can lead to dry skin, such as environmental factors, allergies, and certain health conditions. No matter your skin type, some common triggers that can make skin feel dry include exposure to hot water, harsh skincare or cleaning products, cold, dry climates, and central heat.

There are also many skin conditions synonymous with dry skin. Here are a few of the most common ones:

  • Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a chronic skin condition that presents as dry, irritated, and itchy skin.² Dermatology providers treat eczema through routine recommendations, avoiding triggers, and medications.

  • Psoriasis is an immune-mediated condition where skin cells grow rapidly, leading to an accumulation of plaque on the skin’s surface. Psoriasis appears as rough, scaly patches (plaques), commonly found on the knees, elbow, torso, and scalp.³ There is no cure, but treatments are available to help manage symptoms. 

  • Irritant contact dermatitis occurs when an irritant comes in contact with your skin causing irritation. The irritant can be anything that contacts your skin, causing a localized inflammatory response. Your skin can become dry, itchy, and red. Sometimes a rash forms.⁴

  • Seborrheic dermatitis is a condition that can be long-lasting in adults. The skin can appear reddish in color, greasy, and have a white or yellowish crusty scale on its surface. Seborrheic dermatitis often flares up when the weather becomes cold and dry. Stress can also lead to flare-ups.⁵

What are the symptoms of dry skin?

If your skin is itchy and feels dry, you might be wondering, “Does dry skin cause itching?” Yep, it can. The good news is that dry skin is often temporary or seasonal. It can have several different triggers, but the symptoms are often similar: 

  • Flaky skin

  • Itchy skin

  • Skin that looks rough

  • Reddish skin color

  • Skin that feels tight

  • Scaly or peeling skin

  • Skin with noticeable fine lines and cracks

  • Skin with deeper cracks that may bleed

What could be causing my dry skin?

woman having itch on her face

Many factors can contribute to dry skin—some of these are exacerbated if you have a dry skin type and have less sebum production, affecting the lubrication of the top layers of your skin. Factors that can contribute to dry skin include: 

  • Medical conditions like eczema, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and contact dermatitis. Many of these can be treated using over-the-counter products, but some may benefit from prescription-strength medications. 

  • Weather and climate that’s cold or dry (or both) is often what causes dry skin on the face and what causes dry skin on your feet. In these climates, moisture is pulled from the skin, which contributes to dry skin. Excessive wind can also dry out your skin.

  • Topical ingredients that are new to your skincare routine, like tretinoin or azelaic acid, can lead to temporary dryness and irritation as your skin adjusts in the first weeks of use. 

  • Age can also contribute to dry skin, which leads to the often-asked question: Does dry skin cause wrinkles? As we age, our ability to hang onto moisture lessens. Dryer skin may worsen the appearance of fine lines, and wrinkles, but using a heavier moisturizer, the Curology rich moisture, can help!

  • Indoor heating, such as central heat and wood-burning stoves, warms the air in your space but doesn’t increase humidity. This lack of moisture in the environment can lead to dry skin.

  • Certain occupations can lead to dry skin—especially those that involve working outside, using certain harsh chemicals, or repeatedly washing your hands. This includes healthcare providers, cosmetologists, and construction workers. 

  • Certain chemicals, including harsh soaps and detergents, can also often lead to dry skin. Some of the more common culprits include bleach and products with added fragrance. 

How to help prevent dry skin

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends simple lifestyle changes to combat dry skin, including changes to your bathing routine, clothing, and moisturizer.⁶ Other changes you can make to help prevent dry skin include: 

  • Using moisturizer for dry skin regularly.

  • Using a humidifier when the air is dry. 

  • Using a heavy moisturizer, ointment, or cream.

  • Applying moisturizer before applying topicals with active ingredients. 

  • Wearing soft fabrics like cotton or silk instead of rough materials like wool. 

  • Using a cleanser that works well with your skin type.

  • Minimizing long hot showers or baths. 

  • Applying moisturizer immediately after showering or bathing.

What products can treat dry skin?

Here’s a list of products we recommend to help you with dry skin:

  • The moisturizer by Curology is a lightweight gel moisturizer formulated by dermatologists to work with all skin types—especially acne-prone skin. It’s made with hyaluronic acid, a key ingredient your skin needs to maintain moisture.

  • The rich moisturizer by Curology provides deep hydration, and it’s formulated with six key hydrating active ingredients: hyaluronic acid, glycerin, aloe, shea butter, squalane, and allantoin.

  • CeraVe Moisturizing Cream is a moisturizing cream with hyaluronic acid and ceramides to help hydrate and support the skin barrier—on both face and body. 

  • REN Evercalm Overnight Recovery Balm is designed to be used overnight and contains almond, borage, and linseed oils, plus fatty acid-rich jojoba and sunflower oil to help reinforce the skin’s protective barrier and lock in moisture. 

  • Vaseline (AKA the holy grail for skincare slugging) is a petroleum product that forms a tight protective barrier. It works as an occlusive to minimize water loss from the skin.⁷ It helps the skin retain moisture, but it can feel greasy and heavy on your skin. 

When to see a doctor

Sometimes dry skin heals on its own—with a bit of help from the tips and products listed here. If your skin doesn’t heal from simple lifestyle changes or home remedies, it’s probably time to see a dermatology provider, especially if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms:

  • Your skin becomes inflamed or painful. 

  • You develop deep cracks that don’t heal.

  • You develop open sores or infections.

  • You have large areas of scaly or peeling skin. 

  • Your condition is affecting your daily routine, or you’re losing sleep. 

If you’re a current Curology member, you can message your provider for the advice! 

Curology is here for you

Curology can help you with common skin concerns like acne, rosacea, hyperpigmentation, and texture, and work with you to develop a comprehensive skincare routine that makes sense for your skin. We’re led by dermatologists with a mission to make quality skincare accessible to all. After you sign up, you’re paired with a licensed medical provider who will review your skin goals and prescribe a personalized prescription formula (with a mix of three active ingredients) for your unique skin.

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We also have a whole line of skincare products to complete your routine, each designed by dermatologists to be non-comedogenic, dye-free, paraben-free, and hypoallergenic—which you can try during your free trial period at no extra cost. Interested? You can get a free month of Curology*—just pay $4.95 (plus tax) to cover shipping and handling on your first box. After that, you can cancel at any time or choose the subscription plan that works for you.

FAQs

What is dry skin on your face?

Dry skin produces less oil (sebum), which is a complex mixture of lipids that coats, moisturizes, and helps protect the skin. Dry skin might have less of an ability to retain moisture and build a protective shield from external factors, like climate. 

What conditions can cause dry skin?

There are many skin conditions synonymous with dry skin. A few of the most common ones include Eczema, which is a chronic skin condition that presents as dry, irritated, and itchy skin, Psoriasis, an immune-mediated condition where skin cells grow rapidly, leading to an accumulation of plaques on the skin’s surface, Irritant contact dermatitis that occurs when an irritant comes in contact with your skin causing irritation, and, Seborrheic dermatitis which is a condition that can be long-lasting in adults.

What are the symptoms of dry skin?

Dry skin is often temporary or seasonal and can have several different triggers, but the symptoms are often similar Flaky skin, Itchy skin, Skin that looks rough, Reddish skin color, Skin that feels tight, Scaly or peeling skin, Skin with noticeable fine lines and cracks and Skin with deeper cracks that may bleed are some of the most common symptoms.

• • •

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

  1. Picardo, M., et al. Sebaceous gland lipids. Dermato Endocrinology. (2009, March - April).

  2. American Academy of Dermatology. Eczema Types: Atopic Dermatitis Overview. (n.d.).

  3. Nair, P. A., & Badri, T. Psoriasis. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. (2022).

  4. Litchman G, Nair PA, et al. Contact Dermatitis. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. (2022).

  5. American Academy of Dermatology. Seborrheic Dermatitis: Overview. (n.d.).

  6. American Academy of Dermatology. Dry Skin Relief. (n.d.).

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

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• • •
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).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Kristen Jokela, NP-C

Kristen Jokela, NP-C

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