If you're wondering why the eff you're suddenly dealing with strange dry skin patches on your face, you're definitely not alone. Even the oiliest, most acne-prone people can suffer from dry patches and flakes, especially during the winter months (hello, extreme weather and low humidity). The struggle is real.
When you see those scale-y patches start to emerge, don't shy away from heavy emollients to hydrate your skin all winter long. "Look for products that combine humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerin with emollients like ceramides, petrolatum, and shea butter to lock in the moisture," says Hadley King, MD, a New York-based dermatologist.
Also, consider swapping out your gel-based moisturizers and cleansers for cream-based formulations instead. If you're acne-prone, make sure you use an oil-free moisturizer so you can apply it generously without risking a breakout. Look for labels that say non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic, which mean the product won't clog pores or worsen acne.
If swapping out your moisturizer doesn't nix your dry patches, you might also need to cut back on products that are potentially drying. These include retinol, AHAs, and BHAs. Making the switch to fragrance-free products may also help, says Jeanine B. Downie, MD, a dermatologist in New Jersey. Fragrance can irritate skin and dry it out, which you don't want when you're trying to replenish your complexion.
Your skincare routine aside, there may be some underlying issues leading to your dry skin patches. Here, dermatologists explain what might be going on with your skin, how to get relief ASAP, and what to do to prevent those patches from creeping back.
1. Cold Weather
"Skin tends to be driest in the winter because of cold temperatures, low humidity, and brisk winds," says Dr. King. "Plus, dry heat from heaters can dry out our skin even more because more moisture is lost into the air from our skin in these conditions."
The quickest way to combat cold weather-induced dry skin patches is to use a humidifier. They add moisture into the dry air to help hydrate your skin. They can also help if you're dealing with a cold or the flu.
2. Your Makeup Remover
Taking off your makeup each night before bed is a necessary step in your nightly skincare routine. However, your makeup remover of choice could be causing damage. "Unfortunately, the same ingredients that take makeup off your skin may disrupt the microbiome [the healthy mix of good and bad bacteria on your skin's surface] and interfere with skin barrier function," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a dermatologist in NYC.
"The latest trend in skincare is products that contain probiotic ingredients to support the healthy function of the outer skin layer," says Dr. Zeichner, who is a fan of using them to offset negative effects from your makeup remover. He recommends using a lightweight daily face moisturizer that includes probiotics to re-balance your skin. Try this one from Éminence Organic Skin Care.
3. Seborrheic Dermatitis
Seborrheic dermatitis is an actual condition that causes you to suffer from dry, scaly skin. It affects more than three million people a year, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). People who have it suffer from red, scaly, swollen, and greasy skin, reports the professional association. While seborrheic dermatitis is common on your scalp (you can blame it for your dandruff!), it can also affect more than the hair on your head.
"Dry, flaky patches that develop in your eyebrows, around the sides of the nose, and in your smile lines may actually be a form of dandruff," says Dr. Zeichner. It might sound gross, but everyone's skin has living yeast on it. "When yeast levels become too high, it can lead to inflammation and characteristic flaky patches," he adds.
To stop flakes, make your dandruff shampoo do double duty as a face wash to keep skin problems in check. "Kamedis Dandruff Therapy shampoo contains zinc pyrithione to lower levels of yeast on the skin, banishing these dry patches," explains Dr. Zeichner. The lightly foaming shampoo is also cruelty-free, a bonus to effectively healing the affected area.
4. Eczema/Atopic Dermatitis
According to Cleveland Clinic, 15 million Americans suffer from eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis. The widespread skin issue causes inflammation of the skin that results in a red, scaly, itchy rashes.
"Eczema is a genetic condition where your skin barrier isn't working as well as it should be, leading to loss of hydration, inflammation, and dry patches on the skin," says Dr. Zeichner. When choosing a cleanser, watch out for "true soaps, which have an alkaline pH and disrupt the outer skin layer." Instead, opt for a gentle, non-soap body wash that adds hydration to your skin while you take a shower such as Dove Beauty Bar. "It's a non-soap cleansing bar that moisturizes, soothes, and evens out skin texture."
The AAD points out that 14 million Americans are affected by rosacea each year. "Rosacea is a condition where the skin is extra sensitive and overreactive to the environment," says Dr. Zeichner. Some common symptoms are getting flushed easily and redness on your nose and cheeks, reports the AAD. "Patients also commonly develop dry patches," says Dr. Zeichner.
Look for moisturizers that protect your skin from the harsh elements of the environment. Dr. Zeichner recommends Aveeno Ultra-Calming Daily Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 for the combination of "skin-soothing oat extract with anti-inflammatory feverfew, and mineral only UV protection."
If you're looking for extra moisture all over, here's how to make a hydrating hair mask at home:
6. Your Diet
While there are certain factors that you can't change, like genetics and the weather. But one you can control that plays a role in how your skin looks? Your diet. "You need to consume enough healthy fats to contribute to a healthy moisture barrier in the skin," says Dr. King. Up your intake of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, such as salmon, walnuts, flaxseeds, and chicken, and you may see an improved complexion as a result.
7. Hot Showers And Baths
"Long or frequent baths and showers, particularly in hot water, can also dry out the skin because they remove the protective oils naturally produced by the skin," says Dr. King. "These oils form a protective barrier to help lock in moisture and protect us from harsh environmental conditions. When the oils are lost, water more easily evaporates from the skin, and it's left dried out."
To remedy this issue, consider taking a shower with luke-warm water instead hot water. If your skin is turning red, the water is too hot. Dr. King recommends incorporating a gentle body wash, like the Dove Beauty Bar above, into your routine, "which won't strip the skin of oil and moisture." And limiting your shower to not more than eight minutes a day.
8. Too Much Exfoliation
When going through your skincare routine, it's important to avoid too much scrubbing on your skin. Over exfoliating can mess with that protective moisture barrier and cause your hydration to seep out more easily. Skin naturally exfoliates itself, but if you want to add in a scrub or chemical exfoliant, dermatologists agree that once or twice a week is plenty.
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