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How to Get Rid of Dry, Flaky Skin Overnight

Anyone who’s experienced the discomfort of dry, flaky skin wants a fix, and fast. Below you’ll find a brief list of dry skin dos and don’ts, all supported by published research. Read on to find out how to get rid of dry skin on your face, body, and lips.

What to Do for Dry Flaky Skin

  • Know that dry skin is a skin type, not a temporary or seasonal condition. Because of this, you should use products designed to tackle dry flaky skin year round.
  • Know which skin care ingredients best help boost and/or retain moisture:
    • Hyaluronic acid is present in your skin naturally—plus, as a ski ncare ingredient, it’s proven capable of holding up to 1,000 times its weight in water. It’s an ideal hydrator for excessively dry skin (and can also help dehydrated skin).
    • Ceramides are lipids (aka fats) that naturally comprise over 50% of skin’s surface. One of their main functions is to prevent moisture loss, so—like hyaluronic acid—they’re virtually unmatched as skin care ingredients when it comes to helping get rid of flaky dry skin. Ceramides can literally smooth, revive, and secure surface skin cells that would otherwise look dried out.
    • AHAs like glycolic acid and lactic acid not only exfoliate to remove the top layers of dead, dry skin, but also increase skin’s ability to hold on to vital hydration, easing future signs of dryness.
    • Nourishing, non-fragrant plant oils like jojoba, safflower, and sunflower (among a long list of others) can work wonders for scaly dry skin. But make sure you know the difference between soothing plant oils and fragrant essential oils, which are harsh, irritating, and drying. When in doubt, let our online ingredients dictionary be your guide.
    • Omega fatty acids are also a weightless hydrators for dry, flaky skin, with their ability to calm and soothe sensitivity and to reinforce skin’s surface.

How to Treat Dry Flaky Skin

To heal dry skin, it’s essential to pay close attention to ingredient lists, to swap out products to those more suitable for dry and flaky skin if needed, and perhaps to change some ingrained behaviors—but your newly soft, plumper-looking, smoother-feeling skin will be well worth the effort:

  • Don’t put any fragranced products on your skin (yes, that includes lip and body products). Fragrance is the number one cause of sensitized skin.
  • Don’t use products containing sensitizing ingredients like denatured alcohol, essential oils, mint, menthol, and eucalyptus.
  • Don’t use products containing clays and starches; these absorbents won’t damage your skin, but they can be drying if your skin isn’t oily.
  • Don’t use abrasive scrubs to exfoliate; rather, use a gentle leave-on product that invisibly, effortlessly sloughs dead skin. This will allow your moisturizing products to absorb more fully and work more effectively.
  • Don’t use very hot water; we know, a hot bath or shower feels perfect in winter, but cooling the temperature a bit will help prevent uncomfortable dryness and flaking. Post-shower, apply a layer of soothing, emollient lotion. If your skin is very dry or even scaly, try a luxuriously thick body butter loaded with non-fragrant, plant-based oils and butters.
  • Don’t use bar soap or bar cleansers, even on your body Rather, switch to a hydrating cream or oil cleanser. The ingredients that keep soaps and bar cleansers in bar form can leave a residue on skin that keeps your moisturizers from doing their job.

Learn more about dry skin.

References for this Information:

Skin Research and Technology, August 2015, pages 366–372
Clinical Cosmetic Investigative Dermatology, August 2015, pages 413–421
Essential Oil Safety, Second Edition, Tisserand, R., Young, R., Elsevier Ltd., 2014, pages 69–98
Journal of Clinical and Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, October 2014, pages 2473–2483
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, July 2014, pages 177–184
Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, June 2014, pages 25–32
Archives of Dermatological Research, March 2013, pages 151–162
Aesthetic Dermatology, October 2012, pages 20–23; and March 2009, pages 38–43

Dermatologists’ top tips for relieving dry skin

Simple changes can soothe dry skin

Following the same skin care routine year round may not work so well when the humidity drops. Without a change in your skin care, dry air can make fine lines and wrinkles more noticeable. Dry skin can itch, flake, crack, and even bleed.

To help heal dry skin and prevent its return, dermatologists recommend the following.

  1. Prevent baths and showers from making dry skin worse. When your skin is dry, be sure to:

      Close the bathroom door
  2. Limit your time in the shower or bath to 5 or 10 minutes
  3. Use warm rather than hot water
  4. Wash with a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser
  5. Apply enough cleanser to remove dirt and oil, but avoid using so much that you see a thick lather
  6. Blot your skin gently dry with a towel
  7. Slather on the moisturizer immediately after drying your skin Dry skin is a common issue that can affect anyone. To help, dermatologists recommend following these bathing tips to get dry skin relief. Click the image above to download a PDF.
  8. Apply moisturizer immediately after washing. Ointments, creams, and lotions (moisturizers) work by trapping existing moisture in your skin. To trap this much-needed moisture, you need to apply a moisturizer within few minutes of:

      Drying off after a shower or bath
  9. Washing your face or hands
  10. Use an ointment or cream rather than a lotion. Ointments and creams are more effective and less irritating than lotions. Look for a cream or ointment that contains an oil such as olive oil or jojoba oil. Shea butter also works well. Other ingredients that help to soothe dry skin include lactic acid, urea, hyaluronic acid, dimethicone, glycerin, lanolin, mineral oil, and petrolatum.

    Tip

    Carry a non-greasy hand cream with you, and apply it after each hand washing. This will greatly help relieve dry skin.

  11. Wear lip balm. Choose a lip balm that feels good on your lips. Some healing lip balms can irritate your lips. If your lips sting or tingle after you apply the lip balm, switch to one that does not cause this reaction.

  12. Use only gentle, unscented skin care products. Some skin care products are too harsh for dry, sensitive skin. When your skin is dry, stop using:

      Deodorant soaps
  13. Skin care products that contain alcohol, fragrance, retinoids, or alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) Avoiding these products will help your skin retain its natural oils.
  14. Wear gloves. Our hands are often the first place we notice dry skin. You can reduce dry, raw skin by wearing gloves. Be sure to put gloves on before you:

      Go outdoors in winter
  15. Perform tasks that require you to get your hands wet
  16. Get chemicals, greases, and other substances on your hands
  17. Choose non-irritating clothes and laundry detergent. When our skin is dry and raw even clothes and laundry detergent can be irritating. To avoid this:

      Wear cotton or silk under your clothing made of wool or another material that feels rough
  18. Use laundry detergent labeled “hypoallergenic”
  19. Stay warm without cozying up to a fireplace or other heat source. Sitting in front of an open flame or other heat source can dry your skin.

  20. Add moisture to the air. Plug in a humidifier. If you can check your home heating system, find out if you have a humidifier on the system — and whether it’s working.

When to see a dermatologist

Your skin should start to feel better quickly. If these changes do not bring relief, you may want to see a dermatologist. Very dry skin can require a prescription ointment or cream. Dry skin also can be a sign of a skin condition that needs treatment. A dermatologist can examine your skin and explain what can help reduce your discomfort.

Related AAD resources

  • Dry skin relief (video)

For all of winter’s sweeping seasonal highs (fireside gatherings, snowy walks, and ice-skating in Central Park), there are a few less pleasant side effects to note. Enter the onslaught of dry, itchy skin that’s currently settling in for the long haul. While switching to a good moisturizer at the first sign of chill proves helpful, the drier climate and indoor heat may have already taken a toll. Fortunately, there’s still time to get serious about a daily routine to ensure a hydrated, glowing complexion. Here, with the help of New York City dermatologist Shari Marchbein, M.D., is the definitive guide for preventing, soothing, and dealing with dry skin.

Prep Your Home

The drier the air, the drier the skin. To maximize the amount of water in the air, Marchbein recommends placing a humidifier in the room where you spend the most time, which, in many cases, is the bedroom. “A cool air humidifier increases the moisture level in the air,” helping skin’s barrier stay hydrated, she says. In addition, be sure the heat is kept on low or at a moderate temperature to avoid extra dryness in the air.

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Change Up Your Diet

With a direct connection between the gut and skin health, increasing your daily intake of fats may help with dry skin. Marchbein recommends eating a diet rich in walnuts, olive oil, and avocados (but not to sub them for a proper skin-care routine). While that extra glass of full-bodied red wine may seem like a good idea, Marchbein takes a conservative approach. “Don’t overdo it with alcohol, caffeine, and coffee,” she explains, as they are diuretics that will cause dehydration. And, she says, “drink tons of water.”

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Buff Your Skin

No matter how many serums and creams are applied, dry skin will stay dry without some light exfoliation. “Pick up a gentle scrub,” says Marchbein, “something with a mild glycolic or lactic acid to get off the dead skin.” The expert suggests swapping a gentle formula for your regular cleanser two to three times a week. For those with raw or severely dry skin, skip the exfoliator and incorporate a wet washcloth instead for a gentler option. And tailor your Retin-A usage to every other day because, while it’s surely the wrinkle-fighting hero product, it is also a strong exfoliant and “may cause extra dryness during the winter.” Now that the skin is buffed, “ moisturizers can penetrate and really get to work.”

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Slather on an Antioxidant Serum

While most summertime products get swapped out come winter, serums are the one exception to that rule. “As long as it’s alcohol-free, an antioxidant serum is perfect for year-round usage,” says Marchbein. No matter the climate, skin “gets attacked by free radicals,” she explains, causing sun spots, the breakdown of collagen, and premature fine lines. To prevent the damage, apply a vitamin C formula as a first layer in the morning, before layering on heavier products. And don’t forget the sunscreen—a daily dose of SPF 30 will keep skin covered, even on cold, cloudy days.

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Switch to a Heavy Face Cream

Perhaps one of the most important and commonly overlooked steps in the dry skin game is changing to a seriously hydrating moisturizer. “Look for creams, rather than lotions, that are made with ceramides and hyaluronic acid,” Marchbein says. Ceramides aid in the prevention of the skin’s barrier, which is “easily broken down during the winter.” For patients with severely chapped faces, pack on a hefty amount of product, she says, morning and night.

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Avoid Harsh Cleansers

Be sure to toss any face washes with drying ingredients, like fragrances or additives, in favor of those with formulated chamomile or oatmeal. “A really gentle cleanser, like Cetaphil, is a great option that won’t strip skin of its natural oils,” which are needed to protect overall moisture, Marchbein says.

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Zero In on a Nighttime Routine

Every night before bed, Marchbein recommends sticking to a routine that will ensure healthy skin come morning. After your face serum and moisturizer, apply a gentle eye cream to the under eyes and lids, like Kiehl’s avocado treatment. For extra protection, coat the area with Aquaphor. “The product will seal in the cream and prevent against redness and eczema,” both of which are common during this time of year.

While the heat from an evening shower may feel phenomenal on a chilly day, Marchbein advises to limit rinse time to five minutes or less and to use warm—not hot—water, which only adds to surface dehydration. And instead of irritating soap bars or harsh body washes, pick up a creamy cleanser, like Dove’s gentle formula. “Within 60 seconds of ,” she says, apply a thick body moisturizer. “Look for something with mineral oil, lanolin, or ceramides,” she explains, to help skin hold on to moisture throughout the night.

As a last step, Marchbein urges patients to coat hands with a thick moisturizer, like CeraVe, and dab Aquaphor on cuticles and lips before hitting the sheets. And for those who are feeling overly dry, a hydrating sheet mask may be a good idea once a week at bedtime. “Stay away from anything with charcoal or clay,” she warns, citing calming yet hard-working products should contain plenty of hyaluronic acid. Here’s to healthy, hydrated, and happy skin through spring.

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Causes of an Itchy Face and How to Not Scratch It

Common causes of itching (also known as pruritus) include dry skin, seasonal allergies, and skin contact with an irritant.

Antibiotics, antifungal, and narcotic pain medications sometimes lead to an itchy face as a side effect.

Less often, an itchy face stems from an internal condition, such as liver disease, thyroid conditions, cancer, or multiple sclerosis. Nutritional deficiencies, such as iron deficiency, can also cause itching.

Identifying other symptoms that occur along with your itchy face might help to diagnose the cause. Here are five specific scenarios for having an itchy face and their most common causes.

Itchy face with a rash

If you have an itchy face along with a rash or hives, or contact dermatitis, you may be having an allergic reaction. In an allergic reaction, your immune system responds to something you’ve come into contact with.

Itching and rash can also be caused by your skin coming into contact with an irritant (without causing your immune system to react), like cleaning chemicals, certain soaps, or some foods.

Psoriasis, rosacea, and perioral dermatitis are all skin conditions that can cause itching along with raised red bumps on your face.

You could also be experiencing a heat rash.

Itchy face without a rash

An itchy face without a rash can seem like a bit of a mystery. Looking to other symptoms can help you figure out where the itch is coming from:

  • If you have an itchy face, no rash, but are experiencing trouble breathing, have a yellowish tinge to your eyes, enlarged glands, and dehydration, you should see your doctor right away. These symptoms could indicate liver problems, jaundice, or Hodgkin’s disease.
  • If you have an itchy face, no rash, and no other major symptoms:
    • You may be iron deficient. (If iron deficiency anemia intensifies, symptoms can become more prominent.)
    • You may be having a mild allergic reaction to something new in your environment.
    • You may have the most common cause of an itchy face: dry skin.
    • You may be sensitive to the water in your bath or shower. For instance, hard water (water that has a high mineral count) can dry out your skin. You might be able to tell if you have hard water: look for signs of white build-up (mineral deposits) on sink and shower faucets.

Itchy face with pimples

Acne bumps sometimes cause itching — and itching your acne may spread bacteria and as a result more acne over your face. Itchy pimples can be influenced by sweating, cosmetics, clogged pores, or hormones.

If your face itches and you also have pimples or cysts, you may have acne vulgaris (regular acne) or cystic acne, which is worth talking to a doctor about for the most effective treatments.

Itchy face while pregnant

Developing an itchy face because of your pregnancy is somewhat rare, but it does happen.

While itching on your body and your baby bump is common during pregnancy, excessive itching on your face and on your hands and feet could be a symptom of a condition called obstetric cholestasis.

This condition comes without a rash. It also brings symptoms of dark urine and pale bowel movements. Obstetric cholestasis typically crops up around 30 weeks of pregnancy.

It needs to be diagnosed and addressed, so speak to your doctor right away if you have anything beyond mild itching during pregnancy.

Neuropathic itch

A neuropathic face itch is caused by the sensors in your face detecting an irritant where one is not present. This is known as a type of sensory hallucination.

Sometimes neurological health conditions, like shingles and multiple sclerosis, can contribute to this feeling of itching.

If your skin’s not oily, there’s a high probability you’d say that it’s dry (at least some of the time—thanks to moisture-sapping radiators in the winter and skin-damaging UV rays in the summer). There’s also a high probability that you’re slathering on uber-thick moisturizers or spritzing face mists around the clock for quick relief.

But prepare to have your mind blown: Most people don’t have dry skin. Instead, what many people experience is dehydration (yep, your face can get thirsty, too). And this can spell trouble for your complexion in the form of pimples, headaches, and a long list of other annoying issues.

Keep scrolling for how to tell the difference between dry and dehydrated skin.

Photo: Stocksy/Studio Firma

Your skin is dry if…

Believe it or not, dry skin is actually something that’s genetically passed down. “Dry skin is more of a hereditary condition,” says Suzanne LeRoux, founder of One Love Organics (and herbalist and former chemist). “It literally means your body doesn’t produce as much sebum—so it’s something you’re born with, rather than something that develops over time.”

Here’s how to know if you fall under the scientifically dry category: Wash your face with a gentle, sulfate-free cleanser and check on your skin an hour later. If it’s lacking in moisture all over and feels tight throughout your entire complexion you probably truly have dry skin. If, however, only your cheeks feel tight and itchy (and definitely don’t look dewy), then it’s more likely to be an issue of dehydration, according to LeRoux.

Believe it or not, dry skin is actually something that’s genetically passed down.

New York-based dermatologist Samer Jaber, MD, agrees: Dehydrated skin “feels tight, rough, or sensitive” in certain spots, he says. Rather than being habitually without oil, it’s more like an occasional sense of dryness that’s brought on by environmental factors (more on that later).

The best way to understand if your complexion should be categorized as dry is to observe consistency of dryness over spells of it. “You really just have to get to know your skin—it’s a relationship,” she advises. “When you notice your face feels uncomfortable, watch the markers—what you’re eating, how your stress levels are, where you are in your cycle—and note how it changes throughout a 28-day cycle.” If it eventually returns to that normal glow, you were just dehydrated. If not, consider your complexion dry.

Photo: Stocksy/Jojo Jovanovic

Your skin is dehydrated if…

A range of factors could be impacting your complexion—even if you’re slathering on the moisturizer. “Your skin gets dehydrated based on your stress levels,” LeRoux explains. “The environment affects it, too—whenever I’m in New York City, my skin gets wacky because I live in an island in rural Georgia.” So if all of the sudden, your skin starts freaking out in a new locale or during a particular part of your hormonal cycle, it could be chalked up to dehydration (BTW, those long complexion-parching plane rides don’t help).

Another culprit? “You could be using products the wrong way,” she adds. That includes over-exfoliating, applying too-harsh acne treatments, and using harsh cleansers, all of which can dry out your complexion. And of course, not getting enough sleep could be taking its toll. “All of these factors can actually cause your skin to lose water, which is called transepidermal water loss,” says LeRoux. “And that can be experienced by anybody, even those without dry skin.” Gulp.

Photo: Stocksy/Lumina

How to deal if you’re dry or dehydrated

For once, drinking the right amount of water isn’t going to do the trick—not on its own, at least. “ is like a workout for your skin,” says LeRoux. “You want it to be strong and not over-exfoliated or cleansed.” If your skin’s dry, lean towards moisturizers for support “that contain an occlusive ingredient that forms a protective seal over the surface of the skin,” notes Joshua Zeichner, MD, a New York-based dermatologist. Dehydrated skin types, on the other hand, should look for hydrators like hyaluronic acid-based products. “Hyaluronic acid is like a sponge that binds to water at 1000 times its weight,” he says.

And though you can’t change the amount of sebum your skin produces, both dry and dehydrated complexions can benefit from the following expert-approved skin-care practices:

Strengthen the skin barrier. Look for cleansers that dissolve skin impurities using the like-dissolves-like theory versus cleaning your face with amped-up surfactants (fine for most, but for those dealing with moisture issues, you don’t want to strip anything away). That means that opting for an oil-based, balm, or creamy cleanser could help you to degunk your face without further drying it out.

Look for aqueous skin-care products. LeRoux recommends using water-rich products that have water (coconut counts) or aloe juice as the first ingredient. Some options include Juice Beauty’s Oil-Free Moisturizer ($29), French Girl’s Creme Fraiche Moisturizer ($46), and One Love Organics’ Skin Dew ($58).

Apply moisturizer when skin is wet. “People are missing that water step,” says LeRoux. “When you apply your holy grail facial oil or balm, make sure your skin is very damp—either freshly cleansed without patting dry or freshly sprayed with a mist. That’ll prevent dehydrated skin and also help dry skin not get dehydrated.”

Originally posted June 20, 2017, updated June 6, 2018.

Just like dry skin, “sensitive” skin is another misnomer. And regardless of your moisture status, this is what every woman needs to know about her skin-care routine.

What causes itching after a shower?

Many things can cause the skin to feel itchy after taking a shower or bathing. Here are some of the most common reasons for itching after a shower:

Dry skin

Share on PinterestDry skin is a common cause of itchiness after a shower.

Dry skin lacks moisture and may feel tight or itchy, especially after a shower. Cleansers, soap, and water can remove the skin’s natural oils that keep it supple and prevent dryness.

When a person takes a hot shower, the soap and water will strip away the skin’s oils. This can cause the skin to feel tight and itchy. In extreme cases, the skin may even crack or bleed.

The best way to prevent itchy skin after taking a shower is to apply moisturizer immediately after toweling off. Using a heavy moisturizer such as a cream, oil, or ointment while the skin is still slightly damp can help seal in moisture.

People with very dry or sensitive skin should read product labels before using a moisturizer. This is because some products can make itching worse, as they contain ingredients that are irritating or cause allergic reactions.

Avoid products that contain fragrance, menthol, and alcohol, as these can cause further dryness, irritation, and itching.

Eczema

Eczema refers to inflammation of the skin that can lead to itching and excessive dryness. It is a chronic condition that can also cause a red rash or bumps on the skin.

Eczema may feel even more itchy and uncomfortable after bathing or showering, when the skin lacks its natural oils. Scented body washes, soaps, and the hot water from the shower may also trigger itching.

People with eczema may need to use hypoallergenic products and apply moisturizers throughout the day. A dermatologist may be able to provide recommendations on which products to use.

Learn about 12 of the best remedies for eczema here.

Reactions to skin care products

Many people enjoy using scented cleansers, soaps, and hair products in the shower. However, these types of products can trigger allergic reactions in some people, leading to itching and other symptoms. This is known as contact dermatitis.

The National Eczema Association explain that fragrance is one of the most common ingredients that can cause a skin reaction.

If a person finds that moisturizing alone does not take care of itching, they may need to switch shower products. Try fragrance-free cleansers and moisturizers to see if the itching goes away.

Reaction to laundry products

Scented laundry products could also lead to post-shower itching, especially if a person uses scented products on their towels.

Toweling off after bathing could transfer some of the fragrances from laundry soap or fabric softener to the skin. This can lead to itching and irritation if a person has an allergy or sensitivity to them.

People with sensitive or itchy skin may wish to avoid using laundry products that contain fragrance or dye on their towels or clothes.

What Causes Patches of Dry Skin and What Can You Do to Treat and Prevent Them?

There are several possible causes for dry patches, many of which can be effectively treated.

1. Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a condition that occurs when you come into contact with a substance that causes a skin reaction. It often causes a red, itchy rash. If you have it on your hands, you might develop scaling on your fingers.

Contact dermatitis can be treated, usually with steroid creams or oral medications. It’s not contagious, meaning you can’t give it to others or catch it from other people.

2. Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that causes skin cells to multiply too quickly. People with psoriasis may develop scaly, itchy patches of skin on their body.

This chronic condition causes flare-ups that may be triggered by:

  • stress
  • smoking
  • alcohol
  • infections
  • an injury to the skin
  • certain medications
  • vitamin D deficiency

There are many treatments available to help manage symptoms of psoriasis, including topical creams, light therapy, and oral or intravenous medications. Your doctor will recommend one based on the severity of your condition.

3. Eczema

Eczema, which is also known as atopic dermatitis, is common in children, but can occur at any age.

The condition causes itchy, reddish-brown patches to form on the:

  • hands
  • feet
  • ankles
  • wrists
  • neck
  • upper chest
  • eyelids
  • elbows
  • knees
  • face
  • other areas

These patches may crust over when you scratch them.

Eczema isn’t contagious, and there are several treatments, including creams, drugs, and light therapy, to help you manage flare-ups.

4. Athlete’s foot

You don’t have to be an athlete to get athlete’s foot. The condition is caused by a fungal infection that usually affects the area in between your toes.

Symptoms include a scaly rash that causes itching, stinging, or burning.

Athlete’s foot is contagious and can be spread through sharing personal items or walking on a contaminated floor.

Antifungal ointments or creams are usually recommended to get rid of the infection.

5. Dry air

Sometimes, dry, cool air can strip your skin of moisture and cause you to develop dry skin patches.

In the summer, higher humidity levels can help stop your skin from drying out. But too much sun exposure can also leave you with dry skin.

6. Dehydration

If you don’t drink enough fluids throughout the day, you might develop patches of dry skin.

Aim to consume the following amounts of fluid a day:

  • 15.5 cups of fluid for men
  • 11.5 cups of fluid for women

7. Nutritional deficiencies

Not consuming enough calcium, vitamin D, or vitamin E may cause dry, white patches to form on your skin.

Dry patches caused by nutritional deficiencies are usually harmless, but may suggest that you need to eat a more balanced diet, or take supplements.

8. Smoking

Smoking can be a trigger for dry skin. Additionally, it can lead to wrinkles and a dull skin tone.

9. Older age

As you age, your pores naturally produce less oil, and you may notice that your skin becomes dryer.

Dry patches of skin in older people often surface on the lower legs, elbows, or lower arms.

10. Stress

Stress can affect your body in many ways. Some people develop dry skin.

If you have a condition like psoriasis or eczema, stress may worsen your symptoms or bring on a flare-up.

11. Soaps and over-washing

Using or overusing harsh soaps, perfumes, or antiperspirants may dry out your skin. Additionally, taking long, hot baths or showers can worsen the problem.

10 reasons your face is red

Many things can turn our faces red, including sunburn, acne, and hot flashes. Here are 10 less obvious reasons for seeing a red face when you look in the mirror.

  1. Seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin condition that causes a red rash, which often appears on the face. The rash may cause the skin to look oily as shown here. The skin can also appear dry and scaly.
    What can get rid of the redness: Seborrheic dermatitis usually requires treatment to clear. A board-certified dermatologist can create a treatment plan tailored to your needs. Treatment may include using a dandruff shampoo and medicine that you apply to your skin for a short time.
    Seborrheic dermatitis: Diagnosis and treatment

  2. Rosacea. This skin condition often begins with a tendency to flush or blush easily. If the condition progresses, you many notice that the redness on your face lasts longer — or never fades.
    How to get rid of the redness: While rosacea cannot be cured, treatment can lessen the redness. There are different types of rosacea. A board-certified dermatologist can tell you if you have rosacea. If you have rosacea, your dermatologist can tell you which type of rosacea you have and create a treatment plan tailored to your needs.
    Is rosacea causing your red, irritated face?

  3. Skin irritation or allergic reaction. A condition called contact dermatitis develops when something that touches your skin either:

    Irritates it

  4. Causes an allergic reaction
    The face is a common place to get contact dermatitis. A soap or hair dye can irritate your skin, causing a condition known as irritant contact dermatitis.
    If you are allergic to what touches your face, you can develop allergic contact dermatitis. Common causes of allergic contact dermatitis include poison ivy, fragrances, and latex.
    How to get rid of the redness: This rash tends to clear on its own when you stop exposing your skin to whatever is causing the reaction.
    Because this reaction can be caused by so many products, including those that you’ve used for years, and everyday things in your environment, it can be a challenge to figure out what’s causing the rash. The questions on this page can help you get started:
    Contact dermatitis: Tips for managing
    If you cannot figure out what’s causing the redness, a board-certified dermatologist can help.
  5. Reaction to a medication. Some medications can cause a sunburn-like reaction when you spend time outdoors during the day. Using a medication, such as a hydrocortisone (a steroid) cream, for longer than directed can also cause a skin reaction.
    How to get rid of the redness: Check the information that came with the medication to see if you should stay out of the sun. This may be all you need to do to clear the redness.
    If the redness is caused by using a medication, such as hydrocortisone cream, for too long, you may be able to get rid of the rash on your own. You’ll find dermatologist-reviewed information that can help at:
    Red rash around your mouth could be perioral dermatitis

  6. Atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis, often called eczema, can cause a rash that appears suddenly. Infants often develop this itchy rash on their cheeks. Regardless of where the rash appears, the skin with the rash tends to feel extremely dry, scaly, and itchy.
    How to get rid of the redness: While atopic dermatitis cannot be cured, treatment can help to clear the skin. A board-certified dermatologist can develop a treatment plan tailored to a child’s (or adult’s) needs.
    Atopic dermatitis: Diagnosis, treatment

  7. Psoriasis. Psoriasis (suh-rye-ah-sis) is a condition that causes the body to make new skin cells in days rather than weeks. As these cells pile up on the surface of the skin, you may see raised, scaly patches.
    What can get rid of the redness: While psoriasis cannot be cured, a board-certified dermatologist can develop a treatment plan that can help you see clearer (or clear) skin. You can learn more about treatment for psoriasis at:
    Psoriasis: Diagnosis, treatment, and outcome

  8. Spider veins. If you don’t protect your skin from the sun, the harmful rays can damage your skin. Over the years, this damage accumulates. Years later, some people who have sun-damaged skin see spider veins on their face.
    What can get rid of the redness: A board-certified dermatologist may be able to get rid of the spider veins with laser treatment. Medical insurance does not cover this treatment.
    Medical procedures, such as laser treatment, are best performed in the office of a licensed doctor, such as a board-certified dermatologist. Watch this video to find out why.
    Who should provide your cosmetic treatment?

  9. Shingles. Shingles causes a painful, blistering rash, which can appear anywhere on your skin, including your face.
    What can get rid of the redness: The rash tends to clear on its own, but if you develop a painful rash on your face, treatment is especially important. Without treatment, a shingles rash on your face can permanently damage your eyesight.
    Taking an anti-viral medication can save your eyesight and prevent long-lasting nerve pain. Without treatment, the nerve pain can last for months or years. That’s true no matter where the rash develops on your skin.
    Shingles: Diagnosis and treatment

  10. Lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disease. This means that your body’s own immune system mistakes part of your own body as something foreign and attacks that part of the body. When someone has lupus, the immune system can attack different organs. Sometimes, this causes redness and swelling on the skin.
    Some people who have lupus develop a rash on their face that’s shaped like a butterfly. You may also see other types of redness and swelling on your face.
    How to get rid of the redness: A board-certified dermatologist can tell you whether lupus is affecting your skin. If it is, a dermatologist can:

      Develop a treatment plan that can help get rid of the redness on your face.
  11. Work with your other health care providers who will treat the lupus.
    Lupus and your skin
  12. Rare cancer. Sézary syndrome is a type of T-cell cutaneous lymphoma (CTCL), which is a rare cancer. CTCL begins in a type of white blood cell called the T-lymphocyte (T-cell). Signs of this cancer begin on the skin because most T-cells are found in the skin.
    What can get rid of the redness: To get rid of the redness you need to treat the cancer. You can find out more about this cancer at:
    Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma

When to see a board-certified dermatologist

Because many conditions can cause your face to turn red, it’s essential to get the right diagnosis. Board-certified dermatologists are trained to treat thousands of conditions that affect the skin.

If the redness on your face lasts more than 2 weeks, make an appointment to see a dermatologist.

Find a dermatologist

Images
Images 1,2,3,4,5,8,9: Used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.

Images 6, 10: Used with permission of Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology:

  • 6 – J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008; 58:959-63.

  • 10 – J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017; 77:719-27.

Image 7: Getty Images

Chamlin SL and Lawley LP. “Perioral dermatitis.” In: Wolff K, et al. Fitzpatrick’s dermatology in general medicine (7th edition). McGraw Hill Medical, USA, 2008:709-12.

Cohen DE and Jacob SE. “Allergic contact dermatitis.” In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, et al. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine (seventh edition). McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2008: 135-46.

Costner MI, Sontheimer RD. “Lupus erythematosus” In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, et al. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine (seventh edition). McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2008:1515-35.

Chung JH, Hanft VN, et al. “Aging and photoaging.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2003 Oct;49(4):690-7.

Habif TP, Campbell JL, Jr., et al. In: Dermatology DDxDeck. 2006. China. Mosby Elsevier. Card #37: “Psoriasis: Lesions.”

Woo SM, Choi JW, et al. “Classification of facial psoriasis based on the distributions of facial lesions.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008; 58(6):959-63.

Facial rashes

Patients often present with quite mild signs when they have a facial lesion or rash — due to embarrassment — and the diagnosis may be tricky.

Significant itch suggests atopic dermatitis or contact dermatitis.

Face: erosions/crusting

Herpes simplex

  • Monomorphic clustered vesicles or crusted papules
  • Often locally recurrent in the same site
  • Swabs: Herpes simplex

Herpes zoster

  • Acute dermatomal eruption
  • Painful: pain may precede the rash
  • Erythema may precede vesicles
  • Swabs: Herpes zoster

Impetigo

  • Irregular enlarging plaque
  • Honey-coloured crusts
  • Swabs: Staphylococcus aureus +/- Streptococcus pyogenes
Face: erosions/crusting

Dry or scaly rash

Seborrhoeic dermatitis

  • Often also affects scalp, retroauricular sites, ears
  • Hairline, eyebrows, medial cheeks, nasolabial folds, chin creases
  • Scaly blepharitis
  • Poorly defined, variable white or yellowish flaking
  • May have erythematous patches or thin plaques
  • Follicular prominence or follicular digitate keratoses

Psoriasis

  • Eyelids, temples, retro- and pre-auricular skin and/or seborrhoeic dermatitis sites
  • Also affects scalp, ears, elbows, knees, nails
  • Well-demarcated erythematous plaques
  • White scale
  • More persistent than seborrhoeic dermatitis

Atopic eczema

  • Often affects flexures: retroauricular, elbow and knee creases
  • Symmetrical dermatitis of eyelids, perioral skin (up to lips)
  • Intensely itchy
  • Acute flare: oedema, erythema, crusting, fissuring
  • Subacute: dryness, pinkness
  • Chronic: dryness, lichenification, Dennie Morgan folds (2 creases in lower eyelids)
Face: scaly rash

Contact eczema

  • Acute, relapsing/intermittent or chronic presentation
  • Irregular, variable, unilateral or asymmetrical dermatitis
  • Sharp border if contact irritant dermatitis
  • Patch tests positive if contact allergy

Photosensitive dermatitis

  • Exposed areas of face, arms, chest, legs
  • Spares under hair, eyelids, creases
  • Flares after exposure outdoors
  • Can be drug-induced
Face: localised areas of dermatitis

Tinea faciei

  • Asymmetrical eruption
  • Annular configuration is common
  • Scaly edge
  • Mycology positive

Actinic keratoses

  • Located on sun-exposed sites of temples, forehead, nose, cheekbones, angle of jaw, upper lip, lower vermilion lip
  • Persistent tender scaly papules, macules, plaques

Cutaneous lupus erythematosus

Discoid lupus erythematosus

  • Nose, cheeks, ears, lips, scalp
  • Circumscribed plaques with follicular prominence, scale
  • Post-inflammatory pigmentation, atrophic scarring
  • CBC, ANA, ENA often normal

Lupus tumidus / Jessner lymphocytic infiltrate

  • Cheeks, upper trunk
  • Smooth surface to erythematous dermal plaques
Cutaneous lupus erythematosus

Papulopustular rash

Acne

  • Onset often at puberty
  • Usually, symmetrical forehead, chin, lateral face, nose
  • Mixed inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesions
  • Papules, pustules, nodules, comedones

Perioral/periorificial dermatitis

  • Usually adult females using face cream, often topical corticosteroid
  • Often, asymmetrical first in perioral sites, later in perinasal and periocular sites
  • Spares a centimetre of skin around vermilion of lips
  • Grouped erythematous papules and pustules on erythematous patches, flaky surface
  • Can occur in children

Rosacea

  • Most prevalent in middle-aged adults
  • Mid-facial: cheeks + nose, chin and forehead
  • Erythema, flushing, papules, pustules, telangiectasia
  • Rhinophyma causes enlargement of the nose in some patients
  • Sensitive skin
  • Lesions can approach the lips

Pseudofolliculitis barbae

  • Shaving rash
  • Follicular papules, pustules, curled-in hair
Face: follicular rash

Face: erythema

Erythema is less pronounced in dark skin

Dermatomyositis

  • Violaceous eyelids — may be swollen
  • Poikiloderma on the trunk and limbs
  • Gottron papules on fingers
  • May have muscle weakness

Flushing

  • Intermittent redness when hot, embarrassed or with certain foods
  • Often lifelong tendency
  • Systemically well
  • Associated with rosacea

Sunburn

  • Sun-exposed site
  • Spares eyelids, furrows, under the chin

Systemic lupus erythematosus

  • Butterfly erythematous rash
  • Systemic symptoms: tiredness, lethargy, arthralgia
  • Check CBC, ANA, ENA

Telangiectasia

  • May accompany flushing
  • Vascular dilatation
  • Various types

Face: brown macules/patches

Pigmentation is more pronounced in dark skin

Solar lentigines

  • Sun-exposed sites
  • Small to large freckles
  • Well-demarcated flat or slightly scaly brown marks or thin plaques

Erythema dyschromicum perstans

  • Grey-brown discolouration
  • Any distribution
  • Distinct border, sometimes red at first

Melasma

  • Usually adult female
  • Centrofacial, malar and mandibular patterns
  • Spares eyelids, rare below jawline
  • Symmetrical pigmentation with ragged border

Post-inflammatory pigmentation

  • Preceding eczema, psoriasis, acne etc
  • Distribution depends on cause
Face: brown patches

Face: pale or white macules/patches

Guttate hypomelanosis

  • More commonly observed on limbs

Pityriasis alba

  • Young child
  • Cheeks
  • Hypopigmentation, light scale
Face: pale patches

Post-inflammatory hypopigmentation

  • Preceding eczema, psoriasis, acne etc
  • Distribution depends on cause

Vitiligo

  • Most often periocular, perioral
  • White, smooth surface
Face: white patches

Skin lesions

Granuloma faciale

  • Middle-aged adult
  • Solitary thickened smooth, purplish-brown plaque or plaques

Sarcoidosis

  • Yellowish-brown to mauve infiltrated plaque
  • May arise within existing scar
  • Lupus pernio affects nose and ears

Sebaceous hyperplasia

  • Mostly > 40 years
  • Forehead, temples
  • Yellowish papules with central follicular dimple
Face: papules and plaques

Solar comedones

  • Smoker, sun damaged older patient
  • Periocular, cheekbones, nose, neck
  • Usually symmetrical

Basal cell carcinoma

  • Slowly enlarging, destructive papule, nodule or plaque
  • Early erosion, ulceration and bleeding

Squamous cell carcinoma

  • Enlarging tender scaly or crusted nodule
Face: lesions

Adnexal tumours

  • Various types and syndromes
  • Follicular or eccrine origin

Milia

  • Periorbital or cheeks
  • Superficial firm small papules
  • Scattered on forehead, cheeks
  • Yellowish with central dell
Face: multiple papules

All About Common Skin Disorders

There are many different types of skin disorders. Here is a list of 25 with pictures.

Warning: graphic images ahead.

Acne

  • Commonly located on the face, neck, shoulders, chest, and upper back
  • Breakouts on the skin composed of blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, or deep, painful cysts and nodules
  • May leave scars or darken the skin if untreated

Read full article on acne.

Cold sore

  • Red, painful, fluid-filled blister that appears near the mouth and lips
  • Affected area will often tingle or burn before the sore is visible
  • Outbreaks may also be accompanied by mild, flu-like symptoms such as low fever, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes

Read full article on cold sores.

Blister

  • Characterized by watery, clear, fluid-filled area on the skin
  • May be smaller than 1 cm (vesicle) or larger than 1 cm (bulla) and occur alone or in groups
  • Can be found anywhere on the body

Read full article on blisters.

Hives

  • Itchy, raised welts that occur after exposure to an allergen
  • Red, warm, and mildly painful to the touch
  • Can be small, round, and ring-shaped or large and randomly shaped

Read full article on hives.

Actinic keratosis

  • Typically less than 2 cm, or about the size of a pencil eraser
  • Thick, scaly, or crusty skin patch
  • Appears on parts of the body that receive a lot of sun exposure (hands, arms, face, scalp, and neck)
  • Usually pink in color but can have a brown, tan, or gray base

Read full article on actinic keratosis.

Rosacea

Share on PinterestBy M. Sand, D. Sand, C. Thrandorf, V. Paech, P. Altmeyer, F. G. Bechara , via Wikimedia Commons

  • Chronic skin disease that goes through cycles of fading and relapse
  • Relapses may be triggered by spicy foods, alcoholic beverages, sunlight, stress, and the intestinal bacteria Helicobacter pylori
  • There are four subtypes of rosacea encompassing a wide variety of symptoms
  • Common symptoms include facial flushing, raised, red bumps, facial redness, skin dryness, and skin sensitivity

Read full article on rosacea.

Carbuncle

  • Red, painful, and irritated lump under your skin
  • May be accompanied by fever, body aches, and fatigue
  • Can cause skin crustiness or oozing

Read full article on carbuncles.

Latex allergy

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Rash may occur within minutes to hours after exposure to a latex product
  • Warm, itchy, red wheals at the site of contact that may take on a dry, crusted appearance with repeated exposure to latex
  • Airborne latex particles may cause cough, runny nose, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes
  • A severe allergy to latex can cause swelling and difficulty breathing

Read full article on latex allergies.

  • Yellow or white scaly patches that flake off
  • Affected areas may be red, itchy, greasy, or oily
  • Hair loss may occur in the area with the rash

Read full article on eczema.

Psoriasis

Share on PinterestMediaJet/Wikimedia Commons

  • Scaly, silvery, sharply defined skin patches
  • Commonly located on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back
  • May be itchy or asymptomatic

Read full article on psoriasis.

Cellulitis

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Caused by bacteria or fungi entering through a crack or cut in the skin
  • Red, painful, swollen skin with or without oozing that spreads quickly
  • Hot and tender to the touch
  • Fever, chills, and red streaking from the rash might be a sign of serious infection requiring medical attention

Read full article on cellulitis.

Measles

Share on PinterestContent Providers(s): CDC/Dr. Heinz F. Eichenwald , via Wikimedia Commons

  • Symptoms include fever, sore throat, red, watery eyes, loss of appetite, cough, and runny nose
  • Red rash spreads from the face down the body three to five days after first symptoms appear
  • Tiny red spots with blue-white centers appear inside the mouth

Read full article on measles.

Basal cell carcinoma

  • Raised, firm, and pale areas that may resemble a scar
  • Dome-like, pink or red, shiny, and pearly areas that may have a sunk-in center, like a crater
  • Visible blood vessels on the growth
  • Easy bleeding or oozing wound that doesn’t seem to heal, or heals and then reappears

Read full article on basal cell carcinoma.

Squamous cell carcinoma

  • Often occurs in areas exposed to UV radiation, such as the face, ears, and back of the hands
  • Scaly, reddish patch of skin progresses to a raised bump that continues to grow
  • Growth that bleeds easily and doesn’t heal, or heals and then reappears

Read full article on squamous cell carcinoma.

Melanoma

  • The most serious form of skin cancer, more common in fair-skinned people
  • Mole anywhere on the body that has irregularly shaped edges, asymmetrical shape, and multiple colors
  • Mole that has changed color or gotten bigger over time
  • Usually larger than a pencil eraser

Read full article on melanoma.

Lupus

Share on PinterestBy Doktorinternet (Own work) , via Wikimedia Commons

  • Symptoms include fatigue, headaches, fever, and swollen or painful joints
  • Scaly, disc-shaped rash that doesn’t itch or hurt
  • Scaly red patches or ring shapes most commonly located on the shoulders, forearms, neck, and upper torso that worsen with exposure to sunlight
  • Warm, red rash that spreads across the cheeks and bridge of the nose like butterfly wings and worsens in the sun

Read full article on lupus.

Contact dermatitis

  • Appears hours to days after contact with an allergen
  • Rash has visible borders and appears where your skin touched the irritating substance
  • Skin is itchy, red, scaly, or raw
  • Blisters that weep, ooze, or become crusty

Read full article on contact dermatitis.

Vitiligo

  • Loss of pigment in the skin due to autoimmune destruction of the cells that give skin its color
  • Focal pattern: loss of skin color in only a few small areas that may merge together
  • Segmental pattern: depigmentation on one side of the body
  • Premature graying of scalp and/or facial hair

Read full article on vitiligo.

Wart

Share on PinterestDermnet

  • Caused by many different types of a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • May be found on the skin or mucous membranes
  • May occur singly or in groups
  • Contagious and may be passed to others

Read full article on warts.

Chickenpox

  • Clusters of itchy, red, fluid-filled blisters in various stages of healing all over the body
  • Rash is accompanied by fever, body aches, sore throat, and loss of appetite
  • Remains contagious until all blisters have crusted over

Read full article on chickenpox.

Seborrheic eczema

  • Yellow or white scaly patches that flake off
  • Affected areas may be red, itchy, greasy, or oily
  • Hair loss may occur in the area with the rash

Read full article on seborrheic eczema.

Keratosis pilaris

  • Common skin condition most often seen on the arms and legs, but might also occur on the face, buttocks, and trunk
  • Often clears up on its own by age 30
  • Patches of skin that appear bumpy, slightly red, and feel rough
  • May get worse in dry weather

Read full article on keratosis pilaris.

Ringworm

Share on PinterestJames Heilman/Wikimedia Commons

  • Circular-shaped scaly rashes with raised border
  • Skin in the middle of the ring appears clear and healthy, and the edges of the ring may spread outward
  • Itchy

Read full article on ringworm.

Melasma

  • Common skin condition that causes dark patches to appear on the face and, rarely, the neck, chest, or arms
  • More common in pregnant women (chloasma) and individuals with darker skin color and heavy sun exposure
  • No other symptoms beyond skin discoloration
  • May go away on its own within a year or may become permanent

Read full article on melasma.

Impetigo

  • Common in babies and children
  • Rash is often located in the area around the mouth, chin, and nose
  • Irritating rash and fluid-filled blisters that pop easily and form a honey-colored crust

Read full article on impetigo.

Dry skin in face

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