- Dry skin patches on the face can be caused by lifestyle or environmental factors, certain skin conditions or underlying medical disorders.
- Many instances can be successfully treated with over-the-counter products, natural home remedies or making simple changes to your skin care routine.
- Chronic or severe symptoms may indicate a medical condition and should be evaluated by your dermatologist or physician.
Dry skin, which is medically referred to as xerosis, is a common, treatable skin condition characterized by an irritated, red, itchy, scaly and rough complexion.
Dry patches of skin on the face are quite common, but in some instances, may signify an underlying health issue. Identifying the cause is therefore important in finding an appropriate solution and treatment plan.
Dry skin patches on the face are usually a result of lifestyle habits and environmental factors. It is important to identify these causes of dry skin is an important step toward remedying your symptoms.
Harsh skin care ingredients
Harsh ingredients in skin care products can strip the skin of its protective oils and lead to irritation and dryness.
Cleansers and other skin care products that contain common offenders include sodium lauryl sulfate, propylene glycol, parabens, formaldehyde and alcohol (especially isopropanol and benzyl alcohol) and should be avoided. Opt for fragrance-free and gentle skin care products to help maintain adequate moisture levels within the skin.
Taking long hot showers or baths can damage the outer layer of the epidermis and cause itchy, irritated and dry skin. Avoid using very hot water and limit bathing to no more than 10 minutes. Gently pat dry and moisturize immediately afterward.
Winter and low-humidity climates
Cold weather and low humidity—hallmarks of winter—impair skin cell turnover and decrease skin elasticity, leading to rough, scaly and dry patches of skin. To counter these effects, use a good moisturizer regularly and protect your face during cold weather; indoors consider using a humidifier.
Being overzealous when exfoliating can damage the acid mantle—an acidic layer of sebum and sweat that protects the skin from pollution and moisture loss—and can lead to irritated, dry patches on the face. Exfoliate no more than 3 times a week for oily complexions, and 1–2 times weekly for naturally dry skin.
UV radiation from the sun damages the skin barrier, which can aggravate the symptoms of pre-existing skin conditions and cause sunburn or dry patches of facial skin. UVB radiation is particularly damaging to the skin barrier; wear a high-SPF, broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect your skin.
Naturally dry or sensitive skin
Those who have sensitive skin or dry skin—as opposed to oily, combination, or normal skin —are more prone to developing dry patches of skin on the face. Those with naturally dry or sensitive skin should apply an appropriate moisturizer regularly and take extra care to avoid external irritants.
Numerous over-the-counter (OTC) skin care products are specially formulated with ingredients that treat dry patches of facial skin. Treatments generally contain a combination of ingredients that fall into one of three categories: humectants, occlusives and emollients.
Humectants are molecules that increase skin hydration and improve its barrier function by absorbing water from the environment and drawing water from the inner layer (the dermis) up to the outer skin layer (epidermis). Humectant-containing products are particularly helpful for conditions characterized by skin barrier impairment, such as eczema and psoriasis.
Occlusives help prevent dry skin patches on the face by forming a water-resistant barrier film over the skin, locking in moisture. Occlusives are best used with an emollient to ensure the skin is optimally moisturized.
- Mineral oil
- Propylene glycol
Emollients are chemical compounds that soften and smooth the skin by filling in small fissures and spaces in the epidermis. Emollients help retain moisture and soothe rough, flaky and dry patches of skin. OTC moisturizers often contain emollients as one of the primary ingredients for treating dry skin.
- Glyceryl stearate
- Shea butter
- Natural oils
Home Remedies for Dry Skin Patches on Face
Home remedies can be inexpensive and effective in treating patches of dry facial skin. Plant-based oils and easy-to-make face masks can be particularly beneficial additions to your skin care routine as they help moisturize and repair dry patches of skin on the face.
Coconut oil improves collagen production, provides UV protection, prevents transdermal water loss and helps repair the epidermis and dermis of the skin, making it an excellent remedy for dry patches of skin. It contains lauric acid, a naturally occurring saturated fatty acid with antimicrobial and antifungal properties that can improve symptoms of various skin disorders.
Shea butter is a potent emollient that contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which help repair and protect the skin barrier. It is well tolerated by individuals with sensitive skin and is especially soothing for psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.
Jojoba oil, despite its name, is actually a wax ester that closely resembles human sebum, or oil. Its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory effects improve skin hydration and help reduce skin damage caused by dermatitis, acne and skin aging.
Oatmeal in colloidal form—finely ground and boiled—is particularly soothing for irritated and dry skin. Oats are a rich source of beta glucans and phenols that act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents to cleanse, moisturize and relieve itchy, irritated, dry patches of skin. Look for skin care products containing colloidal oatmeal or make a DIY oatmeal face mask.
Making simple lifestyle changes can improve your dry skin symptoms and prevent future occurrences.
A balanced diet is important to promoting healthy, radiant skin. Eat a diet rich in nutrients that have been shown to improve skin health, including antioxidants, polyphenols, omega-3s, beta-carotene, and vitamins A and E.
Staying hydrated is also essential, so be sure to drink enough water. Consider consulting with a dietician or nutritionist to formulate a healthy diet plan.
In some cases, dry patches of skin on the face can be due to an underlying medical condition, particularly if the patches are severely irritated, show signs of infection or appear elsewhere on the body. Common medical causes include psoriasis and multiple forms of eczema.
Dry patches of skin due to underlying medical causes should be treated by a dermatologist or physician. The symptoms of psoriasis and eczema can closely resemble each other, so if in doubt, consult a dermatologist.
Eczema, also known as dermatitis, is an umbrella term for a group of skin conditions that cause dry, red, itchy and scaly patches of skin.
Atopic dermatitis, the most common type of eczema, usually appears on the face, neck and creases of elbows and knees. Atopic dermatitis typically afflicts children, but symptoms can continue into or first present in adulthood.
Contact dermatitis develops after coming into physical contact with an irritant or allergen. Common irritants include: detergents, bleach, solvents, rubber latex, poison oak or ivy, hair dye and nickel in jewelry.
Seborrheic dermatitis is a type of eczema that tends to be chronic and can cause red, scaly and dry patches of skin on the face and scalp.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that is characterized by scaly, red and dry patches of skin. Compared to eczema, psoriasis typically causes less itchiness but more thickening, inflammation and scaliness of the skin.
Depending on the underlying cause of the dry skin patches on your face, your dermatologist or physician may prescribe oral medications or prescription-strength topical treatments.
Common prescriptions include topical steroids, oral corticosteroids, antihistamines, antifungal medications and antibiotics.
Dry skin patches on the face are a common dermatological issue that can be treated using a variety of OTC skin care products, home remedies and prescription medications, depending on the cause. If symptoms persist or if you suspect you are suffering from a more serious medical condition, seek advice from a physician.
By implementing a healthy lifestyle and optimizing a good skin care routine that is right for your skin type, dry patches of skin can be resolved and replaced with a healthy, glowing complexion.
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