15 Causes For Dry Skin On Your Face & How To Treat Them

While some people might associate dry patches of skin with winter, this problem can strike at any given point in time, especially if you don't moisturize regularly. When you happen to notice a random dry patch on your face, you may immediately panic. Not only can it be unsightly but it can also be difficult to mask with makeup.


As board-certified dermatologist Dr. Flora Kim explained to Women's Health, "In general, dry patches on the face are localized areas where the skin is lacking in moisture," and they often appear differently on each person. While some may be pink, others might be red in color, depending on the severity. Flakiness, crustiness, and scaliness are all unpleasant symptoms that may arise as well. If you suspect you have a dry patch but are unsure, the texture of the patch can be a giveaway — a rough, sandpaper-like area of the skin is often a dry patch.

Inflammation and irritation can also come along with these dry patches, making them uncomfortable to handle. But what causes patchy skin on the face? Turns out there are several culprits that could be to blame — from your environment to the skincare products you use or how often you wash your face. Some cases may even require a medical professional for proper treatment. Let's take a look at some of the most common causes of random dry patches that develop on the facial area.


Underproduction of sebum

One potential culprit behind those dry patches on your skin is the underproduction of sebum — the natural oil your skin creates. "Sebum is an oily substance released by the sebaceous glands of the skin," the founder of SKN Doctor and ambassador for La Roche Posay, Dr. Ewoma Ukeleghe, told Glamour. "It helps to minimize water loss via the skin and help to maintain the skin's flora," Dr Ukeleghe adds. "If there's not enough sebum, the skin can become excessively dry, dull and flaky."


Your skin's oil production can be influenced by all sorts of factors. We're talking about countless culprits — from exposure to allergens or harsh chemicals to using oral contraceptives or prescription acne treatments like Accutane. Luckily, underproduction of sebum can easily be treated by adding a little TLC to your skincare routine. Over-the-counter skincare heroes that are loaded with ceramides or humectants are a great choice as they help rebalance those sebum levels and bring that glow back. The best ingredients to look for are squalane, hyaluronic acid, and glycerol.

Cold weather and dry air

If you notice that your skin changes based on the weather, your dry skin is most likely caused by cold weather or dry air. As the seasons change (particularly during the winter) and the air turns drier, our skin tends to suffer from moisture loss — but luckily, this can be treated easily. Your best friend for those cooler fall and winter days? A rich and heavy moisturizer keeps your skin hydrated and radiant, even when the elements work against you. Regular and consistent moisturizing is your most potent weapon in the battle against winter dryness. 


It's not just the outdoor air that can cause dry and flakey skin — the air in your home can be dry, too. Air humidifiers are a great way to reintroduce some moisture into the air, creating a more skin-friendly environment. "Low humidity and dry climates draw moisture out of the skin," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Azadeh Shirazi told Byrdie. "Humidifiers release water vapors into the air, allowing us to better control the way our skin responds. The skin holds onto water more effectively in a humid environment and stays more hydrated." Of course, you can also do it the old-school way by simply adding a bowl of water to your bedroom and refilling it as it evaporates. Either way, keeping an eye on the moisture level of the air (particularly in your bedroom) can do wonders for your skin.



Hold the soap — we're diving into the world of overwashing, where too much love for that face of yours can actually do more harm than good. All that excessive washing can strip your skin of its natural oils, leaving you with a dry and irritated face. If you suffer from dry patches, skipping washing your face with products in the morning and using just water instead can potentially help.


"There isn't a need to rewash our face in the morning as there isn't anything to remove such as makeup or sunscreen," aesthetician Athena Hewett revealed to Allure. "The natural oil our bodies produce is good for our skin — it provides a first defense barrier for the external factors of the day." If the idea of washing your face just once terrifies you, consider doing an oil cleanse in the morning. "Cleansing oils don't disrupt our natural oil barriers, so you can't overwash with an oil cleanser," Hewett added.

Apart from washing your face no more than twice a day, opt for a gentle face wash that treats your skin like the delicate gem it is. Washing your face in the evening is the golden rule, as it gets rid of any makeup, dirt, and environmental pollutants on your skin. 


Skincare with harsh chemicals

Let's talk about skincare with a side of caution — we're all about taking care of our skin, but sometimes, those seemingly magical products can turn out to be a bit of a double-edged sword due to their harsh ingredients. First up on our watchlist: Alcohol. "Alcohol can be drying and dehydrating on the skin, pulling out the water from within, which affects the skin barrier function and makes the skin sensitive," celebrity dermatologist Dr. Chytra Anand revealed to Vogue India. "This can create irritation, redness, sensitivity, and even eczema on the skin."


Fragrance is another ingredient to steer clear of if you suffer from dry or sensitive skin. And salicylic and glycolic acid? They might be the rockstars of the skincare world, helping combat acne and fine lines, but they can also leave your skin feeling like it's in dire need of hydration. If you are using any skincare with a high percentage of active ingredients, ensure you're not overdoing it. 

If you're part of the dry skin squad, it's all about knowing when to use these ingredients and when to give them a break. For some, that might mean using them sparingly; for others, that might mean giving them the "thanks, but no thanks" treatment. As for which ingredients to reach for, "Look for ingredients like ceramides in foundations and BB creams," Dr. Anand said. "They are the building blocks of the skin barrier function, and are essential for moisture control of the skin and help protect the skin from stress."


Hot showers

Hot showers might be the ultimate soothing escape after a long day, but as much as those steamy sessions feel like heaven, they can actually cause your skin more harm than good. The higher the temperature, the more likely the water will strip your skin of its natural oils, leaving you with that not-so-relaxing sensation of dryness. "Any skin condition characterized by a defective skin barrier can be worsened by a hot shower," board-certified dermatologist Shari Marchbein shared with Allure. "[It] strips the skin of sebum, the healthy fats and oils necessary for skin health, and dehydrates the skin."


Because of this, we highly advise you to dial down the temperature a notch or two. Lukewarm water is like a compromise between indulgence and skin-loving care. Your skin will thank you, trust us. And here's an extra tip: Keep those showers short and sweet. Prolonged exposure to water — especially hot water — can decrease your skin's hydration levels and give those pesky dry patches a warm welcome. So, get in, do your thing, and then step out before your skin starts losing all of that precious hydration.


Hydration isn't just about the products you slather on; it starts from within. It's crucial that you drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, not just for your skin but for your overall health. "Your skin is the outward barrier to the environment and helps transfer water in the form of sweat and also metabolic waste," registered doctor of public health and nutritionist Wendy Bazilian revealed to Forbes. "But if you don't get adequate hydration, your skin will be forced to give up moisture to other, more critical bodily functions. Therefore, chronic dehydration can lead to dry, wrinkled skin."


Now, if you're wondering just how much water you need daily, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends 11 cups for adult women — approximately 2.7 liters or 91 ounces. However, Bazilian notes that some of your water intake should come from food. "About 20% of daily fluid intake can come from foods — think primarily water-rich vegetables and fruit — but also other foods and types of meals that are water-rich. Tea, coffee, milk and other beverages count, too," she added.

Nutritional deficiency

If you suffer from dry skin, your lack of vitamin and nutrient intake could be to blame. "Nutrient deficiencies alter bodily functions and processes at the most basic cellular level," Tricia L. Psota, a partner at Nutrition On Demand, told Everyday Health. While nutritional deficiency can result in more severe consequences than just dry skin patches, it can also be a reason for a sudden change in skin moisture.


After all, your skin doesn't just thrive on lotions and potions; it's also fueled by the nutrients you feed your body. According to a study published in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, your skin might become more dry when your body is running low on essential zinc, iron, vitamin D, or vitamin A. 

Luckily, a consultation with your doctor and some bloodwork can help determine whether you have any nutritional deficiency. While popular supplements like collagen or fish oil are known for helping your skin reach its full potential, we encourage you to still go see a healthcare professional who can help you determine just which vitamins and minerals you might need a bit more of.


Cortisol, a hormone that increases in our body as a response to stress, can slow down the production of our skin's sebum, which often results in dryness. "We get dry, rough, and much more irritated because those healthy oils act as a protective layer for us," dermatologist Dr. Loretta Ciraldo told The New York Times.


Now, we get it — it's simply impossible to live an entirely stress-free life, but if you have been going through a lot lately and notice your skin is lacking moisture, stress might be the cause. So, while navigating the world of deadlines, commitments, and everyday hustle, remember to take a breather and work on your mental well-being. As dermatologist Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd added, "90 percent of our stress is not the stressor itself, but how we deal with that stressor."

So, find some time to decompress, whether that involves diving into a meditation app, getting cozy with a good book, or taking a walk in nature — whatever floats your stress-relief boat. "This isn't B.S.," Dr. Ciraldo said. "These are things we can do for our skin and ourselves that don't cost anything, but the reward is great."


Underlying medical conditions

Now, let us start this by saying that, in most cases, dry skin is relatively harmless. "While certainly uncomfortable, dry skin is rarely ever a serious medical concern," dermatologist Ming Jih told the Houston Methodist. However, if you are having persistently dry patches and nothing seems to help, it might be time to visit a doctor and check for any potential underlying medical conditions. Dry skin can be caused by psoriasis, diabetes, thyroid disease, or kidney disease, among others. If your dry skin has been worrying you for a while or has taken a turn for the worse, seeking a professional opinion is a wise step.


Think of it this way — your skin is like your body's messenger, and it's trying to tell you something. If it's been dropping hints about dry skin that just won't quit, it's time to listen up. A visit to the doctor isn't just a sign of being proactive; it's a way to ensure that you're taking the best care of yourself. Once a doctor has figured out the cause of your dry skin, they'll help you tackle it. They'll likely tailor a treatment plan, addressing the root cause and helping you say goodbye to those persistent dry patches. Don't hesitate to reach out to the professionals because your skin — and your overall well-being — will thank you for it.


Staying hydrated isn't just about drinking a gallon of water a day or following other metrics; it's also about consuming foods rich in water content. More specifically, fruits, vegetables, yogurts, and soups are examples of foods that are both delicious and packed with the hydration your body craves — and your skin needs. "Your body depends on water to function and survive," wellness education specialist Erin Famulare told Sharp Health News. "It helps regulate body temperature, lubricate joints, flush out waste products, and protect our organs and tissue. Eating foods high in water can help you stay hydrated, especially on hot summer days."


So, apart from drinking water, a healthy diet rich in foods that contain plenty of water is a great way to help your skin reach that dewy and soft state. Whether you're enjoying a refreshing slice of watermelon, crunching on cucumber sticks, or sipping on a bowl of broth-based soup, hydrating foods provide a flavorful and effective way to replenish your body's water reserves, especially if drinking enough water is a struggle for you for any reason (no judgment here!).


Medications can sometimes wreak havoc on your skin, leading to unwelcome side effects such as general excessive dryness or the appearance of dry spots. Among the most notorious culprits are medications like blood-thinning agents, topical antibiotics, and various heart and blood pressure medications. Even seemingly harmless treatments, such as acne medications and antihistamines, can trigger skin dryness as a side effect. "With Accutane, people will often get really dry skin and a dry mouth," associate professor of dermatology Dr. Suzanne Olbricht revealed to Harvard Health Publishing


Moreover, long-term use of antihistamines can cause not only chronic skin dryness but also more significant problems. "Because of their effects on the oil production for the skin, long-term use can lead to dry, itchy skin," William Reisacher, director of allergy services at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian, explained to Allure. "They can also produce dryness in the nose and throat region, causing post-nasal drip and nosebleeds." Additionally, cholesterol-lowering drugs, chemotherapy medications, and certain supplements have also been known to affect skin health.

The impact of medications on skin health can vary widely, with some individuals experiencing minor dryness and others potentially developing more severe symptoms. Regardless of the specific medication or treatment, being aware of potential side effects so that you can take proactive steps to stop them if they arise is crucial. If you suspect that a medication is causing dryness (or any other issues), consult your healthcare provider immediately.


Alcohol consumption

Alcohol consumption is believed to have quite an impact on skin health, though it often sparks debate among health experts. While moderate alcohol consumption may not necessarily affect your skin, excessive or prolonged alcohol intake can indeed take a toll on its appearance and overall health. According to New York-based nutritionist Jairo Rodriguez, alcohol is really bad for skin health. "Alcohol is actually one of the worst, most aggressive compounds to destroy your skin," he told Vogue. "I always joke with my patients, 'If you want to get older, go ahead and drink!'" If you drink almost daily, the effects of that will be noticeable on your skin. "If you look at a [person] who has been drinking for 20 or 30 years and someone the same age who hasn't at all, we see a massive difference in the skin," Rodriguez added. 


While acknowledging the potential negative effects of excessive alcohol consumption on skin health is essential, it's also important to adopt a balanced perspective. Enjoying an occasional drink is unlikely to have a drastic impact on your skin, particularly if you prioritize other aspects of skincare, such as hydration, sun protection, and a healthy diet.


The effects of smoking on one's overall health have been well-documented, but its impact on the skin is often overlooked. It shouldn't be, though, as dermatologists have warned that smoking can compromise the appearance and vitality of your skin. "Smoking causes constriction of blood flow to your skin, depriving your skin of the necessary oxygen and nutrients, and also leads to harmful free radicals and pollutants that cause further damage to your skin," dermatologist Dr. Michael Kassardjian revealed to Business Insider. Apart from that, tobacco can also increase the rate at which your collagen deteriorates. "This leads to damage of skin fibers of collagen and elastin that causes the loss of integrity and elasticity of the skin," Kassardjian added. 


In addition to smoking's internal effects, cigarette smoke is packed with harmful free radicals and pollutants that irritate the skin. Also, exposure to the heat from smoking exacerbates the damage. "Cigarette smoke decreases moisture in the skin, so the skin of smokers is generally drier than non-smokers," dermatologist Dr. Papri Sarkar told Business Insider. This means that quitting smoking is essential for maintaining healthy, vibrant skin.

Sun exposure

Exposure to sunlight is not only important for the synthesis of vitamin D but also for our overall well-being. Unfortunately, excessive sun exposure can be incredibly damaging to the skin, leading to dryness and irritation. "When the sun's rays hit the skin, regardless of the skin type, there will be free-radical damage. But the reaction on the skin surface will vary across skin types," dermatologist Dr Chytra Anand explained to Vogue. "Either way, UV rays damage and kill skin cells leading to sunburn, blisters, dry, dull and uneven skin tone, pigmentation and a major loss of collagen."


To fight these negative effects of sun exposure, dermatologists recommend using sunscreens with moisturizing properties. Additionally, other preventive measures such as seeking out shade when possible, wearing sun-protective clothing (hello, hats!), and avoiding peak sun hours can help minimize the drying effects of sun exposure. Of course, this is by no means to say that you shouldn't enjoy the sun — just ensure you're enjoying it safely.


Exfoliating your skin is crucial for removing dead skin cells and encouraging healthy cell turnover — both of which can help prevent dry patches from forming. So, if you don't exfoliate at all, you can experience severe dryness, as the dead skin cells on your face accumulate and lead to not only a dull complexion but also potentially clogged pores. As a result, your skin can appear rough and flaky, and your moisturizer can't penetrate as deeply no matter how much you use.


Of course, overdoing it can irritate your skin, which is why you need to listen to it and always exfoliate according to your skin type. "There is a sweet spot when it comes to exfoliation, and a lot of it really depends on your specific skin type and degree of sensitivity. It's important not to overexfoliate and risk disrupting the skin barrier to the point that it's unable to perform its function of keeping irritants and infectious agents out and keeping moisture and hydration in," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Rebecca Marcus told the Sunday Edit. "If you're not exfoliating enough, you may experience dryness, dullness, or acne from clogged pores."

The exfoliation method you use can be determined by how your skin responds to it. Keep in mind that everyone's skin is different and what works for a friend of yours might not work for you. However, we recommend always starting with very gentle exfoliation (regardless of whether it's physical or chemical) and seeing how your skin responds. And don't forget — after exfoliating, moisturizing your skin is crucial!