Dry skin is a common skin issue, especially during the cold and windy months.

If your facial skin is rough, flaky, or thirsty, there are ways you can help rehydrate and prevent dry skin from taking over.

Read on to learn the top tips for keeping the skin on your face soft, supple, and dewy all year round.

Dryness occurs when your skin doesn’t have enough water or oil.

Dry skin is known in the medical world as xerosis or xeroderma. It usually comes from a loss of fats that keep the skin moist. It can also occur due to a lack of natural moisturizing factors, like lactic acid, sugars, and urea.

Dry skin can affect anyone at any time, and it doesn’t usually just affect the face. You may have dry skin year-round or just during cold weather months, when the temperatures drop and the humidity lowers.

You may also notice dry skin when you:

  • are residing in a dry climate or using dry indoor heat
  • are traveling, for instance going to a low humidity area or experiencing dry air on an airplane
  • come into contact with chlorine in a swimming pool
  • experience excessive sun exposure
  • are exposed to wind or cold
  • use harsh alkaline soaps
  • take frequent long, hot showers
  • come into contact with an irritant or allergen
  • experience dehydration

Medical reasons for dry skin can include:

  • skin conditions
  • thyroid or endocrine disorders
  • vitamin or mineral deficiencies
  • certain medications

Severely dry skin can lead to superficial cracks in the skin. This increases the risk of getting an infection on the skin. If you suspect you have an infection, you should consult a doctor.

Symptoms of infection include:

  • skin tenderness
  • skin that’s warm to the touch
  • redness
  • cracked skin that may ooze pus
  • fever (rarely)

If the skin on your face is dry, it may flake or itch. Sometimes, it can feel tight to touch or even hurt.

Other symptoms of dry skin include:

  • scaling
  • peeling
  • redness
  • feeling flushed
  • warm cheeks
  • an ashy look for those with a darker complexion
  • rough or sandpaper-like skin
  • bleeding (rarely)

Dry skin can generally be treated by tweaking your skin care routine or changing some environmental factors.

Sometimes dry skin is a sign of an underlying medical condition that should be treated by your doctor.

If your dry skin won’t go away with some tweaks to your skin care routine, you may want to speak with a dermatologist.

As mentioned above, dry skin can be a symptom of many things, including:

  • environment
  • aging
  • medications
  • skin conditions
  • dehydration
  • metabolic or endocrine disorders
  • vitamin or mineral deficiencies

Aging

Dry skin can be a symptom of advancing in age.

As you age, your skin naturally produces less oil, which can result in your skin becoming drier.

Medications

If your skin is unexplainably dry, the answer could be lurking in your medicine cabinet.

Medications that may cause skin dryness include:

Skin conditions

Sometimes, dry skin is symptomatic of a skin condition, including:

These conditions may present as dry, itchy, scaly, red, or bumpy patches of skin.

Dehydration

Have you been drinking plenty of water?

If you’re dehydrated, it can have an effect on your skin, presenting as skin that’s itchy and dull.

Endocrine or metabolic disorders

Thyroid disorders or endocrine disorders can disrupt the skin’s natural function by changing the levels of thyroid hormone in the blood. These disorders include:

If you suspect something more is behind your dry skin, talk to a doctor right away.

Vitamin or mineral deficiencies

If you’re not getting enough of certain vitamins or minerals, that may be causing your dry skin. Make sure you get plenty:

If you suspect you’re not getting enough, you may want to take a supplement for dry skin. However, always talk with a doctor before adding supplements to your diet.

Before you start switching up your products, there are several simple things you can try to ease dryness. Most are basic lifestyle changes that can be used together to alleviate your symptoms.

Modify your shower

If you can, skip hot showers in favor of lukewarm ones. Hot water can dry your skin by removing naturally occurring oils.

You may also find it beneficial to reduce your time in the shower to 5 to 10 minutes. This avoids unnecessary exposure to water, which can leave your skin drier than it was before you hopped in the shower.

Avoid showering or bathing more than once a day, as this can worsen dry skin. It’s also best to use an unscented soap designed for sensitive skin.

Wash your face gently

When selecting a face wash, avoid soaps and cleansers that contain harsh ingredients, like:

  • alcohol
  • retinoids
  • alpha hydroxy acids
  • sulfates
  • fragrance

These ingredients may dry your skin and cause irritation or inflammation.

There are several mild and moisturizing soaps without fragrances that you can try.

You should look for one or more of the following ingredients that retain moisture:

Syndets, or synthetic cleaning agents, are another beneficial soap ingredient. They often contain chemicals, such as sulphur trioxide, sulphuric acid, and ethylene oxide, which are gentle on sensitive skin.

Take care to be gentle as you apply soaps or cleansers to your face.

Use your fingertips to gently rub your face instead of using a more abrasive sponge or washcloth. Don’t scrub the skin on your face, as this can cause irritation.

Avoid washing your face multiple times a day

If you’re experiencing dry skin, it may be best to only wash your face at night, unless you’re working out.

This cleanses your face after a long day of collecting dirt and helps prevent you from eliminating necessary oils from the skin.

Don’t exfoliate your skin on a daily basis. Instead, try just once per week. This can reduce irritation associated with harsh scrubbing.

Apply moisturizer

Find a moisturizer that works for your skin, and use it regularly, especially after you shower. Applying it at this time can help your skin retain moisture.

Your facial moisturizer should be free of fragrance and alcohol. These ingredients can cause unnecessary irritation.

You may want to try a moisturizer that includes a sunscreen to protect yourself from exposure to sunlight. Look for products that help retain water in the skin.

There are also great moisturizers for sensitive skin.

To restore moisture, choose a heavier, oil-based moisturizer with ingredients that help keep your skin hydrated.

Petrolatum-based products are best for dry or cracked skin. They have more staying power than creams do and are more effective at preventing water from evaporating from your skin.

Use lip balm

Lip balm can help relieve dry, chapped, or cracked lips.

The lip balm should contain petrolatum, petroleum jelly, or mineral oil. Make sure it feels good when you apply it and doesn’t cause your lips to tingle. If it does, try another product.

Bundle up in soft cotton

Exposure to cold weather may worsen dry skin.

Try bundling a scarf around your face to prevent dryness. However, keep in mind that your skin may react to the materials in the scarf and the detergents you use to wash it.

Avoid rough, scratchy fabrics, tight clothing, and wool. Instead, try cotton.

Detergent should be hypoallergenic and free of dyes and fragrances. You may enjoy detergent formulated for sensitive skin.

Try a humidifier

Low humidity may be a factor in drying your skin.

Use a humidifier in rooms where you spend a lot of time. Adding moisture to the air may prevent your skin from drying. Make sure your humidifier is easy to clean, which can prevent bacteria buildup.

As a low-cost alternative, you can also place a bowl of water in the room. This also avoids the risk of bacteria, fungal buildup, or unwanted microscopic particles in the air.

Skip hot and spicy foods and drinks

It’s best to avoid certain foods, like citrus fruits, very hot and spicy food, large quantities of hot drinks, and alcohol.

Trying basic first-line treatments for dry skin on the face should relieve your symptoms.

Contact your doctor if you:

  • experience dry skin after regular skin care
  • suspect that you have an infection from cracked skin
  • believe you may have another, more serious skin condition

Conditions that appear to be mild dry skin at first but require more in-depth medical treatment include:

  • atopic dermatitis
  • eczema
  • seborrheic dermatitis
  • psoriasis
  • genetic disorders
  • endocrine, internal, or systemic issues
  • deficiency, excess, or imbalance of nutrients

Your doctor may recommend a prescription treatment for your dry skin. These treatments may include:

  • topical creams that contain urea, lactic acid, or pyrrolidine carboxylic acid (PCA)
  • topical oils
  • corticosteroids
  • oral medications

Your doctor will likely recommend these medications in combination with routine skin care.

To prevent future dryness, implement a healthy skin care routine.

General tips

  • Wash your face daily with a mild cleanser and lukewarm water.
  • Choose skin care products suited to your skin type.
  • Protect your skin by wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30.
  • Apply lotion to your skin after you shower or bathe to lock in moisture.
  • Use petroleum jelly to moisturize dry skin.

If you experience dry skin at a particular time of year, such as during cold months, make sure you adjust your skin care routine.

It may be necessary to switch products or shower routines during certain times of the year to avoid a dry face.

Switching up your shower routine or otherwise tweaking your skin care regimen should help ease symptoms of dry skin within a week or so.

In order to see a permanent change, be consistent with your lifestyle changes. Stick to a regular routine to ensure lasting results.

If your symptoms persist or worsen, consult your doctor. In some cases, dryness may be a sign of an underlying skin condition. Your doctor or dermatologist can work with you to find the cause of any dryness and recommend a treatment plan.