Products and Tips to Deal with Itchy, Dry Skin On Your Face
How to Fix Dry, Itchy Skin
Rough, dry patches of skin on your face that won't go away no matter how much moisturizer and facial oil you slather on? A number of different culprits could be to blame, experts say.
"Skin naturally has the ability to protect itself from the environment and maintain hydration," explains Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. But when skin's barrier becomes disrupted, it can develop microscopic cracks—which can result in loss of hydration and a texture that feels dry and itchy instead of supple and smooth, he says. "A defective skin barrier can be caused by genetics, the environment, or the wrong personal care products."
Skin that's too dry can feel tight, itchy, and flaky, says New York City–based dermatologist Debra Jaliman, M.D. "It also makes lines more prominent and makes skin look dull," she says. (Related: The Best Moisturizers for Every Skin Type)
Here, the at-home remedies and treatments you need to know about to nix dry skin quick.
Causes of Dry Skin
Colder temps create a perfect storm for dry, itchy skin. The main reason? Winter air tends to be drier with lower humidity levels that zap moisture out of skin, says Dr. Jaliman. "In the colder months, the problem does get worse," she tells us. "Your skin loses moisture in the wintertime, [since] this drop in humidity and increase in cold air makes skin dry and flaky."
Anna Guanche, M.D., a dermatologist and celebrity beauty expert based in Calabasas, CA, notes that common cold-weather habits can exacerbate the problem, too. "When it's cold outside, we often crank the heaters and take long, hot showers to warm up," she says.
Certain medical conditions (such as hypothyroidism, anemia, diabetes, and some nerve disorders) can cause dry skin as well, Dr. Guanche adds. Other possible culprits: dehydration, not applying moisturizer, and not eating enough healthy fats.
How to Tell If Your Dry Skin Is Really Eczema
The common skin condition eczema is another possible cause for dry, itchy skin—but not all cases of dry skin are eczema. "Anyone can have dry, itchy skin," says Dr. Jaliman. "You don't have to have eczema to experience it."
The main difference is that eczema's "itch" is driven by the release of a chemical in the skin called histamine, explains Dr. Guanche. "Though other people can experience itching of the skin without this underlying process, it's generally less intense," she adds. Eczema usually looks more intense, too: It can resemble a red, scaly rash.
If you think you're experiencing eczema on your face or neck, book an appointment with your dermatologist, who can help you determine the most effective treatment options. (Related: The Best Products for Eczema)
Lifestyle Habits That Help with Dry Skin
Dr. Guanche stresses the importance of taking shorter showers and baths, using cooler water that won't dry out skin even more. She also recommends filling your plate with lots of healthy fats (think fatty fish like salmon, olive oil, avocados, and nuts and seeds), and drinking plenty of water to keep skin hydrated from the inside out.
Also worth trying? "Consider a humidifier in your bedroom to help improve humidity in the air to support healthy skin barrier function," says Dr. Zeichner. (We like the VAVA Cool Mist Humidifier, which is affordable and small enough to fit on a bedside table.)
Best Products for Dry, Itchy Skin On Your Face
It may seem obvious, but if you're suffering from dry, itchy skin on your face, moisturizing often is key. "Applying cream after a shower will lock in moisturizer," says Dr. Jaliman. "Don't skip the nighttime application, as this is when it will penetrate skin more efficiently."
When shopping for new skin-care products, look for ingredients like colloidal oatmeal, shea butter, hyaluronic acid, squalene, glycerin, and jojoba oil. Moisture-rich formulas with these ingredients "will keep your skin supple and hydrated," says Dr. Jaliman.
You'll also want to take a careful look at the products that are already in your medicine cabinet. Dr. Zeichner suggests avoiding harsh soaps and being careful not to overuse exfoliating ingredients, which can actually lead to more irritation. "If you see dry, flaky skin, rather than exfoliating first, listen to what your skin needs and apply a moisturizer," he says. "After moisturizing, if you still see flakes, then it's okay to exfoliate."
Best Facial Cleanser
Expert pick: Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser
Many facial cleansers can make dry skin even drier, but not this one. Dr. Zeichner loves the affordable drugstore formula, which is fragrance-free and, crucially, doesn't contain any soap.
"Cleansers should be gentle and soap-free, as true soaps have an alkaline pH and can lead to skin irritation," he explains. "This hydrating, cleansing lotion is gentle but effective at removing dirt, oil, and even makeup from the face."
Best Facial Moisturizer
Expert pick: CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion
Dr. Jaliman loves that this fragrance-free lotion is packed with hyaluronic acid and ceramides, two ingredients that can do wonders to heal cracked, dry skin. "Ceramides improve barrier function, and hyaluronic acid plumps the skin, making it look hydrated," she says.
Expert pick: iS Clinical Hydra-Cool Serum
It may be on the pricier side, but applying this rich serum under your moisturizer at night will help take your complexion from dull and dried-out to bright and glowing. "It's great for soothing dry facial skin as it contains menthol, which cools skin, leaving a fresh complexion," says Dr. Guanche.
Expert pick: NYX Total Control Drop Foundation
If you wear makeup regularly, make sure you're using a formula that won't further irritate skin. New York City–based dermatologist Howard Sobel, M.D., likes this one from NYX. "It includes glycerin as an ingredient, therefore reducing dryness caused by makeup," he says. Also good? More than 20 different foundation shades, so you can find the perfect match for your skin tone.
Best Lip Balm
Expert pick: Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment
Lips are one of the most dryness-prone areas of the face, and when in doubt, you can't go wrong with this drugstore balm—one of Dr. Guanche's top picks. Soothing ingredients like glycerin, petrolatum, and lanolin help heal a cracked pout.
Best Body Lotion
Expert pick: Vaseline Intensive Care Body Lotion Cocoa Radiant
If your dry skin is more of a head-to-toe situation, reach for this drugstore moisturizer. "This ultra-light lotion contains both cocoa butter and shea butter to help soften the outer skin layer," says Dr. Zeichner. "It's easy to spread and does not leave skin feeling heavy." Plus, you can't beat the price.