“Why is my skin so dry and flaky?” We answer this question here, plus how to treat flaky skin with the right routine to prevent peeling and dryness. 

Why is my skin so dry and flaky?

Dry flaky skin on the face can be experienced by all skin types, not just naturally dry complexions, for several reasons. 

Flaking occurs when the skin’s moisture barrier is impaired which leads to the surface layer peeling off. 

Dryness and flaking go hand in hand. When the skin barrier is damaged (cracked) the skin can’t hold onto moisture - it escapes through the cracks. 

This dry skin is susceptible to flaking off; especially around the nose, mouth and forehead areas.

Flaky, peeling skin can be caused by:

  • Windburn
  • Sunburn
  • Retinoid use. When you first introduce retinoids into your routine, there is an adjustment period where the skin usually reacts with flaking and irritation. 
  • Irritating skin care products or over-exfoliation 
  • Low humidity in the wintertime 
  • Some medications
  • Underlying health issues. If dry flaky skin on the face persists, in spite of a correct skincare routine, we recommend speaking to your trusted health professional.

Flaking is your skin’s signal for help to restore a damaged barrier and add much-needed moisture. The best skin care products for dry flaky skin address these problems.

How to treat flaky skin

Pause the use of retinoids, AHAs and BHA

It might be tempting to exfoliate dry, peeling skin with acid-based exfoliants like glycolic acid, citric acid or salicylic but this will make a flaky situation worse. 

Exfoliating healthy skin encourages skin rejuvenation which leads to an improvement in texture and tone. However, exfoliating skin which is already peeling off makes the barrier more vulnerable and sensitised. 

After sloughing away flakes, the skin may look better for a short period but ultimately the dry/peeling skin cycle becomes worse. 

As we touched on earlier, retinoids (retinol, retinoic acid, adapalene, tretinoin, etc) are known to cause dryness and flaking when first introduced into a routine. Prescription retinoids - tretinoin and adapalene - can be particularly aggressive. 

This period of flakiness is expected and with time, as skin becomes accustomed to the retinoid, these symptoms usually subside. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case and if flakiness is persisting it may be a sign your skin can’t tolerate the strength of the retinoid you’re using.

Always follow retinol application with a moisturiser to help reduce flakiness and transepidermal water loss (TEWL). 

Soften with emollient-rich facial oil

Plant oils offer emollient properties which soften rough skin cell edges and smooth the appearance of flaky skin. Emollients increase the presence of lipids on the skin surface, creating a thin, protective film which aids in strengthening the moisture barrier. 

Certain oils are also brimming with antioxidants which fight free radical damage. Free radical activity slows down the healing of a compromised barrier so support your skin with plenty of antioxidant-rich ingredients in a skin care routine for dry flaky skin.

Our favourite antioxidant-packed plant oils include:

Squalene is another superstar emollient. It can penetrate the skin deeply and is absorbed rapidly which provides a barrier of protection without the heaviness of thicker products.

We recommend our Moisturising Active Oil Serum for the Face

Brimming with nourishing plant oils and squalene In our user trials of the Oil Serum, 90% of participants said their skin looked more hydrated and moisturised than before they began the trial.

flaky skin

Guard against nighttime water loss

TWEL is linked to the body’s circadian rhythm and we lose more water while we sleep than during our waking hours. 

Finish your PM routine with facial oil. An application of face oil over the top of a cream-based moisturiser is an extra step to fortify the skin against excessive water loss at night. 

Spot treatment with facial oil

If you only have small patches of flakiness, applying a rich moisturiser to your entire face may not be the answer. Instead, try treating the small patches with a light facial oil. 

This can improve the rough appearance without overwhelming other areas of your face with a thick moisturiser.

Choose a healing balm to address severe flaking

Severe and chronic flaking calls for more protection than a lightweight moisturising lotion can provide. Look for a sensitive skin-friendly moisturising balm. 

Balms do not contain water and provide a nourishing protective layer and absorb optimally when applied to damp skin.  

Increase moisture with a hydrating serum 

How to get rid of flaky skin on your face? One of the key answers to this question is to increase skin hydration. Hydration refers to the level of water (moisture) in the skin, not the level of oil. This is why even oily skin types can experience flaky skin on the face.

An effective way to increase moisture is the addition of a hydrating serum. Look for humectant ingredients; those that pull moisture to the surface of the skin. 

Flake-banishing humectant ingredients include:

Hyaluronic acid

A big drink of water for your skin, Hyaluronic acid holds 1000 times its weight in water which means it can deliver serious moisture to thirsty cells. 


Not only does glycerin help the skin retain water, it has ant-fungal properties which can help keep flaky skin clear of infections. 

Aloe vera

A humectant and emollient, aloe vera is one of the best forms of natural skin care for flaky skin.

Caprylyl glycol

A gentle alcohol that’s derived from caprylic acid, a saturated fatty acid, caprylyl glycol is a common multi-tasker in skin care. It helps skin retain moisture and also acts as a preservative 

Multi-Active Hydrating Face Serum | Active Compound

The Active Compound is a one-of-a-kind serum that gives your skin the optimum dose of each essential vitamin and nutrient for glowing skin. Innovative actives, minerals, adaptogens, and antioxidants naturally brighten, soothe, fortify, and support your most radiant complexion morning and night.

Use a humidifier at night

We know that TEWL increases as we sleep. Using a humidifier in the bedroom can help combat peeling skin by increasing the amount of water in the atmosphere. If you live in a dry climate, using a humidifier regularly throughout the day can also fight flaking and help skin appear more supple and moisturised. 

Do you have more questions about skin care for a dry flaky face? Reach out to our team, we’re here to help!