Nearly everyone deals with the occasional bout of dry skin, especially during the colder months. In many cases, switching to a slightly heavier moisturizer can help resolve the issue. But if you have a drier skin type to begin with, even brief exposure to stressors like cold winter air and dry indoor heating can easily cause your skin to crack, peel, or flake. This level of dryness is uncomfortable—and having visibly dry, flaky skin on your face can put a damper on your self-esteem. We know because we’ve been there.
The good news is that, while unpleasant, flaky skin doesn’t have to be persistent: The right routine can help restore your skin’s healthy appearance. Here, we’ll explain what can cause flaky skin and offer up tips on how to address it. You’ll also discover which Kiehl’s products you can use to help keep flakiness at bay. Settle in and read on to learn how to care for dry, flaky skin.
What Can Cause Dry, Flaky Skin?
You can’t see it, but you’re constantly shedding dead skin cells to make room for new cells. This process is usually virtually unnoticeable, but if your skin is overly dry or irritated, it may cause those dead surface cells to slough off in larger chunks, leading to visibly flaky skin. Damage to the skin, like that from sunburns, can also lead to flaking and peeling.
In most cases, flaking isn’t cause for concern. With that being said, excessively flaky skin can sometimes indicate that there’s something else going on with your body. If your skin doesn’t seem to improve with at-home treatments like those described below, you may want to consider consulting a dermatologist. They can help you determine what’s causing your skin concerns and work with you to find the right treatment for your needs.
How To Care For Dry, Flaky Skin On Your Face
When you have flaky skin on your face, following a skincare routine designed to help restore hydration is imperative. Here, discover six tips for managing flaky skin, plus the best Kiehl’s products for the job.
Wash Your Face With a Mild Kiehl’s Cleanser
Regardless of your skin type, you should aim to wash your face twice per day. But choosing the right cleanser for your skin is imperative, as some cleansing agents, like soaps, can leave your skin feeling tight or dry.
If you’re struggling with flakiness, we recommend starting your routine with a gentle creamy cleanser, such as our classic Ultra Facial Cleanser. Made with squalane and avocado oil, this fragrance-free face wash helps dissolve dirt and impurities without stripping the skin. The pH-balanced formula is uniquely designed to help maintain the skin’s natural moisture barrier, and it’s suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin.
Exfoliate To Help Remove Flakes
Exfoliating helps remove dead skin cells, which can improve the appearance of flaking skin. But you want to be careful not to overdo it, as irritating your skin could leave it worse off in the long run.
To remove dead surface skin without causing damage, try exfoliating with a mild face scrub, like Epidermal Re-Texturizing Micro-Dermabrasion. It’s made with shea butter and glycerin and provides gentle exfoliation for an instant skin-smoothing effect. The scrub also helps facilitate the absorption of other products (like moisturizers) for maximum benefits. It’s suitable for all skin types and can be used up to three times per week. We recommend those with sensitive skin start with once-weekly usage—you can adjust the frequency, if needed, according to how your skin responds.
Moisturize Twice Daily
To keep flakiness to a minimum, moisturizing is a must. And this means more than just applying moisturizer. Start with a hydrating serum, like Hydro-Plumping Hydrating Serum, directly after washing your face. Formulated with glycerin, it visibly improves the appearance of dehydrated skin and dullness.
Ultra Facial Cream with Squalane
For your face cream, look for a formula that contains emollient ingredients to help smooth your skin, such as the cult-classic Ultra Facial Cream with Squalane. The customer-favorite formula with squalane and glycerin instantly hydrates dry skin. With consistent use, it also helps restore and strengthen the skin’s natural moisture barrier for smoother, softer skin over time. Plus, it’s ultra-lightweight and fast-absorbing, making it a great pick for all skin types. Apply an even layer to skin morning and night to help keep dryness at bay.
Kiehl’s Tip: Offer skin an additional boost of moisture throughout the day with Cactus Flower & “Tibetan Ginseng” Hydrating Mist, which refreshes and hydrates skin on the go. Just a quick spritz can help give skin a revived, healthy appearance.
Reach For a Lightweight Face Oil
If you’re prone to dryness, you may want to consider adding a face oil, like Midnight Recovery Concentrate, to your regular skincare routine. This nighttime face oil helps replenish your skin while you sleep, boosting moisture and improving the appearance of tired-looking skin. Apply a few drops to your face as the final step in your nighttime skincare routine to reveal smoother, more supple-looking skin over time.
Try an Overnight Hydrating Face Mask
Ultra Facial Overnight Hydrating Mask with 10.5% Squalane
For those who need more intensive hydration, we suggest using Ultra Facial Overnight Hydrating Mask with 10.5% Squalane. Upon application, this ultra-hydrating overnight mask transforms from a balm into a rich, nourishing oil that easily melts onto the skin. It helps protect your skin from overnight water loss and stabilizes the skin’s natural moisture barrier, making it more resilient over time. Apply a thick, even layer to your skin at night up to three times per week for visibly more hydrated, less flaky skin by morning. If desired, you can also use the rich treatment as a quick 15-minute mask to replenish your skin when it feels dry or tight.
Kiehl’s Tip: If you have combination skin that only needs hydration in certain areas, try applying the mask as a spot treatment.
Don’t Neglect Your Scalp
If you have visible flaking on your face, there’s a good chance you may have a dry scalp, too. Of course, we don’t advise applying your face cream to your scalp (that’ll just make your hair look greasy). Instead, nourish your scalp with a targeted treatment, like Amino Acid Moisture-Restoring Dry Scalp Treatment. It contains coconut oil and a triple amino acid complex and helps moisturize and comfort a dry, flaky scalp. It also helps protect your scalp against potentially-irritating stressors like heat and hard water. You can use the mask once weekly or as needed to help keep your scalp hydrated and flake-free.
What Can You Do About Flaky Skin On Your Body?
Excessive dryness and flaking tend to occur on areas most commonly exposed to the elements, which is why dry skin on the face is such a common concern. However, you can get flaky skin anywhere. Showering or bathing in super-hot water can increase the likelihood of developing dry skin, so aim to keep showers short and use lukewarm water whenever possible.
If you do develop dry, flaky skin on your legs or other areas of your body, follow the same basic tips as above. Avoid harsh soaps if you can, and immediately after showering, moisturize with a rich body cream, like Creme de Corps Body Lotion with Cocoa Butter. For excessive dryness and flaking, use Intensive Treatment & Moisturizer for Dry and Callused Areas—the thick, buttery formula provides intense hydration to help soothe and soften extremely dry, rough areas. You can also use an oil to create an occlusive barrier and lock in moisture post-shower. We recommend Creme de Corps Nourishing Dry Body Oil, which nourishes skin and leaves it velvety smooth to the touch.