What causes flaking skin and how to treat it?

Symptom Database

Flaking skin can be a frustrating and uncomfortable condition that many people experience at some point in their lives. It occurs when the outer layer of the skin, known as the epidermis, starts to peel or shed. This can lead to dryness, itchiness, and a rough texture. Understanding the causes of flaking skin and how to treat it is essential for maintaining healthy and radiant skin. In this article, we will explore the various factors that contribute to flaking skin and provide effective remedies and solutions to prevent and treat this common issue.

What Causes Flaking Skin?

Flaking skin can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Dryness: One of the most common causes of flaking skin is dryness. When the skin lacks moisture, it becomes dehydrated and prone to flaking.
  • Harsh weather conditions: Exposure to extreme temperatures, low humidity, and cold winds can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to flakiness.
  • Hot showers: While a hot shower may feel relaxing, it can actually contribute to flaking skin. Hot water can strip the skin of its natural oils, leaving it dry and prone to flaking.
  • Harsh soaps and cleansers: Using harsh soaps and cleansers can disrupt the skin’s natural pH balance and strip away its protective oils, leading to flakiness.
  • Skin conditions: Certain skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, and seborrheic dermatitis, can cause flaking skin as a symptom.
  • Poor diet: A diet lacking in essential nutrients, particularly omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, can contribute to dry and flaky skin.

How to Stop Flaking: Effective Treatment and Prevention

1. Moisturize Regularly

One of the most effective ways to prevent and treat flaking skin is to moisturize regularly. Choose a moisturizer that is suitable for your skin type and apply it daily, especially after showering or washing your face. Look for moisturizers that contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and ceramides, which help to lock in moisture and restore the skin’s natural barrier.

2. Avoid Harsh Products

To prevent further irritation and flaking, avoid using harsh soaps, cleansers, and skincare products that contain alcohol or fragrances. Opt for gentle, pH-balanced cleansers and hypoallergenic products that are specifically formulated for sensitive skin.

3. Protect Your Skin from Harsh Weather

During extreme weather conditions, protect your skin by wearing appropriate clothing, such as hats, scarves, and gloves. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to shield your skin from harmful UV rays, even on cloudy days.

4. Take Shorter, Lukewarm Showers

While a hot shower may be tempting, it can strip your skin of its natural oils and exacerbate flakiness. Opt for shorter showers with lukewarm water to prevent further drying of the skin. After showering, gently pat your skin dry with a towel instead of rubbing vigorously.

5. Exfoliate Gently

Exfoliation can help remove dead skin cells and promote cell turnover, but it should be done gently to avoid further irritation. Use a mild exfoliating scrub or a soft brush to gently exfoliate your skin once or twice a week. Avoid over-exfoliating, as it can lead to increased flakiness.

6. Stay Hydrated and Eat a Balanced Diet

Drinking an adequate amount of water throughout the day helps to keep your skin hydrated from within. Additionally, consuming a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats can provide essential nutrients that promote healthy skin. Include foods like avocados, nuts, fish, and leafy greens in your diet to nourish your skin.

7. Seek Medical Advice for Underlying Skin Conditions

If your flaking skin is persistent, severe, or accompanied by other symptoms, it is advisable to seek medical advice. A dermatologist can diagnose and provide appropriate treatment for underlying skin conditions that may be causing the flakiness.


Flaking skin can be a bothersome condition, but with the right care and treatment, it can be effectively managed. By moisturizing regularly, avoiding harsh products, protecting your skin from harsh weather, and adopting a healthy lifestyle, you can prevent and treat flaking skin. Remember to consult a healthcare professional if your symptoms persist or worsen. With proper care, you can achieve healthy, nourished, and flake-free skin.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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