Potential Causes of Dry Patches on Your Face and How to Treat Them

When the skin develops dry patches, it’s a result of a lack of adequate moisture. When this occurs, the skin can flake off or it can appear scaly.

Below are potential causes of your dry skin.

dry patches to face

Pornchai Soda / Getty Images

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a long-term inflammatory skin condition that causes dry patches on the skin. These appear as red, thickened, silver plaques that are tenacious.

Although psoriasis can occur anywhere on the skin, facial involvement is commonly observed, occurring in nearly 50% of those with psoriasis.

It’s rare to have patches of dry skin—and other symptoms of psoriasis—that appear only on the face; most people also have psoriasis in other areas of the body, such as the scalp.

Treatment

Treatment of facial psoriasis can be challenging because the face is very sensitive and considered more complicated to treat than other areas of the skin.

Treatment of psoriasis may include:

  • Topical (on the skin) medicated lotion
  • Gentle non-soap skin cleansers
  • Moisturizers
  • Low-potency corticosteroid cream
  • Other topical preparations, such as descaling agents like salicylic acid
  • Systemic treatment, such as oral medications

Eczema

Eczema is the name for a common skin condition that causes flare-ups involving dry, irritated skin; it is often inherited, starting during childhood, but some people develop eczema during adulthood.

Eczema affects nearly 15 million people in the United States. Eczema initially shows up with symptoms of redness and itchiness. It often appears as reddened dry patches on the cheeks and around the eyes.

Treatment

Treatment for eczema is individualized, depending on the severity of the condition. Treatment may include home remedies to manage symptoms or prescription medications. Home remedies may include:

  • Daily cleansing and moisturizing routine
  • Eliminating contact with irritants and allergens (such as wool and other fabrics that cause itchiness and allergens)

Medication for eczema includes:

  • Topical (on the skin) corticosteroid ointments and creams: These medications are available over the counter, but the stronger topical corticosteroids require a prescription.
  • Systemic corticosteroids: These are available in pill form or as an injectable medication. These drugs may be prescribed when topical corticosteroids are ineffective. 
  • Topical calcineurin inhibitors: These help prevent flare-ups by suppressing the immune system response.
  • Barrier repair moisturizers: These relieve dry skin and help to repair the skin by lowering the level of water loss. These products are available by prescription (Epiceram cream) or over the counter (CeraVe and Cetaphil lotion). 
  • Phototherapy: This is the use of UVA or UVB waves to treat moderate symptoms of dermatitis.
  • Biologic agent: This is used for more severe eczema and is called Dupixent.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema that occurs from contact with a substance that causes an allergic reaction. The symptoms are the same as with many other types of eczema, but contact dermatitis (unlike atopic dermatitis) does not run in families and is not linked with other allergic conditions (such as hay fever or asthma).

Treatment

Treatment for contact dermatitis includes:

  • Pinpointing and avoiding the allergen or irritant that caused the skin reaction
  • Topical steroids
  • Systemic (injectable) corticosteroids for widespread rash

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition that primarily impacts the scalp, but it can also be found on other areas of the body, including oily areas like the hairline and the sides of the nose, as well as the eyebrows, ears, eyelids, and over the breastbone (sternum). The cause is thought to be an abnormal immune system reaction to a type of yeast that normally lives on the skin, called Malassezia yeast.

Treatment

Mild cases of seborrheic dermatitis are often treated with over-the-counter medicated dandruff shampoo or prescription medications such as topical antifungal cream or prescription full-strength anti-fungal shampoo. More severe cases may be treated with topical corticosteroids to reduce the itching and inflammation.

The dermatologist may suggest using a special type of cleanser each day with zinc (2% zinc pyrithione), followed up by using a natural moisturizer.

Other Causes of Dry Patches

Common causes of dry patches on the face include:

  • Age
  • Climate
  • Environment
  • Genetics
  • Occupation
  • Dehydration
  • Showering or bathing in hot water
  • Poor nutrition 

Prevention of Facial Dry Patches

Tips to prevent dry skin on the face include:

  • Cleanse the skin daily with a mild, fragrance-free cleanser.
  • Keep showers under 10 minutes, and use warm water instead of hot water.
  • Find methods of managing stress (stress can increase the likeliness of eczema flare-ups).
  • Minimize sun exposure (the sun can dry out the natural oil in the skin).
  • Apply a good moisturizer immediately after bathing or showering while the skin is still damp.
  • Pat the face dry, avoiding vigorously rubbing the skin when drying it. Also, avoid scrubbing when cleansing the face.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated (dehydration can impact the natural ability of the skin to stay moist).
  • Eat healthy fats (such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in foods such as olive oil, avocados, and wild-caught cold-water fish).
  • Avoid smoking (nicotine is known to dry out the skin).
  • Use a room humidifier to moisturize the air.

Diagnosis

Dry skin patches on the face are normally diagnosed during a physical examination. But the diagnostician may employ various tests to help identify the underlying cause of dry skin, including:

  • Allergy tests to assess the reaction to potential allergens (such as a skin prick test)
  • A blood test to evaluate the presence of an underlying disease (such as kidney disease or diabetes) that may be causing dry skin
  • A skin biopsy to test for eczema

When to Call the Doctor

If you have dry patches on the face, you should contact your healthcare provider if the dry skin patches:

  • Have signs of infection (such as red, warm, swollen skin)
  • Are painful to touch
  • Itch severely enough to interfere with sleep or daily activities
  • Are accompanied by a rash

Summary

Dry skin patches on the face may be uncomfortable, but the condition doesn’t usually cause any severe, long-term complications. In order to properly treat dry patches on your skin, see a healthcare provider.

A Word From Verywell

You may be self-conscious if you have dry skin patches on your face. If they do not go away on their own, know that seeing your healthcare provider will bring you one step closer to finding a treatment that works well for you.

Was this page helpful?
4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. DermNet NZ. Facial psoriasis. Updated 2012.

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Dry skin. Updated May 13, 2020.

  3. National Eczema Association. Contact dermatitis.

  4. National Eczema Association. Seborrheic dermatitis.