When your skin lacks proper moisture and becomes dehydrated, it can manifest as rough, scaly, peeling, itching, and flaking skin (1). To address dry skin concerns, establishing a skin care routine specifically tailored to dry skin can be beneficial, particularly for the face.


What causes dry, flaky skin on your face?

Dry skin is often a symptom of a compromised skin barrier, which plays a crucial role in maintaining skin hydration. The skin barrier acts as a protective shield, helping to retain moisture by sealing in water within the skin and preventing it from evaporating, as well as protecting the skin from environmental stressors. A damaged or weakened skin barrier can result in increased moisture loss, leading to dryness, tightness, and flaking (2,3).

Several factors can compromise your skin barrier and contribute to dry, flaky skin, especially on your face.4 These include excessive sun exposure and the natural aging process, as well as skin conditions like eczema. Harsh weather conditions, such as cold and dry air, can also strip the skin of its natural oils and worsen dryness and frequent washing with hot water and harsh soaps or cleansers can disrupt the skin barrier's integrity and contribute to dry skin (3).

For a deeper insight about dealing with common causes of dry skin, take a look at our article Dealing with 5 Common Causes of Dry Skin.


What ingredients help with dry, flaky skin?

When it comes to addressing dry, flaky skin, there are certain ingredients that can help hydration and nourishment. While it's important to note that no single ingredient can guarantee eradication of flaky skin, incorporating these gentle ingredients into your skin care routine can help replenish your skin barrier and help to combat dryness.

Niacinamide (Vitamin B3)

Niacinamide, also known as vitamin B3, has a smoothing effect on the skin and helps to replenish your skin’s barrier function and reduce transepidermal water loss, which is often a common issue for dry skin types (5).

Panthenol (Vitamin B5)

Panthenol, derived from vitamin B5, is another ingredient that helps to smooth and soften your skin by helping to attract and retain moisture within the skin (4).


Glycerin often comes in the form of glyceryl or glycerol, and is one of the most common ingredients in cosmetic products. It is a powerful moisturizing agent and works by drawing moisture from the environment and binding it to the skin, creating a protective barrier that locks in hydration (2,6,7).


How to remove dry, flaky skin on your face

In addition to moisturizing, maintaining proper hydration and using gentle products are essential for addressing dry, flaky skin. Achieving healthy-looking, hydrated skin is a journey that requires consistency and patience. Creating a skin care routine that focuses on gentle cleansing, moisturizing, and suitable serums, can greatly improve the condition of your skin.

For a selection of facial moisturizers and serums suitable for dry, flaky skin, you can explore our facial moisturizers and serums page.

If you suffer from skin conditions such as eczema or dermatitis, using gentle products becomes even more crucial. These conditions can make the skin more sensitive and prone to dryness and itchiness. It's recommended to consult with a dermatologist for condition-specific advice and product recommendations tailored to your needs.

Cleansers for dry, flaky skin

Starting your skin care routine with a gentle cleanser formulated for dry skin that helps replenish your skin’s moisture barrier is crucial for dry, flaky skin. Unlike harsh cleansers, they won’t strip away your skin's natural oils and disrupt its delicate balance. Cleansers for dry skin focus on preserving moisture and keeping the skin barrier intact to prevent further dryness.

Look for cleansers that are hydrating, fragrance-free, and help preserve your skin’s microbiome. The skin's microbiome refers to the diverse ecosystem of microorganisms that reside on your skin's surface (4). Certain cleansers, such as Cetaphil Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser and Cetaphil Gentle Foaming Facial Cleanser, are formulated to be gentle on the skin's microbiome, ensuring that the beneficial bacteria are not disrupted, and both are recognized products by the Canadian Dermatology Association’s Expert Advisory Board.

Exfoliating dry, flaky skin

Dry, flaky skin often has a build-up of dead skin cells on the surface, which can contribute to a dull complexion and hinder the absorption of moisturizers. Gentle exfoliation helps to slough off these dead cells, revealing a fresher and more radiant layer of skin underneath. This allows moisturizers, serums, and other skin care products to penetrate more effectively, maximizing their hydrating benefits for your skin (8).

While exfoliation helps promote cell turnover, it's important to avoid harsh exfoliation methods because they can lead to further dryness and sensitivity (3).

To incorporate gentle exfoliation into your skin care routine, you might want to consider using a product like Cetaphil Extra Gentle Daily Scrub. This scrub is specifically formulated to be gentle enough for daily use, helping to improve skin texture and reveal healthy-looking skin.

Moisturizers for dry, flaky skin

A high-quality facial moisturizer is a cornerstone for your dry skin to help protect your skin barrier. A strong skin barrier can better retain moisture and prevent water loss (2).

Opt for moisturizers that are rich in emollients and humectants to help replenish and retain moisture in the skin, such as Cetaphil Daily Advance® Ultra Hydrating Lotion or Cetaphil Optimal Hydration Daily Glow Cream. These products are specifically designed to provide intense hydration and nourishment to dry skin.

Quick tips for managing dry, flaky skin on your face

By following these further tips (9), you can help manage dry, flaky skin and keep it nourished and hydrated.

• Apply moisturizer to damp skin: This helps to lock in moisture and keep your skin hydrated for longer.

• Choose products that restore the moisture barrier: These products often contain ingredients that help replenish and retain moisture.

• Wash your face with lukewarm water: Hot water can strip your skin of its natural oils and exacerbate dryness.

• Use sunscreen: Unprotected exposure to the sun's harmful UV rays can contribute to dryness and damage the skin's moisture barrier.

The bottom line

To address dry, flaky skin, it’s important to establish a skin care routine tailored to dry skin. By following a suitable skin care routine with high-quality moisturizers, gentle cleansers and exfoliators, you can help prevent dryness and promote a healthier-looking, more nourished complexion.


1.   American Academy of Dermatology Association. Dry Skin: Signs and Symptoms. Accessed May 17, 2023

2.   Buraczewska Z, Skin barrier responses to Moisturizers, Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Medicine. 2008;381, 66pp. Uppsala, ISSN 1651-6206

3.   Rodan K et al. Skincare Bootcamp: The Evolving Role of Skincare. The Cosmetic Bootcamp meeting, Aspen, 2016. DOI: 10.1097/GOX.0000000000001152

4.   Stettler H, Kurka P et al. A new topical panthenol-containing emollient: Results from two randomized controlled studies assessing its skin moisturization and barrier restoration potential, and the effect on skin microflora. J Dermatolog Treat. 2017;28(2):173-180. doi: 10.1080/09546634.2016.1214235

5.   Gehring W. Nicotinic acid/niacinamide and the skin. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2004;3(2):88-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1473-2130.2004.00115.x.

6.   Milani M, Sparavigna A. The 24-hour skin hydration and barrier function effects of a hyaluronic 1%, glycerin 5%, and Centella asiatica stem cells extract moisturizing fluid: an intra-subject, randomized, assessor-blinded study. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017;10:311-315. doi: 10.2147/CCID.S144180

7.   Chen HJ, Lee PY, Chen CY et al. Moisture retention of glycerin solutions with various concentrations: a comparative study. Sci Rep.2022;12, 10232.

8.   Kitsongsermthon J, Duangweang K et al. In vivo cleansing efficacy of biodegradable exfoliating beads assessed by skin bioengineering techniques. Skin Research and Technology. 2017. doi:10.1111/srt.12365.

9.   American Academy of Dermatology Association. Dermatologists’ top tips for relieving dry skin. Accessed May 17, 2023