Scaly skin is dry and can make you feel uncomfortable. Discover common scaly, flaky skin causes and how to soothe this condition.

right mark

Copied to Clipboard

wrong mark

Scaly Or Flaky Skin: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

07/02/20228 min read

Scaly or flaky skin can be hard to live with. When you're in the middle of aflare-up, you might itch all over or feel as though your skin is tight and dry.

You might also see flakes of skin on your clothing, which can be embarrassing.

While flaky, scaly skin is certainly frustrating, there are things you can do to manage it. To help you have better skin days, we’ve put together this guide so you can learn more about the skin condition you're experiencing.

Table Of Contents

What Is Scaly Skin?

Man with flaky skin behind his ear

A build-up of dead skin cells often causes scaly skin. When these cells accumulate on the surface of your skin, they can make it look dry, dull, and flaky. In some cases, you may also see patches of rough, scaly skin.

You may be able to rub some of your flakes off, but others may remain stuck to your skin. If any are stuck, don’t try to force them off. Doing so can damage your skin and worsen the problem or introduce an infection.

Symptoms Of Scaly Or Flaky Skin

In addition to patches of dry skin, you might notice some other symptoms. These can include:

  • Itchiness
  • Redness
  • Inflammation
  • Cracking or peeling

While scaly skin can be uncomfortable, it's usually not a severe condition.

However, if you have flaky skin that's also red, swollen, or painful to the touch, you should see a doctor. This could signify something more concerning, such as an infection.

Common Causes Of Scaly And Flaky Skin

Flaky, scaly skin often results from an underlying skin condition, such as eczema or psoriasis. A medication or cosmetic product reaction can also cause it. In some cases, scaly skin is simply a sign that your skin is dry.

Let’s look at a few of the common causes in more detail.

Psoriasis

A young girl with psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that causes your body to produce new skin cells at an accelerated rate. As these new cells reach the skin’s surface, they push the older, dead cells out. This can cause a build-up of flaking and scaling skin.

Psoriasis can also cause the following symptoms:

  • Red, raised patches of skin
  • Silver-white scales on the skin
  • Itching
  • Burning

While there is no cure for psoriasis, there are treatments that can help reduce the symptoms.

Eczema

Eczema is another common inflammatory skin condition that can cause scaly skin.

Infants are prone to experiencing this, though it can affect people of all ages.

In addition to the scaly skin, you might also experience these symptoms:

  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Cracks in your skin
  • Bumps on your skin

Eczema can appear anywhere on your body, but you’ll commonly find patches on your face, hands, and feet. Like psoriasis, there’s no cure for eczema, but you can manage your symptoms with various treatment options.

Contact Dermatitis

A woman spraying perfume on her wrist

Contact dermatitis is a skin reaction that occurs when you come into contact with an irritant or allergen. This can cause the affected area to become red, itchy, and inflamed.

While anything can cause a reaction, certain products are more likely to trigger dry, scaly skin. These include:

  • Soaps
  • Detergents
  • Cosmetics
  • Perfumes
  • Jewelry

Avoiding contact with the trigger is essential if you suspect you have an allergy. Otherwise, continued exposure can make your scaly skin worse.

You should also see a doctor who can help you identify the allergen and recommend treatment options.

Ichthyosis

Ichthyosis slows your skin regeneration process, which means that your skin doesn’t shed dead skin cells as quickly as it should. As a result, this condition can cause build-up on the surface of your skin, leading to dryness, scaling, and flaking.

Ichthyosis is usually genetic, which means it’s passed down from your parents.

If you have a family history of scaly skin, it might be worth talking to your doctor about it.

Skin Injury

A woman with a sunburn on her back

In some cases, scaly skin can be the result of an injury to the skin, such as a burn or cut. Though the initial damage can leave your skin red and raw, as it heals, you may notice that your skin becomes flaky and cracks in that area. This is especially common with sunburns.

As with an injury to any part of your body, your skin requires time to heal fully. During that time, you’ll want to keep a close eye on it to help avoid infections.

Dry Skin

Dry skin is a common cause of scaling and flaking. When your skin is dry, it doesn’t retain moisture well and can become cracked, scaly, and inflamed.

Weather conditions, such as low humidity or extreme cold, often play a role in the development of dry skin.

However, there are also other causes. These include:

  • Bathing too often
  • Wearing tight-fitting clothing that doesn’t allow your skin to breathe
  • Using harsh soaps or cleansers
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Taking certain medications
  • Eating certain foods

If you aren’t sure what’s causing your dry skin, track your symptoms to see if you notice any patterns. For example, if your skin feels drier after you shower, you may be using too harsh of a soap or staying in hot water for too long.

Treating Scaly And Flaky Skin

A man rubbing cream on his scaly skin

The treatment for your scaly skin will depend on the underlying cause. A dermatologist can diagnose your skin and recommend specific treatment options to help you feel and look your best.

In the meantime, here are a few general tips to help you manage your flaky skin.

Implement An Intentional Skincare Routine

If you don’t already have one, now is the time to develop a skincare routine that works for you and your skin type. This will help you cleanse, hydrate, and protect your skin from further irritation.

One way to do this is by paying attention to the soap and shampoo you use in the shower. Try to use products that hydrate your skin, such as Bodewell Sensitive Skin Moisturizing Body Wash.

Woman squeezing Bodewell Sensitive Skin Moisturizing Body Wash into her hand

In addition to selecting the right products, you may also need to reevaluate your showering habits. For example, spending too much time in a hot shower can make your skin worse. Instead, opt for a lukewarm shower that’s no longer than 10 minutes.

Moisturize Regularly

Flaky skin needs extra hydration to stay healthy and look its best. Be sure to moisturize your skin regularly, using a product designed for your skin type.

Pick a moisturizer that's gentle enough for daily use. That way, you can apply it regularly without causing more problems. In addition, select one that uses high-quality ingredients.

We recommend choosing gentle skincare products formulated for unique skin conditions, such as our Eczema Daily Calming Cream or Psoriasis Soothing Spray. Our formula includes soothing botanical ingredients for clearer-looking skin over time.

Try A Natural Remedy

Humans have been dealing with flaky skin for ages, long before modern medicine was available. As a result, there are many natural remedies that some people swear by.

Here are a few:

  • Apply a thin layer from a homemade lotion bar made from coconut oil, shea butter, and beeswax
  • Take an oatmeal bath with colloidal oatmeal
  • Use an avocado and honey face mask
  • Apply aloe vera gel straight from the plant

Though these non-pharmaceutical approaches may help some people, skin care isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. What works for one person might not work for another.

So, you may need to experiment with different remedies if the first one you try doesn’t seem to do anything.

Ask A Doctor For Stronger Treatments

A dermatologist examining flaky skin on a man’s wrist

You should see a dermatologist if your flaky skin is severe or doesn’t respond to home treatment. This specialist can diagnose the underlying cause of your flaky skin and recommend specific treatments.

For example, if your flaky skin is from psoriasis, a dermatologist might prescribe a corticosteroid cream or light therapy.

Conversely, if your flaky skin is caused by eczema, a dermatologist might recommend a different course of treatment. For instance, you might get put on an oral medication, such as an antihistamine or immunosuppressant.

Better Skin Days Ahead

A woman examining her face in the mirror

Flaky skin can be caused by many different things, from dry weather to underlying health conditions. But, no matter what is causing your scaly skin, the right treatments can help alleviate your symptoms.

For help with your overall skincare routine if you suffer from eczema or psoriasis, be sure to check out the gentle products offered by Bodewell. Here’s to better skin days!

Shop Bodewell