What Are the Common Causes of Flaky Skin?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2019
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Flaky skin is a common health problem that may have many different causes. While rarely a dangerous condition in itself, flaky skin can sometimes be a symptom of a serious health condition. More often, however, the appearance of dry and flaking skin is in response to a mild skin condition or exposure to adverse environmental factors.

In some cases, flaking skin can be a sign of an infection on the skin. Fungal, yeast, and staph or strep infections can all present with flaking skin. These infections usually have other symptoms, including red patches on the skin, discoloration, or the appearance of blisters and boils. If any of these symptoms occur, it may be wise to consult a doctor for further analysis.

Some chronic diseases can also include flaky skin as a common symptom. Patients with autoimmune diseases, such as AIDS, can sometimes develop patches of dried out skin and flaking. Chronic skin conditions, such as psoriasis, can also result in the appearance of large skin flakes and scaly patches of skin all over the body. Medicated ointments can be useful to those who have a chronic condition, but the flakiness may not be fully curable, or may recur regularly.


One of the most common causes of flaky skin is exposure to allergens. Contact dermatitis is a very common skin rash that occurs when skin is exposed to an irritant that causes an allergic reaction. The irritated skin may first become red, swollen, and itchy, but may also dry out and become flaky over time. If flaky skin occurs soon after using a new skin product, such as lotion, soap, or makeup, consider discontinuing use of the product for a few days to see if the flaking ceases.

Another major cause of flaky skin is dehydration caused by dry air. In dry winters, the oil glands that keep skin hydrated may be prone to drying out, leading to dry, itchy, or flaking skin. One way to combat this issue is by using a stronger moisturizer during winter months. For optimal results, moisturizer should be applied directly after bathing, when the pores are open.

A final common cause of flaky skin is excessive exposure to heat. People who take very hot baths or showers, or those who spend a lot of time in saunas or hot tubs may be more prone to dehydrated skin. This particular cause may also contribute to outbreaks of dry skin during the winter, when people may be more likely to use hot water as a means of warming up. Taking lukewarm showers or baths and using moisturizer can help reduce dry and flaky skin caused by hot water exposure.


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