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How to deal with flaky skin, according to the pros


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Some people might know that winter’s finally here when snow flakes fall from the sky, but every year—without fail—I can tell that it’s the coldest, darkest season because my face flakes off instead. Ah, winter, you know just how to leave my high and dry.

The only solace I take is that flaky skin is actually a very common issue. “This time of year, I see an upsurge of patients complaining of flaky skin on their faces,” says Shereene Idriss, M.D., a New York City-based dermatologist. “Most of the time, it’s dry skin due to an arid setting caused by using heaters.”

“Most of the time, it’s dry skin due to an arid setting caused by using heaters.”

Despite how ubiquitous dry radiators and space heaters are when the temps are frigid, Dr. Idriss notes that a dry environment, harsh soaps and cleansers, and even medical conditions like seborrheic dermatitis can also cause flakiness.

Either way, you definitely don’t want to walk around with pieces of your face falling off on the reg. And it’s not always an easy condition to cover up, so I asked the pros how to deal once and for all.

Keep reading for tips on staying glowy with no flakes involved.

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how to deal with flakey skin
Photo: Stocksy/Michela Ravasio

The anti-flake technique

You’ve established that flakes stem from dryness, so moisture is your ticket to softer, smoother skin. To keep from drying your complexion out even more, Dr. Idriss recommends limiting shower time and keeping the temperature warm, but not scalding hot (even though it’s tempting). “Excessive exposure to heat may further strip your skin of its natural oils,” she explains.

Once out of the shower, first, start by removing existing flakes. Joanna Czech, Dallas-based facialist says that the most gentle way to do this is to micro-exfoliate using a linen wash cloth coupled with a cleanser (Dr. Idriss likes an oily or milky one). Then, Czech says to apply La Mer The Mist, which is a pH-balancing, skin-quenching toner.

Next up? Mind the moisture levels in skin. “I recommend a hydrating serum like Skinceuticals B5 Gel to help your skin undergo its own recovery process at night,” she says, noting that any other hyaluronic acid-based gel will also do the trick, too. To amp up the moisture, even more, Czech says to mix a few drops of highly active Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum with thick, rich Biologique Recherche Creme Masque Vernix to form a potent nightly cocktail that helps to repair the barrier and deeply moisturize skin. A couple of times a week, you can incorporate an uber-nourishing treatment, such as Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Face Mask, if you find that your skin craves even more moisture, says Czech .

For SOS moments when you find your skin’s getting flaky in the middle of the day, Dr. Idriss advises applying a light hydrating serum. “Don’t attempt to just wash your face and apply makeup over it without trying to restore hydration,” she says. “This will only further dry it out and make matters worse. If it’s midday and you have a face full of makeup and notice flakes, a moisturizing lotion or serum is your best bet without running the risk of having to redo your glam.”

Another pro tip? Bring on the humidity, any way that you can get it. “Help your skin by getting a humidifier to lessen the harsh blow of winter months,” notes Dr. Idriss. With all this moisture, your skin’s sure to stay in one (glowy) piece.

It’ll also help to do a facial steam for dry winter skin. And these are 11 ultra-hydrating foundations for flaky skin

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