Did you know that we lose between 30,000 to 40,000 skin cells each day? You usually won’t notice these cells flaking off, so having visibly flaky skin may be a sign that something isn’t quite right.
The outer layer of our skin is known as the epidermis. Normally, this helps trap water to keep our skin moist. Flaky skin can be caused by damage to the epidermis or some other disruption to our usual skin renewal process.
There are many flaky skin triggers, from having a reaction to certain soaps or being in a low humidity environment. It can also be a symptom of other skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis or ichthyosis.
CONDITIONS LINKED TO FLAKY SKIN
Flaky skin can be a symptom of many common skin conditions, especially the following.
Flaky Skin triggers and factors
There are many things that can make existing skin conditions worse, causing flaky skin. There are also some factors that can disrupt even healthy skin, making it dry and causing flaking.
Allergens and irritants
Weather and temperature
How to manage flaky skin
It is important to find out what is causing your flaky skin, so you can choose the right treatment. For example, if the problem is a fungal skin infection, a dry skin product won’t be much help. There are many different treatments available to help relieve flaky skin, depending on the underlying cause and how severe it is. If you are unsure or confused about diagnosis, talk to doctor or pharmacist before starting self-treatment.
If your flaky skin is due to dry skin, eczema, contact dermatitis or psoriasis, then using a moisturizer called an emollient can help. You should apply emollients at least twice a day, and in plentiful amounts – even when your skin is clear and feels fine as daily use can prevent flare-ups. However, always check the label of your chosen product to confirm the right way of applying.
Applying emollients regularly can help flaky skin by:
- Filling in the areas around the skin flakes
- Adding and trapping moisture in the skin
- Forming a protective barrier over the skin to keep irritants out
- Helping flare-ups of conditions, such as eczema.
It can also be beneficial to wash with an emollient or soap substitute, as regular soaps and cleansers can irritate the skin and cause dryness. These don’t lather up like regular soap, but still do the job of getting you clean. You can also add emollients to your bath.
Mild steroid creams and ointments can be bought from your pharmacy to help relieve contact dermatitis and mild-to-moderate eczema; majority are safe for use in adults and children aged 10 or over, however always confirm by reading the label. They also help to manage flare-ups in atopic eczema.
Note that steroids should be applied differently to emollients:
- Apply very thinly and to just a small area
- Use once or twice a day for a maximum of seven days
- Only apply to certain parts of the body and not to the face, eyes, broken or infected skin, genital areas or the bottom
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should speak to your doctor before using a steroid cream.
If you find that using a mild steroid cream for a week doesn’t bring your skin under control, see your doctor. They’ll be able to discuss a better treatment for your particular situation.
Antihistamines can be used to help relieve severe itch in atopic eczema and contact dermatitis which causes flaky skin. Antihistamines can also be used to help relief allergic symptoms like itchy and flaky skin. Ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice on taking an antihistamine that is right for you.
Antifungal creams and ointments are available to treat athlete’s foot. Some also contain a mild steroid to help reduce any inflammation. You should apply creams to the affected area two or three times a day and use it for at least 2 weeks; or however directed on the label. Sometimes it may be necessary to continue using the cream for more than 4 weeks. If you are using the cream for a foot infection, make sure your feet are washed and thoroughly dried before applying the cream, especially in between the toes. Apply only to the skin and do not use more than the amount recommended. If symptoms do not improve within 7 days, speak to your doctor.
Flaky skin is not a medical emergency but speak to your healthcare professional if you experience any of the below:
- The problem persists despite a regular skincare regime
- A rash or area of affected skin starts spreading
- There is an allergic reaction(hives and/or difficulty breathing)
- An overall feeling of being un-well
Self-care for flaky skin
Managing your flaky skin can include using emollients and moisturisers daily, avoiding possible triggers and speaking to your doctor or pharmacist if you’re not sure what is causing your problem.