In this article I’m going to be sharing with you my top tips on how to get rid of peeling skin. I will also mention good products for peeling skin.
Flaky, peeling skin is something that can bother people all year round, whether it be due to windburn, sunburn.
We’re all wearing masks these days with a lot of moisture being trapped under the mask, which can ultimately break down your skin barrier and lead to a lot of peeling.
Also a lot of you are starting a retinol or prescription retinoid and that in the beginning can cause a lot of peeling.
Sometimes our skin can get really flaky and peely from irritating products and of course during the winter when the moisture drops in the air.
When your skin starts peeling and flaking that often is a sign of an impaired moisture barrier and a cry for help.
Table of Contents
1. Stop Exfoliation
My number one tip is to take a look at the products that you’re using and if you’re using products that are exfoliating, then you definitely want to take a break from those while your skin is peeling.
The last thing that you want to do is attempt to exfoliate exfoliation. Peeling skin is exfoliating skin. Putting more exfoliants on that only worsens the problem and your moisture barrier at that point is not able to handle additional exfoliants.
What are ingredients that do this?
Alpha hydroxy acids alpha, include glycolic, mandelic and lactic acid.
Beta hydroxy acid, otherwise known as salicylic acid.
Anything that is a retinoid or retinol, whether it be adapaline, tretinoin, teseratine, an over-the-counter retinol serum or even retin-aldehyde.
All these cause the skin cells to turn over a little bit more quickly and you can start getting some peeling. These ingredients certainly can be the cause of peeling skin.
And just because your skin is peeling doesn’t mean that the product is not going to be helpful for you long term. It just is a clue that you should back off on it for a little bit to allow your skin some time to recover.
2. Slow Down With Retinol
For those of you in the beginning stages of starting a new retinol or retinoid is very common to experience a lot of peeling. In this case you may want to take a break from the retinol or retinoid or at least reduce the frequency with which you are using it.
It’s best to introduce retinol or retinoid into your skin care routine very slowly, starting with just using it one night a week, and then bumping up to every other night, as tolerated upwards to nightly.
However if you’re getting excessive peeling, instead of leaving it on overnight, try just using it once a week and leaving it on for a couple of hours and then washing it off to reduce the contact time but it starts to allow you to get used to it. That will help with the peeling.
The other thing is to take a look at how much you’re using. You really don’t need very much of any topical. In order to create a thin film, using more product does not necessarily lead to better results. It just wastes the product. You only need a thin film and make sure that you are using it alongside a moisturizer to address the moisture barrier and help reduce trans epidermal water loss.
3. Don’t Pick
Do not pick the flaky skin. It’s hard not to, but you really don’t want to do this, because really what you’re doing is aggressively exfoliating exfoliation. And you’re further taking away your moisture barrier by doing that. It’s just going to prolong peeling skin.
So don’t pick!
4. Don’t Scrub
Resist the urge to use any kind of facial scrub or exfoliant or spin brush or excessive scrubbing of the skin in order to remove the flakes.
That’s not only going to prolong the course, but it’s just going to dry out your skin further and lead to more irritation.
5. Cleanse Less
Reduce the frequency with which you are cleansing the skin. The last thing you want to do when you’re going through peeling is to be cleansing numerous times a day.
That’s further going to dry out the moisture barrier and lead to more water loss from the skin and subsequently more peeling and exfoliation and dryness.
Make sure that you keep your water temperature lukewarm.
You also want to limit the amount of time that you spend in the shower or in the bath. The longer that you are in the shower or the bath, the more moisture is ultimately going to be pulled out of the skin and the longer that this situation is going to occur.
Keep your shower or bath to no more than 10 minutes and again use lukewarm to cool water to cleanse the skin.
I told you not to pick peel, scrub or attempt to exfoliate the peeling skin. That would only worsen things. Instead you want to make sure that you are moisturizing and you can bump up the frequency of moisturizing.
When it comes to choosing a moisturizer that’s going to help you out, I suggest looking for moisturizers that have ceramides. This can help clear your moisture barrier into beginning to make its own ceramides again, which ultimately will help in facilitating healing.
One of my favorite facial moisturizers is actually a body moisturizer. It is the CeraVe moisturizing cream.
You want to make sure that you put moisturizer on at night before you go to bed because the skin loses more water at night, worsening dryness peeling and irritation.
It’s also a good idea when you’re suffering a lot of peeling to moisturize again in the morning and you may want to put more moisturizer on again at some other point throughout the day.
7. Use a Balm or Ointment
But when you’re really in the throes of an impaired skin barrier, really the barrier is weak, you need a skin protectant on board and that’s going to come in the form of either an ointment or a balm.
One of my favorite products to protect the skin especially when the skin is raw and you’re going through a lot of peeling is Cerave Healing Ointment.
This is petrolatum based so it really is going to act as second skin to reduce water loss from the skin. It also has ceramides in it, which again will help clear your skin barrier to get its act together.
I know a lot of people doubt that petrolatum ingredient in this is something that actually promotes healing, but it is because what petrolatum does is it creates a barrier to irritants coming in and it allows for a moist environment underneath the layer of petrolatum on the skin, wherein your skin cells can happily migrate in to the area and fill in that defect of the impaired barrier.
So it does have healing properties. There’s no an active ingredient that talks to your immune system and says hey come in and heal, but simply the mechanical act of creating a barrier on the skin, acting as a skin protectant, does in fact facilitate healing.
Some people don’t like putting petrolatum on their face, find it greasy.
Something that’s really good and that I personally believe is very effective for those of you who cope with wind burn or maybe you have sustained a sunburn, you want something that’s going to act like second skin, but also have some ingredients that do in fact encourage healing.
You cannot go wrong with La Roche Posay Cicaplast baume B5.
This has centella in it, which has been shown actually to promote healing of scars. This is a great one to consider slathering on your face, especially as you go out in the elements.
When the skin is peeling a lot, you may find yourself sitting at your desk, look in a mirror and you see a lot of flakes. One other option beyond just putting a moisturizer on that really gives a little bit more of a cosmetic benefit and can help and is non-irritating.
8. Try Facial Oil
You may be surprised by this recommendation because in general I’m not really a fan of this type of product, but I think it’s particularly useful in this scenario and that is to try a facial oil as a spot remedy.
The facial oils are emollients, they soften skin cell edges and they can slip between those cells that are trying to slough off. They can slip between and smooth things out and help lift things up, while simultaneously putting lipid down.
They’re not going to reduce water loss out of the skin. They’re not going to act as second skin, but they are a way to really improve the look of flaky skin and ultimately help in the cosmetic look of flaky skin.
Good product is Good molecules ultra hydrating facial oil. I find it to be very effective. I really like it because it has sea buckthorn oil in it, which is packed with antioxidants that can help fight off free radical damage that slows down healing.
It also got tea seed oil in it, another antioxidant packed oil.
For some people, especially those with acne prone skin, oils can aggravate their acne. They find that they have issues with them, so if that’s you, you might want to be wary of this approach.
But in general, I do find that it is an effective way to just improve the look of flaky skin as opposed to attempting to pick and peel. That’s what most people think they should do.
Most people scrub and their skin looks better for the short term, but then it ultimately worsens things down the road. You end up dealing with it longer.
When you’re in that situation, where things are just really flaky, putting moisturizer on at that point can end up looking cakey and it’s just not something you want to walk around with.
9. Sun Protection
When your skin is peeling, it’s a clue that the moisture barrier is impaired and your skin is just more vulnerable.
You definitely want to protect flaky skin from the sun, especially if you’re dealing with flakiness from a sunburn, because there’s so much sun damage underneath and the immune system is shocked from the exposure to UV that caused the burn.
The last thing you want is to expose yourself to more UV. Very damaging, slows down healing, impairs the immune system. It really will delay recovery quite a bit.
Not only that, it will increase the risk that it heals with hyperpigmentation. You need to be mindful not only of sun exposure when you’re outdoors, but also sun that comes through window glass.
You definitely want to be using a sunscreen.
Which one would be good?
I recommend especially in this situation using a mineral sunscreen, because they tend to be less irritating overall and they have zinc in them, which also has healing properties to it. It’s soothing, it’s anti-inflammatory. It will work in your favor.
Most zinc sunscreens act as a barrier, similar to the balm.
One that I really like a lot is MDSolarSciences SPF 30 tinted cream.
This product has silicones in it, which are lightweight synthetic oils that really lubricate the skin’s surface without leaving a greasy look.
It has a nice medium tint to it, camouflages the white cast with this.
10. Keep Your Routine Simple
Do not experiment. This is not a time to try anything that’s suggested to you on an Instagram ad. You don’t want to be trying out a bunch of new skin care products, especially things that have fragrance, because when you’re dealing with the flakiness and the peeling, that’s a sign of an impaired moisture barrier, so that’s going to allow for more stuff to get into your skin and cause problems, like further irritation.
Keep it really simple just stick to a gentle cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen and maybe trying out an oil here and there as I said.
It can really help in reducing water loss out of your skin and it really can make a difference, especially if you live in a dry climate or it’s winter time. It really can make a difference, so consider getting one for your bedroom at night at the very least.
12. See a Derm
Last but certainly not least is to see a board-certified dermatologist.
If this is going on and on, it’s not getting better, you’ve tried these things, you’re going really slow, you’re doing a conservative routine, you’re using balms and ointments and you’re still dealing with flaky skin, definitely see a board certified dermatologist.
Because it may be something like a fungal infection. A ringworm definitely looks flaky on the skin. You may think that it’s just peeling from some exposure but it might actually be a fungal infection or you may have a primary skin disease, like psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema and those things need medical attention.
So if you try these things for a few weeks and the peeling does not get better, definitely see a board certified dermatologist to make sure that you’re not dealing with something else.
Those are my tips for peeling skin.
Rebecca is a licensed aesthetician and certified laser technician with almost 15 years experience in the dermatology. Her life-long passion is making people look good and happy.