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What Are the Causes of Flaky Skin?

What Are the Causes of Flaky Skin?

Flaky skin, also referred to as scaling, is the shedding of the outermost layer of skin cells. Scaly skin is not an especially attractive look and can become itchy and painful. Flaky skin can be caused by a variety of skin conditions, ranging from the common occurrence of dry skin to infections to chronic skin diseases, such as eczema and psoriasis. Many instances of flaky skin can be remedied at home with over-the-counter moisturizing lotions.

Dry Skin

Dry skin is a common, nonspecific ailment from which many people suffer, especially in the cooler months. When your skin becomes dry, the lack of moisture causes your skin to peel, or flake off, in small pieces. Dry skin that leads to flaking and scaling can be the result of not drinking enough water, living in a home with a dry heating system or from using facial cleansers or acne care products that contain drying agents like alcohol, benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. After you pinpoint the origin of your dry skin---perhaps with the help of your doctor---the ways to introduce moisture to your body will become clear, and the flaking will most likely diminish.


Flaky skin can be the result of dermatitis, an umbrella term used to describe an irritation or inflammation of the skin. Eczema, a condition in which the skin becomes red, itchy and may peel, flake or crust over, is a form of dermatitis called atopic dermatitis. Other forms of irritation include contact dermatitis, a situation in which you may experience irritation and flaking due to an irritant that has made contact with your skin, such as a laundry detergent, poison ivy or an itchy wool shirt. Seborrheic dermatitis, otherwise known as dandruff, can produce a flaky scalp.


Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that involves an abnormal growth and shedding pattern of the skin, which can cause flaky skin in some people, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. Plaque psoriasis is the most widespread form of the disease. People who have plaque psoriasis display patches of raised lesions that shed flaky scales of skin. Psoriasis is a chronic disease that is not cured, but can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the uncomfortable symptoms.


One of the symptoms of a type of fungal skin infection called tinea can be flaky areas of skin around the infection. Tinea is a term that encompasses a range of skin infections, including athlete's foot, jock itch and ringworm. The American Academy of Family Physicians explains that fungal infections of this kind are red and itchy and may also contain areas around the rash that begin to flake off and peel. Treatment with antifungal medications restores your skin to its formerly smooth qualities.

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