Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Aheli Sen (Fashion & Beauty Expert) on 17th Mar 2021

Rough, Dry Patches on the Face: Causes & Prevention

What Causes Rough, Dry Patches on the Face?

Xerosis is the medical term used to describe abnormally dry skin. There are many reasons behind having dry skin that can result in rough patches.

As one becomes older, the skin's power or ability to produce enough hydration and sebum reduces. This results in drier skin. This is a common factor for people with dry skin as their dermis does not have enough ability to maintain the skin’s moisture levels. The levels of oil sebum and moisture produced by the skin make it smooth and plump, resulting in dry skin, which has rough patches and flaky skin. 

Who might suffer from dry skin? 

Anyone of any age can suffer from having rough patches caused by dry skin. 

What are the most common areas of dry patches occurring? 

The most common areas to get patchy would be the following: 

  • Elbows. 
  • Wrists. 
  • Lower arms. 
  • Ankles. 
  • Eyelids. 
  • Face. 
  • knees 

What does the color of your rough patch mean? 

The color or shade of your rough skin can be an indicator of what the cause might be.

  • Red: this shade usually denotes the occurrence of eczema when present on the inside of the elbow, on foot, around the knees, and other parts of the body. Rough, bumpy flaky skin on the backs of the arms or thighs is often keratosis pilaris. 
  • White: normal white flaky skin denotes merely dry skin. However, when seen with red patches, it usually means that the skin area is affected by psoriasis
  • Brown: Keratosis, a form of sun damage on the skin, makes way for dark brown rough patches. 

Sometimes, some dry, rough patches on your skin won't be responsive to moisturizer. Here's when you should see a dermatologist to figure out the cause and treatment for your skin condition.  

What causes rough patches? 

Rough patches from dry skin could be caused because of several reasons that have nothing to do with the skin’s ability to produce the correct levels of moisture and oil, and these are the points that we are going to be discussing today. 

Here is a list of possible causes of rough patches: 

1. Contact dermatitis 

Contact dermatitis is when you come in contact with something that makes the skin react. It happens when one touches an insect or an insect’s saliva has been left behind on the skin. It often makes way for a red, rough, and itchy rash. Such patches often scale, developing a format of criss-cross marks on the skin.

Contact dermatitis is treatable. Topical steroid creams or oral medications come to the rescue. Contact dermatitis is, however, does not spread on touch from one human to the other. 

2. Atopic Dermatitis 

The real reason behind getting eczema or atopic dermatitis is yet unclear. It is a format of extreme allergy on the skin that one could get from kissing their pets to eating something and so weird that it becomes difficult to figure out what you got it from.

This skin condition is characterized by rough, scaly skin with redness on the skin. The skin becomes red and extremely dry after a few minutes. The affected region soon starts to scale and looks extremely cakey. 

3. Solar Keratosis  

Exposure to the sun has many bad effects on the skin, and this disease fits right into it. It makes the skin go scaly, rough, patchy, and extremely dry on many different body parts, especially the joints.

The knees and joints are the most widely affected regions and make for darker skin around the affected region. Usually, people above the age of 40 get this, but it does not mean that it will not affect others of the younger age group. This skin condition spreads slowly on the skin and becomes almost undetectable until a big area is affected. The worst part about this dry patchy skin condition is that it can cause skin cancer.  

4. Dry Weather  

The most common enemy of people with dry skin; dry weather conditions. It is the worst when the weather gets so dry that the static is in the air. When the lips and heels start to crack, and the skin begins getting itchy, patchy, and flaky from dryness.

In this weather, the thick body lotions, butter and oils come out to the rescue and keep the skin nourished and moisturized.  

5. Unhealthy Lifestyle 

More often than not, we have a series of night outs and celebrate like there is no tomorrow. For a lot of us, this unhealthy way has become a way of life. For all those people out there who drink and smoke continuously non-stop and wish for great, healthy, hydrated, moisturized skin, let us face it. It will not work out. Continuous drinking and smoking make the skin super dry from dehydration, and this is why after those party nights, we feel so bad internally and look white, pale and dry on the outside. It is always recommended that if you are an occasional party person, hydrate as much as possible and word of advice? Stop the partying to make sure that the skin looks well and not dehydrated, rough and patchy. 

6. Mature Skin   

As we grow old, the skin’s ability to exfoliate, hydrate, and retain the same becomes less and less. A person with old or mature skin loses its ability to create enough skin oils to ensure that the skin is moisturized and loses its ability to stay plump. This results in the skin getting lines and wrinkles. Even when heavily moisturized, the skin would not retain the same unless the treatments help repair its barrier. This results in the skin getting rough, dry, patchy and the skin adopting the same ridges, creating saggy old wrinkly skin. 

Follow these steps to ensure that your skin is not rendered dry: 

  • Use moisturizers and lotions every day to keep the skin hydrated.  
  • Limit baths and the time spent in them and shower not more than twice. 
  • Limit the time spent in a bath to 10 minutes or less. 
  • Stay away from hot baths or showers. Coldwater baths and batteries do not render the skin dry. 
  • Using a humidifier for people who live in dry regions to add moisture to the air in your home. 
  • Use moisturizing body and hand soap or use shower gels and oils that do not strip the skin. 
  • Take a bath with oatmeal as it has properties that soothe out dry, rough patchy skin. 
  • Cover up your skin under the sun to prevent drying the skin out to excess. 
  • Avoid scratching your dry skin. 
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day. 
  • Continuous usage of loofas with your shower cream or hydrating gel is a great way to exfoliate the skin and rid itself of dead skin cells. Using a shower brush or a pumice stone should be limited to usage once or twice a week as they are slightly harsher on the skin than loofahs. 
  • Applying a cold compress to the affected area. 
  • Adding baby oil to warm bath water or applying it when the skin is damp after a shower.
  • Gently patting the skin dry with a towel 
  • Drinking plenty of water after a night of drinking plenty of alcohol. 
  • Keep smoking to a minimum. 
  • Moisturize well after taking a swim at a pool as chlorine in swimming pools dry skin out. 
  • Wear gloves while washing dishes as dish wash gels and soap bars dry skin out really bad. Also, having wet skin for prolonged periods causes infections, even dry skin out for worse. 
  • Banish dust mites that thrive in dusty carpets and curtains. They cause skin infections that can dry skin out. The best thing to do to prevent such disease is to vacuum clean the same every week. 
  • Always moisturize hands after sanitizing as alcohol in sanitizers dehydrate the skin. 

Prescription medicines for treating severely dry skin include:

  • Topical medications that contain alpha-hydroxy acids or retinoids. 
  • Steroids that have hydrocortisone. 
  • Antibiotics. 
  • Topical Antiseptics. 
  • Antihistamines.