Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C
Jun 23, 2020 · 5 min read
Welcome to Ask Curology, penned by one of our in-house medical providers in response to your questions about all things skincare. This week, we’re looking at a particular skin woe: flaky, scaly skin on the nose.
My skin is normal-to-oily everywhere except for one place: my nostrils. The dry skin on the sides of my nose is so annoying, and it gets worse. When allergy season picks up, my nose is so dried out that the skin starts to scale and flake. Sometimes, it spreads to the skin above my mouth, too. Why is my nose peeling? If you have a great overnight cure, I could sure use it!
Break the Flake
Flaking is so annoying, no matter where it’s happening on your face. The skin around your nose and mouth can be more sensitive and prone to dryness and flaking than other parts of your face. Understanding what’s causing the dry skin around your nose is the first step to treating it.
There are many potential reasons for a dry and flaky nose, and the truth is, anything that could be causing dryness or irritating your skin could be the culprit. Think: sunburns, a dry climate, harsh acne treatments, or over-exfoliating. Once you figure out what could be causing the flakiness, you can work to keep your skin flake-free with these five tips.
Tissue paper: If you’re constantly blowing or wiping your nose, the friction from tissue paper may result in dryness and peeling.
Irritating ingredients: Watch out for products with ingredients that are potentially unkind to skin (like alcohol). These may contribute to dryness and flaking in sensitive areas.¹
Climate: Cold, dry weather can zap the moisture from the skin. During winter, indoor heating can also contribute to dryness and flaking. Try running a humidifier to add moisture into the air.
Sunburn: If you’re not wearing enough sunscreen, your skin might get damaged. Sunburnt skin can look peely and flaky, and it may feel drier than usual. Make sure to wear at least SPF 30 and reapply every two hours if you’re out in the sun.²
Strong actives: While you’re adjusting to a new topical medication with prescription-strength ingredients (like your Curology Custom Formula) you may experience some temporary dryness or flaking,³ especially in areas where the skin is more sensitive.
Over-exfoliating: You may think exfoliating your skin will help with the flakiness, but it may be better to leave your skin alone. Over-exfoliating can make things worse—a tell-tale sign you’ve exfoliated too much is skin that looks shiny, but not oily. You can still exfoliate your skin; just remember to be gentle and apply some moisturizer after.
Perioral dermatitis: This is a common rash that mostly affects adult women. Itchy or tender small red bumps appear on the skin around the face—usually around the nose, eyes, or mouth area. If you think you have perioral dermatitis, reach out to your Curology medical provider or in-person medical provider, who can give you a diagnosis and a treatment plan.
Skin conditions: There are several common skin conditions that could cause dry skin, including eczema and seborrheic dermatitis. If you think your dry skin could be due to a medical condition, make an appointment with a doctor to get a diagnosis and learn about your treatment options.
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The reasons that can cause a flaky nose may be many, but there are also plenty of great options to treat and help prevent peeling. Here are a few of our favorites:
Moisturize. This one might seem a bit obvious, but it’s worth mentioning anyway. Regularly using a non-comedogenic moisturizer is one way to help treat a dry, flaky nose.
Go easy on your skin. If your skin peeling is caused by harsh ingredients, like a drying acne medication, you may want to try gentle alternatives to help keep dryness away. Look for a gentle cleanser that can clean your skin while keeping it hydrated.
Skip the exfoliation. Over-exfoliation can be a cause of dry and flaky skin. If you are using a chemical exfoliant, like salicylic acid face wash, and a physical one, try giving your skin a break.
Use a humidifier. If dry air is a possible cause of your flaky nose, a humidifier is an easy way to pump a bit of hydration back into your environment.
Choose the right ingredients. Finding a moisturizer with ingredients like hyaluronic acid can help keep your skin healthy and moisturized.⁴
Talk to a doctor. If your dry skin is particularly persistent, it never hurts to speak with a dermatologist or your local medical provider to see if you may have a skin condition that could be causing your dry skin.
Using a heavy moisturizer can make a difference in dry, flaky skin. We recommend using a moisturizer with occlusive ingredients (like pure petrolatum, dimethicone, and allantoin). These work by forming a protective barrier around the skin that helps to lock in moisture. Apply a moisturizer both morning and night, and you should see a big difference! Here are a few we often recommend:
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Anything that could be causing dryness or irritating your skin could be the culprit: sunburns, a dry climate, harsh acne treatments, or over-exfoliating. You can work to keep your skin flake-free with these five tips.
American Academy of Dermatology. Dry Skin: Who gets and causes. (n.d.).
Mayo Clinic Staff. Sunburn. Mayo Clinic. (2020 July 17).
American Academy of Dermatology. Dermatologists’ tips for relieving dry skin. (n.d.).
Papakonstantinou, E., Roth, M., & Karakiulakis, G. Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging. Dermato-endocrinology. (July 2012).
This article was originally published on June 23, 2020, and updated on July 21, 2022.
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Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C
Kristen Jokela, NP-C