The Real Skin Conditions That Can Look Like Dry Skin

  • 4 min read

If your skin is forever flaking regardless of how much you moisturize, you’redefinitely not alone.

But itmay not be caused by good ol’ fashioned lack of moisture! 

In fact, many skin conditions can mimic the appearance of dry skin, making it difficult to accurately diagnose your condition. It’s important to understand the other underlying conditions that could be affecting your skin so that you can receive the proper treatment to manage symptoms and achieve your desired outcome. 

Ahead, we’ll take a close look at some common skin conditions that look like dry skin.

Conditions That Look Like Dry Skin, but Aren’t

Perioral Dermatitis and Periocular Dermatitis

If you’ve noticed small red bumps around your mouth and eyes, you may be suffering from a condition known as perioral dermatitis, and/or periocular dermatitis. These types of skin conditions are characterized by rash-like bumps that can be itchy or tender, and both types are more common in young women and children than in older women or men.

Although the exact cause of these conditions is unknown, there are treatments available for both perioral and periocular dermatitis that can help manage symptoms and achieve an outcome of healthy-looking skin. 

Treatment usually involves topical medications, such as antibiotics and antifungals. Surprisingly, corticoids are typicallynot helpful for this condition, and canactually exacerbate conditions

In some cases, oral medication may be prescribed. It’s important to avoid using harsh cleansers or other products on the affected area as this can make symptoms worse. With proper treatment, most people with perioral dermatitis experience improvement in their symptoms within a few weeks.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis occurs when an irritant (like certain fabrics) touches the surface of the skin, resulting in rashes or eczema-like symptoms, including itchiness, redness, flaking, and burning sensations. 

This type of dermatitis can be treated topically using mild soaps and moisturizers as well as supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, to overcome inflammation or nutrient deficiencies associated with contact dermatitis.


Eczema is a chronic condition characterized by inflamed and sometimes scaly patches of skin. It often results in intense itching or burning sensations with accompanying redness, swelling, cracking, and blistering. 

Fortunately, treatments for eczemaare abundant and include topical and oral medications, as well as lifestyle changes, such as avoiding harsh chemicals or irritants on your skin.


Psoriasis is another chronic condition characterized by thickened areas of red skin covered with scales or thin white lines. It also tends to produce intense itching or burning sensations along with soreness or pain in more severe cases. 

Treatments for psoriasis depend on its severity and may include lifestyle modifications, topical creams, and light therapy – among others.

OK, I Think I Have One of the Conditions Described Above – What Now?

By recognizing these conditions, you should be able to obtain the necessary treatment to manage any symptoms you experience while also achieving your desired outcome: healthy-looking skin!

Here are a few commonly-asked questions from people who are battling ailments that look like dryness, along with some helpful tips…

Do I Need to Exfoliate More?

If you are, in fact, dealing with one of the skin conditions we covered above, traditional exfoliatorsmight not be in your skin's best interest. 

In this case, it's best to remove the excess buildup of skin cells with a warm washcloth – my personal favoritemethod of exfoliation. The idea here is to avoid scrubs or other physical exfoliators that can aggravate your skin and potentially exacerbate flaking and irritation. 

Using a warm washcloth to gently remove excess flakes of superficial skin will also allow for moisture to more easily penetrate the skin and smooth out the appearance of both flaky and oily patches. And, of course, don't forget sunscreen after exfoliating – and always!

Do I Need to Use More Moisturizer?

Although you may be experiencing flaking or rough patches, your skin isn’tactuallydry, meaning more moisture isn’t necessarily the answer.

That said, it's important to keep your skin hydrated – no matter the condition – but the rule of ‘quality over quantity’definitelyapplies here. Too much moisturizer – or one that’s too heavy for your skin – may bring on another set of issues, such as clogged pores and potential breakouts. 

Furthermore, the skin on your face isvery different from the skin on your body, so it's important to use a moisturizer designed for the face. Use a gentle moisturizer that’s free of fragrances, dyes, and other potential known allergens or irritants as these can further irritate your skin and make the condition worse.

How Do I Fix It?

There are many internal and external factors that contribute to these skin conditions. 

Internally, genetics seem to play a role.Poor gut health due to stress or certain underlying conditions can also trigger flares. Externally, environmental changes likeshifts in temperature, air quality, and humidity are important considerations. 

Additionally, using cosmetic/skincare products with harsh ingredients or fragrances may cause irritation or exacerbate existing symptoms.

Fortunately, there are ways to help reduce the severity of these flare-ups should they occur! Topical treatments can be prescribed by a dermatologist to reduce inflammation in severe cases of many uncomfortable skin maladies. For those not wanting to use topical treatments (or for milder cases), natural remedies such as moisturizers infused with licorice or chamomile can help reduce itching and redness associated with the condition.

Finally, dietary interventions may likely prove useful in managing this condition – especially if stress is a suspected factor in its development or exacerbation. Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids – salmon being one notable example – may help combat inflammation on a cellular level while avoiding triggers (such as processed or sugary snacks) may aid in maintaining healthy digestive function over time.


With the right combination of treatments and lifestyle changes, you can manage the flakes to achieve healthy looking skin. Exfoliating gently with a warm washcloth and properly moisturizing can help maintain hydrated and nourished skin, while topical treatments and dietary interventions can manage inflammation and reduce irritation. 

With a little bit of care, you can keep your skin glowing and flake-free!