Why is there dry skin on my nose with excessive peeling?
Updated 2/11/21. Even though the nose can get very oily compared to other areas on the face, many people experience dryness and flakiness on the top, sides, and corners of their nose for what seems like no apparent reason. What causes dry skin on the nose and the accompanying flakiness and peeling? What’s the best way to get rid of it?
There are a few reasons why the nose can be the only area of the face to get dry and flaky. In this post, I’ll share what they are, as well as some possible solutions to get the skin restored back to a healthier and more hydrated state with less visible peeling.
How and why does the nose get flaky, dry and start to peel?
You might be using skincare products that are too drying.
Particularly along the bridge of the nose, the skin can be quite thin, so if you’re getting flaking and peeling in this area it could be that you’re using products that are overly drying. They can disrupt the skin’s protective barrier and put it in a vulnerable condition, causing constant dry skin on the nose, accompanied by peeling. The barrier serves the important function of protecting the many internal layers of the skin beneath that hold moisture in between the cells. Skincare products that are too stripping can cause damage in the form of tiny, invisible cracks that allow moisture to easily seep out. The result is skin that appears excessively dry and flaky. This is made even worse during cold winters and in areas where there is low humidity (for example, Arizona in the summertime).
You might be overdoing it with your exfoliating products.
In an effort to get rid of the dry skin around the nose, along with peeling and flaking, a person’s first reaction is to try and remove it. This usually includes exfoliating more often, such as with a cleansing brush (read my Clarisonic review), a facial scrub, rubbing with a washcloth, applying an AHA or BHA exfoliating acid, or any other type of dry cell removal method. Your exfoliation techniques may be removing too many of the protective cells, allowing for moisture to escape because of the deterioration of your skin’s protective barrier. (Watch this video to see before and after of a damaged moisture barrier.) I have heard so many people through the years saying, “I’m exfoliating a lot and it’s not helping the dry skin around my nose or the peeling at all.” Sound familiar?
Is the dry skin around my nose caused by my skincare products? How can I tell?
If what I have explained about products sounds like what could be happening with your skin, the first thing to do is to re-analyze your skin care routine to make sure you’re not using anything that could be causing dry, flaky nose skin in the first place. This includes bar soaps, foaming cleansers that leave the skin feeling tight and dry (make sure your cleanser doesn’t contain these four ingredients), and alcohol-based toners. These could be reducing the hydration levels in your skin which is never good for your skin’s health. Keep in mind, there is a difference between dry skin and dehydrated skin, and you can learn what the difference is by reading this post.
In addition, if you are exfoliating the skin often (more than four times a week), stop using any type of exfoliant for two weeks. The goal here is to see if the skin starts to repair itself with less visible dryness and peeling, and if so, to determine what was the cause. From my experience, I usually see that it’s a combination of using some drying products along with being too aggressive with exfoliation. Read my guide to using exfoliants. If you need help with choosing products that are gentle and won’t dry your nose skin, take this easy Skin Type Quiz to get the best products recommended.
Your skincare products might not be applied evenly on the nose.
If dryness and flaking appear in the corners of the nose, it might be due to how a product is being applied. When someone puts on an active treatment product, such as an acid serum, retinol or a prescription retinoid, it’s not uncommon to have a larger amount of the product collect and settle in the crevices of the corners of the nose. Since these products are excellent for smoothing your skin’s texture, they are potent in their activity and can act strong when too much is used.
I know this first-hand from giving professional chemical peeling treatments to my clients. I have to really be very careful with getting an even application in this area because naturally, a product wants to settle in there, and the peel can work much stronger and cause dry nose skin. To prevent this, I will apply petroleum jelly in all crevices such as the corners of the nose and the mouth. This prevents the peel from collecting in these areas.
My suggestion is to pay close attention to how you’re applying a skincare product to make sure that you’re not getting too much on the sides and in the corners of the nose. This will definitely cause dryness, peeling, and flaking on the nose.
You might be blowing your nose too frequently without replenishing the moisture.
When tissue is continuously being rubbed on the nose due to allergies or a cold, it creates friction that can damage the protective barrier and deplete moisture from between the cells. Nose dryness, peeling, and flakiness can easily appear.
If you’ll be blowing your nose frequently, use a soft “moisturizing” tissue so it feels less scratchy to the skin and causes less irritation. In addition, apply a facial oil or moisturizer after every blow to restore moisture and keep the area feeling soft and supple.
You might have pre-cancerous cells on your nose.
We have all been educated on the importance of paying special attention to our moles to check for a change in shape or color that might indicate skin cancer. What most people aren’t as aware of is that the indication of potential early stages of skin cancer can begin with dry, flaky and rough areas known as actinic keratosis. As an esthetician working with skin hands-on, I have detected dry areas on my client’s faces that have seemed a little suspicious. When I encounter this, I will refer them to a dermatologist to get it looked at. I can confidently say that many times, it was in fact, early signs of skin cancer. (Which can be treated fairly easy, by the way.)
Don’t mistake a small dry, rough patch of skin on the nose (or any area of the face for that matter) as simply having “dry skin.” If your skin is truly dry from lack of moisture, it would generally encompass a larger area, not just a small patch. This could be an indication of something more serious, so it’s important to get it looked at by a dermatologist.
It’s important to understand that the nose is the one area of the face that can get more sun damage than any other place. The reason is that this is an area that secretes the most oil (which is why the pores are the largest on the nose), and oil will quickly degrade sunscreens and leave this area susceptible to getting sunburns easily. This is why it’s so important to be diligent about reapplying sunscreen using a non-greasy sunscreen.
You might have developed eczema or seborrheic dermatitis.
Symptoms of a condition called eczema, or seborrheic dermatitis, are when the skin can get dry, red, flaky and peeling, often times on the nose. It’s usually fairly easy to detect this condition as more than likely you’ll see it show up in additional areas at the same time, such as the eyelids and hairline.
Particularly with eczema, the skin’s protective barrier is impaired, so the goal is to try to correct it back to a healthy place. My best advice is to start by moisturizing often using ingredients that not only repair flakiness and peeling, but also work to calm and soothe irritation.
In summary, whenever the skin isn’t acting how it should be, and in this case, the skin on the nose is consistently dry and flaky with excessive peeling, you must really listen to your skin and pay attention to your habits. Additionally, consider making some adjustments to your skincare routine to determine the underlying cause. With the right care and products, you can be on your way to smoother and healthier-looking skin without excessive dryness and peeling on the nose.
If your skin is getting dry and flaky from using harsh acne products, read how to fix it.
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”