5 Causes of Ashen Skin and How to Get Rid of It

June 15, 2022
Claire Rodgers
By: Claire Rodgers | skincare.com by L'Oréal
Person applying lotion to their leg while stepping out of bathtub

Whether it's because of a change in weather, frequent hot showers or a lack of overall hydration, dry, ashy skin is never comfortable. Luckily, getting your skin back to a state of hydration is possible. We turned to the experts to get some info on ashen skin, who can get it, what causes it and how exactly you should care for it.

What Is Ashen Skin?

Xerosis, asteatosis, dehydration — call it what you will, but ashy skin as an overarching term refers to skin that is very dry. Dead skin cells accumulate on the surface and may cause skin to flake and take on a pale and grayish hue. “Ashen skin is basically very dry skin with an accumulation of dead skin cells,” says Dr. Peter Schmid, a SkinCeuticals ambassador, Skincare.com consultant and board-certified dermatologist. “Dry skin is generally not a serious condition, but it can be uncomfortable, embarrassing and look unhealthy if flaky skin is visible.”

Who Can Experience Ashen Skin?

In short, anyone can get ashen skin, regardless of skin type or tone. Depending on your skin tone, the shade of ash may vary. Some may display a dull, pale look, while others can develop a gray or slightly green appearance.

What Causes Ashen Skin?

There is a wide range of causes for dry skin, which include everything from environmental factors to lifestyle habits. Below, we tackle five factors that could be contributing to your ashen skin.

Harsh Weather Conditions

Dry or low-humidity climates can provoke dryness. If you live in an area that’s prone to blistering winds and sub-zero temps, your skin will need extra TLC to fend off flakes. Make sure to use a moisturizer daily and exfoliate as needed to avoid a build up of dead skin cells.


While the cold air is an obvious trigger for dryness, don’t forget about the effects of heat. Amenities like space heaters, central heating and fireplaces can reduce the humidity in the air and zap the moisture from your skin in return. Unfortunately, both cold weather and artificial heating are mainstays of the winter. We recommend investing in a humidifier to help add moisture back into the air in your home.

Harsh Soaps and Detergents

According to Dr. Jeanne Eyde, board-certified dermatologist, SkinCeuticals ambassador and Skincare.com consultant, soaps, detergents and shampoos can cause ashy skin if they strip the skin of natural oils. Opt for gentle and fragrance-free skin and hair-care products.

Hot Baths and Showers

Steamy showers may be comforting in the winter, but they aren’t doing any favors for your skin. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), hot water strips the natural oils from your skin. When showering, keep the temperature lukewarm and the duration of your shower short. The AAD says showers that last between five and ten minutes actually add moisture to your skin. Staying in for too long can do the opposite, though, leaving your skin less hydrated than before. Pro tip: After stepping out of the shower, apply moisturizer while your skin is still slightly damp to better lock in moisture.

Swimming in Chlorinated Pools

Have you ever noticed a chalky-white appearance on your skin after a lap in the pool? This could be due to chlorine stripping your skin of its natural oils. “While chlorine is great to kill harmful bacteria, it’s not so great for your skin and hair as it also kills good bacteria, in addition to stripping natural oils,” warns Dr. Dendy Engelman, board-certified dermatologist and Skincare.com expert.

How Can You Get Rid of Ashen Skin?

Ashen skin can be uncomfortable, but the good news is that it’s fairly easy to address. “For facial dryness, my patients have had great success with a series of mild-to-medium depth in-office chemical peels combined with a well-rounded at-home skincare regimen,” says Dr. Schmid. “A routine of SkinCeuticals Gentle Cleanser, SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic and SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 is an excellent regimen for restoring the skin’s appearance. This, followed by a sunscreen such as SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion SPF 50 helps to protect the repaired complexion.”

Dr. Eyde also recommends a product that can exfoliate the skin while simultaneously hydrating it, such as SkinCeuticals Body Retexturizing Treatment.

An important note from Dr. Schmid: Ashy skin can also indicate certain medical conditions. “If you are concerned that your ashy skin is more than a dry skin condition, please seek medical assistance to diagnose the underlying problem and take the appropriate course of action as advised by your physician.”

skinceuticals triple lipid restore 2:4:2
Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn

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