How to Spot Treat Dry Skin Patches, According to a Dermatologist

March 16, 2023
Jordan Julian
By: Jordan Julian | by L'Oréal
Person with blonde hair pulled back looking at the camera and touching their fingertips to their cheek

Dry skin is a common skincare concern, especially during the winter months, but the severity can vary. If you’re anything like me, for example, you may experience extreme dryness in localized areas, causing specific patches of skin to become flaky. I’ve always been stumped when it comes to addressing these dry, peeling skin patches, since I already moisturize twice a day and they only pop up on certain areas of my face, such as between my eyebrows. My predicament has made me wonder if it is possible or beneficial to spot treat dry skin the way that you might spot treat a breakout. So, I tapped board-certified dermatologist, co-founder of Stryke Club and consultant Dr. Sheilagh Maguiness to answer my question. 

Can You Spot Treat Dry Skin?

According to Dr. Maguiness, the answer is yes. Dry skin is the result of a compromised skin barrier, which allows moisture to escape, causing the dryness to worsen. “Using a thick, cream- or ointment-based emollient to occlude and add moisture to single areas on the face or body that are particularly dry or irritated, can be helpful in protecting and soothing the skin barrier in that location,” she says. In addition to moisturizing twice a day as part of your normal skincare routine, you can apply one of these types of creams just to particularly dry areas as needed throughout the day to soothe them.   

Dr. Maguiness notes that two areas prone to extreme dryness, especially during the colder months, are the lips and eyelids. “These areas have thinner skin and don’t retain moisture as well, they’re also more prone to irritant dermatitis and skin barrier impairment,” she explains. Reapplying an ointment-based moisturizer on your lips and eyes throughout the day can help improve the skin barrier by sealing in moisture.

What Types of Products Are Good for Spot Treating Dry Skin? 

“When skin is already dry, sensitive and/or irritated [due to dryness], less is more,” advises Dr. Maguiness. In other words, you should probably skip products with strong fragrances and look for options with fewer ingredients (to avoid potential irritants). Petroleum jelly and other occlusive ointments are ideal — Dr. Maguiness likes the CeraVe Healing Ointment, for example. She also recommends the Stryke Club Calm Down Moisturizer for blemish-prone skin.  


CeraVe Healing Ointment

Our pick is the Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Advanced Repair Barrier Cream. Formulated with colloidal oatmeal and beta-glucan for very dry skin, this intensive barrier cream mimics your skin’s lipid structure to help seal in moisture, relieve dryness and speedily improve natural moisture barrier function.  

Other than spot treating, Dr. Maguiness’ other tips for dealing with patches of very dry skin include applying moisturizer to slightly damp skin to help lock in hydration and using a gentle, non-soap cleanser. 


Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Advanced Repair Barrier Cream


Photo: Chaunté Vaughn

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