Are you worried that cancer could be causing that unexplained itching and flaking on your face?

The causes of itchy, flaky facial skin are many.

Eczema. “Scaling on the face can be as simple as eczema (atopic dermatitis)—this occurs in children and adults when the barrier function of the skin is altered and the skin is hypersensitive,” says Dr. Rebecca Tung, MD, director of the dermatology division at Loyola University Health System, Chicago.

“Oftentimes it is very itchy and may even become infected in patients who aggressively scratch their skin.

“Minimizing the itch-scratch cycle is the cornerstone of treatment—oral antihistamines, topical or oral steroids, and topical medicines that reduce the hyperactive immune response.”

Contact dermatitis. “A specific type of dermatitis called contact dermatitis can cause similar symptoms,” says Dr. Tung.

“However, the culprit is some product or ingredient that is applied to the skin such as a fragrance in a facial cream, preservative in lotion, or even a particular antibacterial agent like neomycin in an over-the-counter wound healing ointment.”

Dr. Tung has even seen flaking on the skin from applying body glitter, which contains nickel, the allergen.

“Even some types of chemical sunscreens can bring on scaly, red, itchy patches on the face. Finding the cause is critical to cure.

“This is accomplished with specialized allergy testing (patch testing)—no needles involved under the guidance of a dermatologist.”

Seborrheic dermatitis. Dr. Tung explains, “Other times infection with a specific type of yeast (Malassezia species) can bring on a case of facial redness and scaling, particularly around the eyebrows, nose and ears as well as is the scalp (dandruff).

“Treatment is successful when the yeast are killed (anti-fungals—topical or oral) and inflammation is minimized (topical steroid).

Others causes of itchy, flaking skin on the face.

“Sometimes if the redness and scaling is accompanied by sun sensitivity—facial redness can signify an autoimmune condition like lupus or dermatomyositis.

“Your dermatologist may order blood tests or perform a skin biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.”

Dr. Tung’sdr. tung specialties include general dermatology with skin cancer surveillance, moles, melanoma, surgery (Mohs micrographic, laser, skin cancer reconstruction) and cosmetic dermatology.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


Top image: ©Lorra Garrick