young woman applying Nivea serum

Dealing with Dead Skin: Causes and Care Routine

Learn what causes an accumulation of dead skin cells on the face and body and how you can remove them to maintain a radiant complexion.


Dead skin is a natural part of the human body’s renewal process. Dead cells often manifest as rough, dry, or flaky patches on the outermost skin layer. In more severe cases, accumulation can lead to calluses, especially on the soles of the feet. Employing various exfoliation techniques can assist the skin in shedding effectively.

After exfoliation, dead skin cells exhibit a greyish hue and a flaky appearance. 

This article covers the causes of dead skin cells, followed by a skincare routine for the face and homemade remedies to remove dead skin cells on the body. Finally, the article gives some recommended ingredients to integrate into the routine to get rid of dead skin cells.


During a cycle of 28 to 42 days, skin cells journey from the middle layer (dermis) to the outer layer (epidermis) and naturally shed, revealing newer ones underneath. The cycle enables skin restoration and the replacement of damaged tissue. However, sometimes these dead cells don't fall off as they should, resulting in an accumulation that may trigger skin problems.



Here are 10 reasons why dead skin does not shed properly:

  1. Age
    As people age, skin cell renewal slows down, leading to slower shedding and reduced oil production, causing dryness and accumulation.

  2. Inadequate Cleansing
    Irregular or improper cleansing can prolong the presence of dead skin cells by leaving oils and cosmetics on the skin.

  3. Incorrect Exfoliation
    Exfoliating only needs to be done either once or twice a week, not daily. Exfoliation speeds up the shedding process, allowing for the emergence of new skin cells.

  4. Moisturiser Misuse
    Using an improper or insufficient moisturiser can trap dead skin cells on dehydrated skin.

  5. Weather and Climate
    Dry environments and indoor heating can parch the skin, promoting dead skin cell accumulation.

  6. Sun exposure 
    Unprotected exposure to UV rays can lead to dryness, dark spots, and a thickening of the skin's top layer.

  7. Hot Showers and Baths
    Hot showers and baths can damage your skin’s natural moisture barrier. As a result, your skin becomes less effective at battling dry skin. This creates a build-up of unwanted dead skin cells.

  8. Harsh Soaps
    Aggressive soaps can strip the skin's oils, causing dryness and accumulation, especially on sensitive facial skin.

  9. Swimming Pools
    Chlorine in swimming pools can irritate and dry out the skin, leading to dead skin cells.

  10. Other Skin Conditions
    Other skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema are prone to cause dead skin. (If you think you may have one of these, seek advice from a medical professional or your GP)


Depending on the part of your body and your skin type, you should use techniques and products to get rid of dead skin.

young woman cleaning her face


1. Cleanse

Cleansing thoroughly and removing all of the excess particles, makeup, and pollutants accumulated on your skin during the day is very important. Cleansing will help your skin to remain clear, healthy, and radiant. If not properly executed, the skin may be more vulnerable to breakouts, dehydration, and early signs of ageing.

Cleansing the face before exfoliating is also beneficial as this opens up the skin’s pores.

The NIVEA Derma Skin Clear Wash Gel, enriched with Salicylic Acid and Niacinamide, deeply cleanses the skin by removing excess oil and clearing the pores. The range is mainly adapted to blemished-prone skins, but not advised to use on sensitive skin.

2. Exfoliate 

There are 2 ways to exfoliate your skin to remove the dead cells:

Chemical Exfoliation: the softer exfoliation method which dissolves the dead skin instead of brushing it away. 

The Derma Skin Clear Chemical Exfoliator is enriched with Salicylic and Glycolic Acids to stimulate the removal and renewal of old and damaged skin cells. The product is designed for blemished-prone skin and not recommended for sensitive skin.

Mechanical Exfoliation: in contrast to chemical exfoliation, mechanical exfoliation removes dead skin physically. This technique may involve the use of a soft brush or a washcloth to gently rub in circles on the face. Most effective on normal to oily skin types, this tends to be more harsh than chemical exfoliation. On dry or sensitive skin, it is recommended to avoid mechanical exfoliation. 

For men’s skincare routine, NIVEA MEN offers Protect & Care Face Cleansing Scrub infused with Provitamin B and Aloe Vera, can be used for unclogging pores and smoothening the skin’s appearance by lifting off dead skin cells. 

NIVEA offers a range of scrubs and exfoliators with products such as the Pore Purifying 3-in-1 Wash Scrub Mask, infused with Kaolin to remove daily impurities and deeply cleanse the skin. The product is based on a vegan formula to best suit your skin needs.

 2. Serum 

Serums contain a higher concentration of active ingredients and are able to reach the skin's surface for the best and faster results. 

NIVEA offers a range of serums to address a variety of concerns such as anti-aging, dark spots and dry skin. The Cellular Expert Filler Replumbing Hyaluronic Acid Serum is an advanced solution to bounce back signs of ageing, help you maintain hydrated skin and support cell regeneration.

3. Hydration (day/night cream)

Since dryness can cause dead skin, hydration is an important step in your skincare routine. You want to nourish your skin with the right components depending on your skin type.

NIVEA offers day creams and night creams to include in your skincare routines, with products for all skin types. Both ranges are designed to ensure that all skin types are addressed with carefully formulated creams.


4. SPF (morning)

In your morning routine, it is important that you end with the application of an SPF. UV Rays can be very harmful to your skin, damaging the cells on the surface of the skin, which increases the chance of dead skin production.



Using a natural body scrub to exfoliate your skin with a brush, sponge, or glove is the most effective method to get rid of dead skin cells from the surface of your body. Thoroughly scrubbing the skin, gets rid of the skin's dead cells, and promotes blood flow.

woman applying Nivea body lotion

Arms and legs

Using a brush, sponge, or glove to exfoliate your arms and legs is the simplest method. This can promote circulation and aid in the removal of dead skin cells. 

The NIVEA Rich Nourishing Body Lotion is enriched with Almond Oil and Vitamin E, providing a 48-hours deep moisture, leaving a non-greasy and healthy-looking effect on the skin.


Feet and hands

A pumice stone can be used to scrub and help remove hard skin on feet. 

Spend 10 minutes soaking the area of your skin that has toughened in warm water. This will make it easier to scrub off dead skin cells by dissolving them. Then, exfoliate your skin to eliminate the dead skin cells with a light body scrub that is suitable for your skin type. After drying your skin, nourish your skin with a body lotion.

Facts Overview

Dead skin

Causes: Dead skin cells are natural and occur due to a number of factors such as age, weather and climate, sun exposure, inadequate cleansing and others.

Solutions: To remove dead skin, you can follow a skincare routine which should help to make your skin more radiant by enabling the new skin to breathe.

Best ingredients: AHAs and BHAs are very good ingredients to help in dead skin removals.




  1. Coffee scrub
    Coffee grounds make an effective exfoliant for removing dead skin cells. Additionally, coffee has a lot of Flavonols, which enhance the texture of the skin and maintain the glow when applied straight to the skin. 

  2. Oatmeal scrub
    All skin types benefit from Oatmeal's gritty and granular texture for removing dead skin. Along with excess sebum and other pollutants, it will help remove any built-up dead skin.

  3. Orange peel powder
    All you need to do to utilise Orange Peels as an effective exfoliant is to keep them and let them dry in the sun for a few days before using them. Put the dehydrated orange peels in a blender to powderise them, then conserve them in a sealed bag. Orange Peel scrub can help make your complexion look younger by removing impurities in addition to dead skin cells.

  4. Gram flour
    Another product that is simple to locate in your kitchen cupboard is Gram Flour, often known as Besan. Gram Flour helps to exfoliate your skin, leaving it smooth and radiant. Utilising Besan will also help you get rid of extra oil from oily skin.

  5. Dry brushing
    Dead skin cells can be effectively removed by dry brushing. By using a dry brush, you may easily remove dead skin cells from your skin and widen your pores. By doing this, you can eliminate dead skin cells to let your skin find its natural glow back.

woman applying Nivea wash gel


Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

Plant-based AHAs like Citric Acid, Glycolic Acid, Malic Acid, and Lactic Acid aid in removing dead skin cells, especially for dry to normal skin types.

AHAs work by targeting the adhesive bonds that bind skin cells together, resulting in a smoother rejuvenation of fresh skin.


Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)

BHAs like Salicylic Acid exfoliate from deep within pores, making them suitable for oily, combination, and acne-prone skin.

If a build-up of dead skin cells is causing outbreaks and blemishes, then NIVEA Derma Skin Clear could help you address these concerns. Concentrated with Niacinamide, Salicylic Acid and Glycolic Acid, these products should support you in removing dead skin cells and preventing new blemishes from appearing. Note that the Derma range is not recommended for sensitive skin conditions.


Dead skin removal - at a glance

Dead skin cells are natural and part of the skin regeneration process. However, they have an impact on the skin and it is beneficial to help your skin by removing dead skin cells. The common causes of dead skin cell accumulation are skin ageing, inadequate cleansing, and environmental conditions. A skincare routine for both face and body is therefore important to adopt, emphasising cleansing, exfoliation, serum application, hydration and sun protection. Additionally, homemade remedies for dead skin cell removal as well as the effectiveness of Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) are to think about when addressing dead cells.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does dead skin look like?

Dead skin is a natural part of the human body's renewal process. It often appears as rough, dry, or flaky patches on the outermost layer of skin. In more severe cases, it can lead to calluses, especially on the soles of the feet. 

How does dead skin occur?

Skin cells go through a cycle, transitioning from the middle layer (dermis) to the outer layer (epidermis) over about a month. Normally, these dead cells are naturally shed. However, sometimes they accumulate and cause skin issues.

How can I prevent or remove dead skin effectively?

Depending on your skin type and the area of your body, there are strategies to prevent and remove dead skin:

Face: Cleanse thoroughly, exfoliate (using chemical or mechanical methods), use serums, ensure hydration with appropriate moisturisers, and apply SPF.

Body: Utilise a natural body scrub with a brush, sponge, or glove. For specific areas like arms, legs, feet, and hands, tailor your exfoliation approach.

What are the best ingredients for removing dead skin?

Effective ingredients include

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs): These plant-based acids, such as Citric Acid, Glycolic Acid, Malic Acid, and Lactic Acid, aid in removing dead skin cells, particularly for dry to normal skin types.
Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs): BHAs like Salicylic Acid exfoliate deep within pores, making them suitable for oily, combination, and scar-prone skin.

What causes dead skin on the ears?

Dry ears can result from insufficient earwax production, excessive cleaning, skin allergies, eczema, psoriasis, or dermatitis. While dry, flaky skin around the ears might concern some, the accompanying itch is often more discomforting.

What causes dead skin on the scalp?

You may experience a dry scalp whenever the skin on your scalp is itchy and flaky. When the scalp lacks moisture, the problem develops. A dry scalp can be brought on by hair care products, the environment, ageing, and different skin problems. By changing shampoos, you might be able to address the condition, but if your dry scalp problem doesn't go away, consult a doctor.