Do You Have Dry, Acne-Prone Skin? Heres Why Its Happening and How to Deal with It

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Think again. You don’t get a free pass cos you’ve got dry skin. Acne can get you, too.

And if there’s anything worse than dealing with acne, that’s dealing with acne AND dry skin. How the heck do you treat one condition without worsening the other?

The first step is to figure out what’s giving you dry, acne-prone skin. Here are the common culprits:

Dry, Acne-Prone Skin Cause #1: Your Anti-Acne Treatment Is Too Harsh

Sometimes, the cure can be as bad as the illness. A lot of the stuff your doctor gives you to get rid of acne (hello, Differin!) can be so harsh, it dries out your skin.

OTC treatments, such as pore-unclogger salicylic acid or acne killer benzoyl peroxide can be just as bad, especially when used too often. If then you add retinoids to the mix, you’ll wreak even more havoc on your skin.

The Fix

The first step is to find an anti-acne routine that works best for you. Try a salicylic acid-based exfoliant (look for BHA on the label) first and if that doesn’t work, an OTC benzoyl peroxide treatment.

Still not working? Then, it may be time to see a doctor and go with a prescription treatment.

In the meantime, use antioxidant-rich serums and soothing moisturizers to counteract the drying effects of the treatment.

Once those are under control, you can think about introducing a time-released retinol moisturizer or serum to up your anti-aging game while kicking acne in the butt.

Best Picks:

  • Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid ($29.00/£26.00): available at Dermstore, Feel Unique and Paula’s Choice
  • La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo ($36.95/£16.00): available at Dermstore and Feel Unique
  • Paula’s Choice RESIST Ultra-Light Antioxidant Concentrate Serum ($38.00/£35.00): available at Dermstore, Feel Unique and Paula’s Choice
  • Paula’s Choice CALM Redness Relief SPF 30 Mineral Moisturizer Normal To Oily ($29.00/£29.00): available at Dermstore and Paula’s Choice

Dry, Acne-Prone Skin Cause #2: You’re Using Harsh Skincare Products

It’s not just anti-acne or anti-aging products that make your skin act up. Those can backfire because they’re so powerful.

Other stuff is just irritating and drying and has no place in your skincare routine. I’m talking about:

  • Bar soaps
  • Clarisonic and other sonic brushes (when used too often)
  • Rich moisturizers
  • Scrubs (especially those with apricot kernels)
  • Toners with alcohol, witch hazel and menthol

You should also avoid irritating ingredients. The worst culprits are:

  • Alcohol denat
  • Menthol
  • Peppermint
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Witch hazel
The Fix

Get rid of all that bad stuff above. Replace with:

  • Replace bar soaps with low pH foaming cleansers
  • Replace scrubs and Clarisonic with a BHA exfoliant
  • Replace right moisturisers with lightweight moisturizers
  • Replace alcohol-based toners with hydrating toners (or skip toners completely)

Best Picks:

  • Corsx low PH Good Morning Gel Cleanser ($11.00): pH 5.5. Available at Sokoglam and YesStyle.
  • Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid ($29.00/£26.00): available at Dermstore, Feel Unique and Paula’s Choice
  • Paula’s Choice CALM Redness Relief SPF 30 Mineral Moisturizer Normal To Oily ($29.00/£29.00): available at Dermstore and Paula’s Choice

Dry, Acne-Prone Skin Cause #3: Genetics, Climates, And Illnesses

What if there’s nothing wrong with your skincare routine but you’re still suffering from acne AND dry skin?

There’s something else going on here, obvs. Your woes may be due to:

  • Aging
  • Cold weather
  • Genetics
  • Low humidity
  • Medical conditions (such as thyroid disease)
The Fix

All the fixes I mentioned above apply to you too. You need a low pH cleanser, a salicylic acid exfoliant, and possibly a benzoyl peroxide treatment, too.

There’s just one exception. You do need a richer moisturizer. Just make sure it doesn’t contain any of the irritants mentioned above. And no mineral oil, either. That’s not dangerous, but it can make acne worse.

Best Pick:

The Bottom Line

Dealing with dry, acne-prone skin is so frustrating. But, with the right products and skincare habits, you too can banish both and get your soft and clear skin back.

Read more on: skin, acne


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