We tend to think of acne as something that can occur only to those with oily skin, but that’s not true. If you have dry skin, you can be plagued with it as well. Often, this dry skin is self-inflicted. In an effort to get rid of acne, you can go too far, drying out your skin and damaging it even more. But other times, your skin was already, maybe has always been, dry, when you started developing acne.
In either case, having to deal with both acne and dry skin at the same time can be very confusing. How do you treat both conditions without making things worse? Let’s start by figuring out the cause:
1. Harsh anti-acne and anti-aging ingredients
Anti-acne ingredients such as Salicylic Acid (it penetrates inside the pores, exfoliating them from within), Benzoyl Peroxide (it can kill the bacteria that causes acne), or Differin (it accelerates cell turnover) are very effective at keeping this condition under control but, if used in high doses or too often can irritate skin and drying it out.
Some people use two or more of these ingredients at the same time, sometimes even adding OTC retinoids and Vitamin C to the mix to help fight premature aging as well. While your skin needs antioxidants to stay young and healthy, these particular ingredients can also cause irritations when used too often or in too high doses.
The solution? Experiment to find the anti-acne routine that works best for you. You can use a BHA exfoliant with salicylic acid during the day and retinoids at night. Or you can use retinoids only every other day, alternating them with benzoyl peroxide. Also consider reducing the doses of these active ingredients. Rather than using a 10% BHA exfoliant, for instance, opt for a 2% concentration. Some people cannot use these ingredients at all because any concentrations make their skin act up. In that case, replace BHA exfoliants with AHAs ones and OTC retinol products with antioxidant rich serum. For alternatives to prescription products, consult your doctor.
2. Harsh skincare products
Even if you’ve found the right anti-acne or anti-aging products, you may be using something else that makes your skin act up. Avoid bar soaps and harsh cleansers, in particular those with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, that can strip too much oil from your skin. Oil is the skin’s natural moisturizer so, while removing any excess is good, getting rid of it completely can dry it out even more. Instead, opt for cleansers with gentler surfactants, such as Boots Expert Anti-Blemish Cleansing Foam or Paula’s Choice Clear Normalizing Cleanser Pore Clarifying Gel.
Not everyone needs toner, and certainly no one needs those loaded with alcohol, witch hazel, or menthol. They just dry out or irritate skin even more. And so do harsh scrubs that remove dead skin cell with the help of apricot or walnut seeds. Their jarred edges can tear at the skin, irritating it. The Clarisonic brush, if used too often, can make things worse as well. For exfoliation, stick to BHA, or, if that irritates your skin, AHAs exfoliants, which are gentler on the skin.
If your skin is dry, you may be tempted to use rich moisturizers. But if your dry skin is caused by the wrong skincare products or by abusing good ones, a moisturizer that’s too rich won’t help much. It may actually make things worse. How? A lot of the heavy moisturizing and thickening ingredients used in them can clog pores and exacerbate breakouts. Instead, opt for a lightweight gel formula loaded with antioxidants such as MD Formulations Moisture Defense Antioxidant Hydrating Gel. And don’t even think of skipping sunscreen! Your skin will never heal if you keep inflicting sun damage on it too every day.
Finally, keep in mind that any skincare products, including those formulated for acne-prone and/or dry skin, can contain any of the harsh ingredients already mentioned, such as alcohol, sodium lauryl sulfate, or menthol. So always read the ingredient list carefully before purchasing a skincare product or you may risk throwing money away on something that will make your problems worse, not better.
What if you still have dry skin and acne?
What if there’s nothing wrong with your skincare routine but your skin is still dry and acne-prone? Your dry skin may be due to other causes, such as cold weather and low humidity that can suck all the moisture out of your skin. Genetics, aging, and medical conditions such as thyroid disease can play a part too.
If your skin is really acne-prone and dry, all the tips above bar one apply. A lightweight gel moisturizer may not be enough for your skin type. Only in this case, you should opt for a richer formula. Just make sure it doesn’t contain any of the irritating ingredients mentioned above. Stay away from moisturizers with mineral oil as well. Although cosmetic grade mineral oil isn’t comedogenic, it can still exacerbate acne in some people.
Dealing with both acne and dry skin can be frustrating, but with the right products and skincare habits, you too can get clearer, softer, and more hydrated skin.
Do you suffer from both acne and dry skin? If so, how do you deal with them?