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5 Smart Ways to Treat Acne-Prone, Dry Skin

Dry skin and acne seems counterintuitive because if your skin is oily, how could it also be dry? But it’s more common than you might think. We’re breaking down how to combat these two skin issues together to leave you with clear skin that’s still radiant and glowy.

We spoke with Joshua Zeichner, a dermatologist and the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital, who said: “It is a misconception that patients with acne cannot have dry skin. In fact, skin hydration and skin oil content are separate issues. You can have a oily skin and acne yet be lacking hydration.” So, how should you actually combat it?


It’s no secret that honey is great for your skin, but it’s especially great if you have acne and dry skin. Honey is both anti-inflammatory and moisturizer and it’s a great natural antibiotic for getting rid of bacteria-causing acne. It’s also a humectant, which means that it helps the skin lock in moisture.
Honey straight from the jar may not be your best bet for acne simply because it hasn’t been tested for effectiveness and safety. Acne is something deeply personal and can’t always be solved by topical treatments, so incorporating honey into your acne routine works best when combined with other proven acne treatments. You can, however, incorporate honey in with the products that you use. We love the Manefit Beauty Planner Honey Sheet Mask and the COSRX Honey Ceramide Full Moisture Cream as great honey-infused products. Or you can try our DIY honey mask, which is simple to make at home!

Avoid Harsh Scrubs

Exfoliating can help clear your skin of potential pore blockers like dead skin cells that cause acne, but over exfoliating, which is all-too common, can exacerbate breakouts. Using harsh scrubs and exfoliators over existing breakouts can cause the infection to spread to other parts of your face. In a similar vein, over exfoliating can irritate your skin, causing micro tears, allowing easier access for bacteria to cause acne.
To avoid these problems, try using a gentler physical exfoliator like the RE:P Cotton Treatment Toning Pad, which has a super gentle threaded side so that it’s nearly impossible to go overboard. Or try a chemical exfoliant like an AHA or BHA. The Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner is a rare soothing exfoliator that allows you to be sure that physical exfoliation isn’t the cause of your acne.

Hydrate & Soothe Skin

Acne spots are wounds at their very core, but we rarely treat them like they are. In order to speed up the process of healing acne, we need to treat our skin well. We should avoid using products that may dry the skin out like alcohol and menthol. And at all costs, avoid touching acne. Instead, use a pimple patch like the Missha Speedy Solution Anti Trouble Patch which is formulated with salicylic acid and tea tree oil to both extract gunk from the pimple and soothe the skin.
Dry skin is super common if you have acne, primarily because we have this idea that the way that you should combat acne is to dry it out, so we avoid things like moisturizer and cream. But not hydrating our skin can be a huge cause of acne, because our skin thinks that it needs to overcompensate for the lack of moisture by producing more and more oil, creating a vicious cycle.
There are some great ingredients that you can use that both combat dryness and help to rid the skin of acne. The Missha Time Revolution Clear Toner and Neogen Real Ferment Micro Essence are great for giving a boost of hydration to your skin while still treating acne. The clear toner has AHA and BHA exfoliators for getting rid of acne while the micro essence is packed with birch juice which has been known to be a great hydrating ingredient for treating acne.
With dry, acne-prone skin, you must moisturize, but when creams feel thick on the skin, it can be difficult to layer products. Zeichner usually recommends oil-free moisturizers for patients with acne. “These products use ingredients like dimethicone rather than white petrolatum so they are less likely to clog pore,” he says. He also adds: “I actually recommend that all of my acne patients apply moisturizer to the face first to help prime and hydrate the skin and minimize the risk of developing irritation from the acne medication itself.”
The Dr. Oracle A-Thera Cream is a great option for those that are acne prone with dry skin. Designed for acne-prone, combination skin, this cream is rich with minerals for strengthening the skin barrier. It’s super nourishing and hydrating, and uses bamboo extract to keep moisture locked in. Though this cream is formulated with a light gel consistency, it has all the hydration of a heavy-duty cream.
The COSRX Oil Free Ultra Moisturizing Lotion has a super silky texture that doesn’t leave behind any oily residue. It also contains AHA and BHA as well as birch sap for treating inflamed skin and breakouts. Another great oil-free option is the Missha Super Aqua Ultra Water-Full Clear Cream. This cream is less of a cream and more of a gel. It adds a ton of moisture without leaving you feeling greasy and is primarily formulated with water. It also contains baobab tree extracts and glacial water to help your skin retain moisture and control oily production.

Use Sunscreen

Again, acne are wounds in the skin. They need to be protected from harsh UV rays which can cause further damage and make acne more prone to leaving behind dark spots. At the same time though, sunscreen often feels like it just sits on the skin leaving you greasy, and many sunscreens aren’t non-comedogenic so they can still clog your pores, simply making the problem worse.
The Missha Mild Essence Sun Milk and Neogen Day-Light Protection Sun Screen SPF 50/PA+++ are some great lightweight, non-greasy sunscreen options that protect your skin from harsh UV rays, while still moisturizing and without leaving a white cast.  

Less is More

The best acne tip is always going to be this: Leave your acne alone. It will go away in time. Layering product on product can be tempting, especially since every beauty company will tell you that they have the overnight treatment to get rid of those pesky spots. But the truth is, slapping on acne treatments will more often irritate your skin and dry it out further than fix it at all. The more you irritate your skin, the more you dry it out, the more acne you’re going to end up dealing with.
That doesn’t mean don’t cleanse your skin or don’t moisturize, but understand that slapping on all the products that you have in your arsenal, probably isn’t do you very much. In time, your skin will heal itself.

The Bottom Line:

Dry skin and acne is more common than you’d think. But it’s definitely treatable so long as you are gentle with your skin and use the right products.

+ Do you have dry skin and acne? What’s your biggest tip? Let us know in the comments below!

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