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What you need to know

Does your dry skin cause acne, or is dryness the result of your acne treatment? If you have naturally dry skin you can experience acne, and acne-treatment products can cause dryness and flaking. The key for managing both scenarios is using a gentle, yet effective skincare routine that addresses the underlying causes of acne, while hydrating and restoring your skin's barrier. Fortunately, with one simple regimen that includes the right cleanser and moisturizer, you can get the help you need to improve both your dry skin and your acne.

How to minimize dry skin and acne1
  • Wash with a gentle acne cleanser in the morning, evening and after exercising.
  • Avoid over-cleansing.
  • Use moisturizer after cleansing—and be sure the label says “non-comedogenic” so it won’t clog pores.
  • Don’t use harsh astringents or toners, which can strip the skin of its natural moisture.

Can dry skin cause acne?

It’s well known that excess oil is a contributing factor to acne, but you may not know that dry skin can play a role as well. Dryness prompts the skin to produce more oil, which can lead to clogged pores and further acne.2 Dry skin can be due to genetics or age, caused by acne treatment products or result from a combination of both.3 Moisturizer is a key product in any skincare routine, but some hydrating products for dry skin may feel too rich for your acne-prone skin, or might contain ingredients that can clog your pores.4 That's why, if you have acne-prone skin, it’s important to be especially careful when selecting a moisturizer. Dry skin and skin with acne have also been associated with lower levels of ceramides that play a key role in the skin’s protective barrier,5 so a moisturizer with this ingredient can also be beneficial. Keep reading to find out what to look for in a moisturizer when you're dealing with dry skin and acne.

Acne treatment for dry skin

Many common anti-acne ingredients cause dryness—and it's one of the main reasons people give up on acne treatment.6 More is not always better when it comes to the concentration of active ingredients in anti-acne skincare products. For example, a study comparing the effectiveness of 2.5%, 5% and 10% benzoyl peroxide gel found that a 2.5% concentration provided similar reduction in acne lesions as 5% and 10%, but with significantly less peeling, redness and irritation than 10% benzoyl peroxide.7 This shows that a “maximum concentration” anti-acne product is not necessarily more effective—and a lower strength help improve your acne with fewer side effects, including dry skin.

Skincare solutions for dry skin and acne

The proper skincare regimen can help you manage both dry skin with acne and dryness caused by acne treatment products. An acne cleanser that contains an effective concentration of benzoyl peroxide while still being gentle on the skin can help control your acne—and a formula with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and soothing niacinamide can help soothe your dry skin.

Ceramides are a vital component of your skin’s natural barrier. As a skincare ingredient, ceramides may be especially beneficial for those with acne, since research has shown that a weakened skin barrier may contribute to acne formation.8

Any effective skincare regimen should include hydration, and a moisturizer for dry acne-prone skin should be labeled as “non-comedogenic” so you know it won't clog your pores. Whether you opt for a morning moisturizer that contains sunscreen protection or prefer to apply moisturizer and sunscreen separately, this skincare step can help improve the dryness associated with acne treatment—and complement any other anti-acne products you might be using.9 A non-comedogenic moisturizer designed for evening use can help alleviate dryness and provide additional skincare benefits, such as soothing, while you sleep without causing clogged pores.

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