Best Solutions to Acne and Dry Skin

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Although having oily skin and acne at the same time is typical, many people also report that they have dry skin and acne at the same time. Others say their skin is dry underneath and oily on top, or that it's flaky at the surface but oily underneath. It's hard enough to treat acne and oily skin, but tackling these other issues at the same time is infuriating and confusing!

We're not going to say there are easy solutions to these dilemmas; however, with some detective work, facts, and fine-tuning your skin-care routine you can get beautiful results you'll see in the mirror every day. Let's figure this out together!

Do You Really Have Oily and Dry Skin, and Acne?

First, keep in mind that age is not a factor for having acne or other types of breakouts. Just because you're no longer a teenager doesn't mean you won't break out. Even if you didn't break out or have acne as a teen, it doesn't mean you're in the clear (pun intended) as an adult. The ebb and flow of hormones (especially in women) can bring on breakouts during adulthood just as the surge of hormones triggers teenage acne.
If you're struggling with oily skin, dry skin, and acne, then in all likelihood your skin-care routine is the major cause of the problem. Using drying soaps or harsh scrubs, overdoing cleansing brushes like the Clarisonic, applying toners with alcohol or other irritating ingredients (think witch hazel or menthol), not using lightweight moisturizers (think gels) that contain healing ingredients, and not using sunscreen daily all add up to a disaster for your skin. (Surprise: Not using sunscreen contributes to numerous skin problems because it hurts the skin's ability to heal.) Your skin simply cannot survive the onslaught of such an assault or neglect—increased oil production, dryness, and breakouts are practically inevitable! In short, the wrong skin-care routine or overdoing things can cause skin to be both oily and dry, often in the same areas. The products you use matter a lot!
If all that weren't enough, lots of companies sell acne treatments that are loaded with extremely irritating and drying ingredients, which no one should ever apply to their skin because they only make matters worse. So, between a detrimental skin-care routine and products that contain irritating ingredients, it isn't surprising you have dry skin on top (or underneath) adding to the other concerns you're dealing with.
Another possible cause of dry skin in combination with oily, acne-prone skin is that anti-acne treatments, both over-the-counter and prescription, can be drying if used too often or if you apply too much at once—perhaps because you think if a little bit is good the more must be better. Numerous studies have shown—with valid scientific research-based certainty—that salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are essential anti-acne ingredients, and so companies often include these two proven ingredients in their products (that's good), but both of these can have side effects when combined with ingredients like alcohol, menthol, witch hazel, peppermint, eucalyptus, or sulfur (that's bad). Your skin will suffer if you apply these ingredients on a regular basis, even if they're accompanied by good ingredients. Check out our list of Best Anti-Acne Products for gentle, yet effective recommendations—and consider adjusting frequency of application if even well-formulated anti-acne products make your skin drier.

The gold-standard topical disinfectant, benzoyl peroxide can be drying for some people, especially if they start right away using a 10% concentration rather than a lower 2.5% concentration to see how their skin responds to it. Those are some of the issues, but there's still a couple more to think about.…

What to Do When You Still Have Acne and Dry Skin

If you've tried all of our recommendations—using a gentle skin-care routine, eliminating products that contain irritating ingredients, experimenting with proven acne treatments to see which combination works best for you, adjusting the frequency of application so as not to overdo it, and applying skin-healthy ingredients in lightweight gels, serums, thin lotions, or toners—and you still have dry skin and acne, there is another approach to consider.
Despite the fact that excess oil is a chief contributing factor for acne breakouts, a small percentage of people find themselves with truly dry skin and acne. In fact, they have almost no surface oil, blackheads, or visible pores at all. They struggle to find a moisturizer that addresses the needs of their dry skin without aggravating breakouts, and continually worry that anything they try to get the breakouts under control will make their dry skin even drier. This scenario can be a paralyzing dilemma when shopping for skin-care products!
Here's what you need to know: All the recommendations we make above still apply, but you may need a moisturizer that is more appropriate for dry skin and not oily or combination skin. For example, you might need a mix of anti-acne treatments suitable for dry skin along with one of the Paula's Choice moisturizers and serums from our Moisture Boost, Skin Recovery, or Resist product lines.

Acne-prone, oily skin is a stubborn combination of problems that can occur at almost any age, and it's always emotionally distressing. When you add dry skin to the mix, it becomes even more of a challenge to identify the cause and then find a solution, while also avoiding products that are likely to make matters worse. Following what our detective work revealed can lead to clearer skin, minus the red bumps, flakes, and shine—without making dry skin worse. Now that's the ideal balance!


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