Can Dry Skin Cause Acne? Dermatologist-Approved Treatments

dry skin, acne, pimples, acne scarring

Can dry skin cause acne?

Dry skin is one of the biggest concerns dermatologists face every day. Your skin feels rough, tight, and might even start to itch, peel or crack. More and more people experience dry skin during the harsh winter months. What we don’t expect is to see acne show up as well. This begs the question:  can dry skin cause acne? 

Dry skin does not directly cause acne, per se. But it can make things worse. 

Some individuals with dry skin also suffer from acne. Having to fight two skin conditions at once can be daunting. However, understanding what’s causing your dry skin can help you put things in place to combat the issue. Furthermore, by using one or more dermatologist-approved acne treatment, you will not only have clearer skin but improve your dry skin concerns too! 

What causes dry skin?

First, it helps to know what causes your dry skin, acne, and how one can feed into the other. Our skin’s outer layer, called the epidermis, is filled with natural components like ceramides, oils/fats, and other water-soluble compounds. The epidermis actually has a few layers, with the stratum corneum being the top layer. This top layer continually sheds dead skin cells, but its primary goal is to lock in moisture, electrolytes, and water-soluble compounds. These, in turn, protect your skin from outside pollutants. It also gives you that plump, dewy glow. 

With dry skin, one or more factors strip the top layer: 

  • Harsh winter weather is the most common, as the low temperatures and low humidity can dry out your skin. When you add spending long periods of time indoors with the heat on, your skin is at risk of drying out. 
  • Soaps and laundry detergents contain surfactants. These are ingredients that help these products produce foam, remove dirt and oil, and even preserve cosmetics’ shelf life. Unfortunately, most soaps and detergents contain harsh surfactants that remove all the oil and strip away the moisture, causing dry skin.
  • Hot showers, hot tubs, and spending long hours swimming can also cause dryness.
  • Pre-existing skin conditions like eczema, keratosis pilaris, or psoriasis worsen dryness.
  • Are you drinking enough water? If not, it’s probably not helping with dry skin issues.  

There are other factors to consider, like health (certain diseases can cause acne), age, and even genetics. However, there are some effective ways to treat dry skin—more on that after we talk about acne.

Where does acne come in?

Acne affects more tha40 million Americans, particularly adolescents. However, many adults and even small children fall into this category. We have millions of tiny hair follicles and pores on most of our bodies, including our faces. When oil, dirt, and bacteria clog these hair follicles, bumps on our skin can form, commonly known as acne. These can range from whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples -the common forms of acne- to more severe forms, like nodules and cystic acne. 

Why can dry skin cause acne?

Since the clogging of hair follicles causes acne, dry skin can cause an excess buildup of dead skin cells. This, in turn, can clog your pores. In addition, dry skin makes your pores more likely to break open, allowing acne causing bacteria deeper into the skin. Also, although dry skin can is not a direct cause of acne, it can trigger the production of more sebum or oil in your skin. The oil then creates acne in a continuous cycle of dry skin and acne. 

How do you treat dry acne skin?

There are hundreds of different products, treatments, old-wives’ remedies, and dermatologic procedures out there when it comes to acne treatments. You should visit a board-certified dermatologist to help you get to the root cause of your acne. At Eternal Dermatology, for instance, we specialize in a range of treatments suited to getting acne under control. Acne for dry skin can be incredibly challenging since many acne medications and treatments further dry out your skin. It’s quite the catch-22, but there are ways to take on both issues effectively:

Tackle dry skin with a proper skincare routine.

It’s essential to have a skincare routine that’s big on moisture. Use a hydrating facial or body cleanser that’s gentle and non-foaming. Skip the scrubs or any products that may irritate your skin. To wrap up your skincare routine, moisturizer is crucial. When applied immediately after washing, this helps to seal in your skin’s moisture and reduces dryness. Find a moisturizer that’s non-comedogenic and contains ceramides. Apply your moisturizer at least twice daily and before any acne medication to reduce the chances of dryness. 

Use sunblock to protect your skin.

The importance of sunblock cannot be understated. In addition to protecting your skin from ultraviolet rays, sunblock reduces skin inflammation and dark spots that remain after the acne is gone. A sunblock with at least an SPF of 30 works best and should be used even during the winter months. 

The right decisions help you avoid dry skin issues.

Even with a proper skincare routine, there could be external factors that are causing your skin issues. A good practice would be to use a humidifier during the winter or in dry climates. Instead of scalding hot showers, aim for lukewarm water, no longer than 10 minutes. The same goes for over-washing of your face. 

Get the right acne treatment for your skin.

With your dry skin adequately managed, you can also concentrate on clearing up your acne. If you have constant, severe breakouts, it’s best to see a board-certified dermatologist first. Most acne treatments are designed to dry out the skin. We can provide you with the best option that will minimize the occurrence of dry skin. Acne treatment can range from simple over-the-counter medication to prescription lotions, creams, pills and more. Make sure to use these treatments as directed, as overuse is a fast track to dry, irritated skin. 

Try one of the following dermatologist-approved treatments.

Besides topical acne treatment and medications, there are a few other treatments your dermatologist can perform to clear up your acne and improve the look and feel of your skin. 

  • Chemical Peel: A chemical peel uses alpha and beta hydroxy acids to removes dirt, oil and dead skin to reveal clearer, healthier skin. Chemical peels treat everything from acne, scarring, and fine lines, to dull skin.
  • Microdermabrasion: This is a skin surface-level treatment. Using a diamond-tipped wand, your dermatologist removes dead skin cells and clogged pores. The technique helps exfoliate your skin, remove acne scars and restores your natural glow. 
  • Dermaplaning: Similar to microdermabrasion, except a special blade is used to scrape away dead skin cells and reveal fresher skin. 
  • Sebacia Acne Treatment: This amazing, new FDA-approved technique to help with all forms of acne. The treatment combines a laser and topical gold microparticles to target oil glands. With three treatments, patients see dramatic results.
  • For severe cases of acne, powerful medications like Isotretinoin (Accutane) may be necessary. Your dermatologist will guide you through the process.

Be patient.

Even with acne treatment and the right habits, your skin will take some time to adjust. Topical acne treatments may dry out your skin at first. Over time, you will find the right combination for your skin type. Speak with your dermatologist to find the best practice for you. In time, you’ll have clear, hydrated skin.

Let’s help with your acne. 

Answering the question: ‘Can dry skin cause acne?’ is not as complicated as you may think. Dry skin may not be the cause of your acne. However, it may be the reason why you have a bit more than you think. By selecting the right skincare routine and daily habits, you can fight back. Our team at Eternal Dermatology has extensive experience in treating acne. For a knowledgeable consultation, book an appointment online. or call us at (301)679-5772. Dr. Ife Rodney MD, FAAD is a board-certified dermatologist and can help with acne for all skin types. Eternal Dermatology is conveniently located in Fulton, MD, and serves Columbia MD, Baltimore, Silver Spring, and surrounding areas.


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