The Truth About Dry Skin: Does Dry Skin Cause Acne?

The Truth About Dry Skin

If you think oily skin is the only thing to blame for acne, then you need to get your facts straight.

Dry skin can be as notorious as too much sebum when it comes to skin breakouts. And not a lot of people are aware of this.

In fact, there are acne sufferers who constantly wish they have dry skin so that they can avoid the greasy feeling and the endless acne cycle.

If you are one of these people, then it’s critical that you read this article until the end. It can show you exactly how dry skin can make you break out.

Does Dry Skin Cause Acne?

A healthy skin naturally has oils and fats that act as barriers. These components protect your skin from harmful substances and factors it gets in contact with throughout the day.

Aside from protection, this barrier also locks in moisture to keep your skin supple, elastic and healthy-looking.

Without enough moisture and protection, your skin gets dry and the barrier greatly weakens. It makes you prone to minute tears, irritation, and inflammation.And we all know acne is a form of inflammation.

Also, with a weaker barrier, it becomes easy for acne-causing bacteria to colonize and penetrate your skin. Because of an ineffective outer layer, every product you apply gets easily absorbed by your skin.

Dry skin also means more shedding. The more dead skin cells that clump on your skin, the more clogged your pores get.

Signs You Have Dry Skin

So, how do you know if you have dry skin?

The first thing you’ll notice with dry skin is flaking. You’ll see rough and scaly patches on your face.

It can also feel itchy and tight, particularly if your skin gets excessively dry. You’ll see more visible lines, cracking and red patches, too.

However, you should take note that dry skin is very different from dehydrated skin. Dry skin is a skin type while dehydrated skin is a skin condition.

To give you a clearer idea, let me break it down for you:

Dry VS Dehydrated Skin

Dry Skin

Dehydrated Skin

Skin type

Skin condition

Lacks protective oil

Lacks water

Requires oil-based products to soothe dryness

Still feels dry even with proper use of moisturizer

Treated by replenishing oil and moisture

Treated by change in diet and hydration

Although they are different, it’s possible for you to have dry and dehydrated skin at the same time.

But, Why Do You Have Dry Skin?

There are a number of reasons why you have dry skin. The causes can range from your genetics to what products you use and how you use them.

Here are some of the most common reasons:

Over exfoliation

Exfoliation is an essential step in every skincare routine. It helps strip off dead skin cells to reveal fresher and newer skin.

Too much exfoliation, however, can strip off your skin’s natural oil and protection. It can weaken the integrity of your skin which can make it vulnerable to injuries and damages.

And it’s not just about how frequent you exfoliate. The type of exfoliant you use and how much product you are using at the same time can also be the culprit behind your dry skin.

In general, chemical exfoliants are considered more gentle than physical exfoliation products.But if you are using two of them at the same time, you’re likely causing damage to your skin than helping it.

Steamy Shower

Taking a steamy shower is one of the best ways you can relax after a stressful day at work. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work the same for your skin.

Showering with warm water tends to dry out your natural oils faster. The same thing happens when you soak yourself for too long in a steamy tub.

Cold Season

The cold dry air and harsh winds are never your skin’s friends. Aside from that they are drying, they also cause your skin to tighten up.

When it’s cold, your skin and its blood vessels constrict to prevent heat loss. As they constrict, the amount of blood that can reach your skin also decreases.

It also leads to tighter pores which mean dirt, sebum, and dead skin cells can be trapped and harder to get rid off completely.

And you know what else?

The cold season can also make it hard for you to keep yourself hydrated. Not drinking enough water can cause dehydration and this can negatively affect your skin.

Wrong Soap And Lotion

Some skin care products contain synthetic ingredients that can irritate your skin. Soaps, for example, are relatively alkaline in nature.

Their alkalinity can disrupt your skin’s natural pH balance, which is at around 5. Other than their pH level, soaps also contain sodium.

Sodium naturally attracts water and the more you use soap, the more it pulls out water from your skin’s surface.

Meanwhile, although lotion sounds like a good remedy for dry skin, not all lotions offer a solution. The scented ones, for example, contain lots of chemicals that can put you at risk if skin drying, premature aging, and even cancer.

Acne Treatments

Some acne treatments, such as benzoyl peroxide and retinoids, are drying to the skin. They can cause peeling and flaking.

Their side effects can intensify if you expose yourself to the sun or if you use exfoliants at the same time.

How To Remedy Dry Skin

Dry skin is one of the leading causes of acne but it doesn’t mean that if you have that skin type, you’ll already breakout. There are ways for you to heal your dry skin and avoid pimples in general.

1. Find the right products

Initially, you’ll have to find a heavier cream to repair your dry skin. Once it has recovered, you can take light lotions for your everyday use.

As much as possible, stick with products that are labeled as “hypoallergenic” as they have less chances of irritating your skin. If you’re not sure if a product is safe to use for your skin type, read its label carefully.

You shouldn’t see any alcohol, acetone or menthol on the list. You should also avoid products that contain lanolin and scents.

2. Cut your showering time

To prevent dry skin, you should consider cutting down the time you spend showering. If you used to shower for 30 minutes, try to cut it down to at least 5 minutes.

This can sound drastic for you if you’re really a fan of warm showers, but believe me, it can do your skin good.

After showering, don’t forget to follow up with a moisturizer. The best time to apply it is right after your bath, when your skin is still damp, to trap in water for extra hydration.

3. Moisturize!

And it’s not enough to use just any moisturizer. Because your skin is dry, you need to be very careful about the type of moisturizer you use.

Ideally, it should contain the following:

  • Antioxidants

Because your skin has a weak barrier, its outer layer gets exposed to a lot of damaging factors- from sun exposure to the chemicals in the products you use.

Antioxidants help decrease the damages your skin gets. At the same time, they can help heal inflammation.

  • Humectants

Moisturizers with humectants are good to use when the weather isn’t drying. This component can lock in moisture in your skin but if the weather isn’t that great, it can work the other way around and send all the moisture into the air.

This is particularly true with synthetic humectants, such as silicones, urea and propylene glycol. If you’ve been reading labels routinely, you’ll notice that these humectants are the most used ones in skin care products.

They cost cheaper for the manufacturers but they don’t really work that well in addressing your skin’s needs.

If you want to truly benefit from humectants, stick with the natural ones. Aloe vera and honey are the best examples of natural humectants.

They don’t only seal in moisture on your skin’s top layer but they also work on your skin’s deeper layers.

  • Emollients

Emollients have long been used by professionals in treating a number of dry skin issues. They prevent water loss, lubricate the skin and offer protection for your skin.


So, does dry skin cause acne?

Frankly, yes, it does.

And although dry skin doesn’t readily mean instant zits and pimples, not addressing your skin type properly can give you more serious problems than acne. It can result in itching, pain and even cracked skin.

Not only are these issues difficult to conceal, but they can also be really inconvenient particularly if you’re always in public. It can affect your confidence and the way you look at yourself.

Fortunately, however, dry skin isn’t that tough to manage. You just have to know the right products to use and be vigilant about the ingredients they contain.

And don’t forget proper skin care, too! 

Does Dry Skin Cause Acne

Dr Kathleen May Eusebio-Alpapara

A board-certified dermatologist who practices both medical and cosmetic dermatology

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