How To Successfully Treat Acne & Dry Skin At The Same Time, According To An Expert

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I know what you're thinking: Acne on dry skin kind of sounds like an oxymoron. After all, haven't we always been taught that acne an oily skin problem? Contrary to popular belief, acne and dry skin can happen at the same time, and it is seriously annoying to treat.

I actually happen to be one of these enigmatic unicorns who suffered from acne and dry skin growing up, and treating them both was kindddd of a nightmare throughout my teenage years. Anything I tried for my dry skin would make my breakout worse, and anything I put on my zits made my skin practically flake off. It was a lose lose until I hit college and eventually just grew out of it.

Unbeknownst to me, this is actually a pretty common problem. "Since acne is caused by an overproduction of oil it’s not that the skin is dry but rather that it feels dry, so you want to target both problems," says Dr. Zein Obagi, Dermatologist and founder of ZO Skin Health. Thankfully, there are ways to treat acne and dry skin other than wishing them away every night before bed like I used to do. Here are his five tips for how to fix both problems at the same time.

1. Understand Where The Acne And Dryness Are Coming From

What came first, the chicken or the egg? Or, in this case— the acne or the dryness? "Your skin may feel dry with acne, but chances are it was actually oily at one point not so long ago," says Dr. Obagi. "Acne is an oily skin problem – however, many people may think they have dry skin coupled with acne because their pores are clogged, preventing skin from hydrating itself properly."

2. Look For Products With Sulfur

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ZO Skin Health Offects Sulfur Masque Acne Treatment, $45, Zo Skin Health

It may smell like rotten eggs, but sulfur is actually really helpful when it comes to treating acne. "A product like the ZO Skin Health Offects Sulfur Masque Acne Treatment is great because it contains 10% sulfur and will help prevent clogged pores, allowing the skin to function more normally," says Dr. Obagi.

3. Use Vitamin A

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Mad Hippie Vitamin A Serum, $27, Amazon

People have been obsessing about Vitamins C, D, and E in their skin care products, but Vitamin A is a secret weapon you may not know about yet. "Adding a product that contains vitamin A will not only help to even skin tone but will also help skin to create its own moisture, relieving feelings of dryness," says Dr. Obagi.

4. Stay Away From Traditional Moisturizers

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ZO Medical Retamax Active Vitamin A Micro Emulsion, $145, Zo Skin Health

When you're trying to treat acne and dry skin at once, you need to be really careful about which products you lather on your face. Traditional moisturizers contain ingredients that will clog your pores and make your skin cells "lazy," says Dr. Obagi, which will dry you out and make you want to put on even more moisturizer. Use products like this one, from ZO, which wake up your skin cells and will help you notice a difference in both your acne and the uncomfortable feelings of dryness.

5. Drink Lots Of Water

Because moisturizing dry skin with acne is a little bit more complicated than moisturizing dry skin on its own (but still totally possible! Don't worry!) it's important to hydrate from the inside out. Make sure you're getting at least eight eight ounce glasses of water every day.