Suffering with uncomfortable pimples or sore dry skin is not ideal, but when you're suffering with both at once, your skincare situation can feel like a nightmare. If you're currently living through this, you'll need to know how to treat dry skin when you're breaking out, because as you may have noticed already, it's not as easy as you might think.
Unless you've experienced both acne and dry skin together (or know someone who has), you might not appreciate the complexity of the situation. Chances are, you've likely experienced pus-filled pimples or dry skin at some point in your life so far. Thus, you'll understand that, depending on the severity of the issue, there are specific products that fight either problem. However, when you are suffering both ailments at once, it's a whole other dilemma.
If you think about how acne treatments work, you're sure to understand that many of these products aim to dry out acne. But, if you're also suffering with dry skin, the last thing you'll want is to make your skin even more parched. It works the other way too; products aimed at dry skin attempt to moisturize, but if you also have acne, you don't want to run the risk of further clogging your pores with potentially thick, moisturizing products. It's a vicious circle.
So I spoke to a bunch of skincare experts, to discover exactly how to treat dry skin when you're also breaking out.
1. Use Gentle Products
"It is true that many acne ingredients can irritate and dry out the skin, but with the right formulations and skin care regimen it is possible to address acne and dry skin at the same time," says Dr. Hadley King, dermatologist at SKINNEY Medspa, in an email to Bustle.
"Opt for gentler formulations, lower percentages, and less irritating ingredients," Dr. King recommends, "for example if you are using benzoyl peroxide to treat your acne, then choose a lower percentage creamy formulation to use as a wash and limit the exposure time to a few seconds (like Panoxyl 4% creamy wash) instead of a higher percentage gel leave-on formulation."
"If you are using a retinoid then you may choose a gentler formulation such as Differin 0.1% gel (now available over the counter!). Aczone 7.5 percent (7.5%) gel is also a nice choice for acne in the setting of dry skin because it is less irritating than many other acne ingredients," she says.
2. Make Tweaks To Your Diet
Maryna Kracht, founder of Mahalo Skin Care, tells Bustle over email, "Keeping the digestive tract healthy with fermented foods (kimchi, sauerkraut etc), kombucha, and kefir not only provides an important balance of probiotics, healthy acid balance, and vitamin boost, it also helps with proper absorption of nutrients and elimination of toxins through proper digestive tract routes and not through your skin." Kracht adds that eating dark green vegetables will boost the alkalinity level in the body, so it might be time you start incorporating more leafy greens into your diet.
"What you eat is what you are," says Annie Tevelin, founder of SkinOwl, "so make sure your food choices are smart to prevent breakouts."
"You want to think clean when you are treating skin irritation and redness. Think salmon, avocado, nuts, broccoli, bananas, garlic, cucumbers, red grapes, hummus, and try to cut back on alcohol," she elaborates in an email to Bustle.
3. Get Enough Sleep, Water & Exercise
"Water, sleep and exercise are also crucial aspects to keeping your skin healthy, vibrant, and clear," says Kracht.
She explains, "Water helps with eliminating the toxins and allowing your skin to be plump and youthful. Drink alkaline water. Either water with lemon, or water with a few drops of liquid chlorophyll."
When it comes to sleep, Kracht advises what's best for your skin, "Proper sleep doesn’t only provide rest, it also helps with balancing the stress hormones, excess of which makes your skin look inflamed, thin, and wrinkled. Keeping the circadian rhythm in check, going to sleep around 10pm, and getting 8 hours sleep is the optimum balance for many people."
4. Choose Non-Comedogenic Emollients
"It is fine to use emollients with your acne products as long as they are non-comedogenic," says Dr. King. "For example, it is fine to follow the application of Aczone or Differin with a layer of Cetaphil cream. If you are still finding the acne products to be drying then try applying the layer of Cetaphil cream first and then follow with a small amount of the acne product," she recommends.
5. Use Face Oils Or Balms
"Acneic skin often shows lack of essential fatty acids, and will respond most favorably to facial oil serums or facial balm treatments to bring balance to the skin," explains Kracht. "Our Vitality Elixir and Rare Indigo balm have been specifically formulated to contain over 70 percent essential fatty acids to deliver the optimal nutritive balance to imbalanced and inflamed complexions," she says.
However, there is a method to using these products. Kracht instructs to apply face oils and balms over wet or damp skin. "This is very important in keeping the skin hydrated AND moisturized," she says.
6. Try Facial Steaming
"Facial steaming is the best way to treat dry, irritated, and acne prone skin," says Tevelin. "Just grab some botanical herbs or a facial tea, steep it in hot water in a large bowl, and place your face a few inches away from the bowl to let the steam penetrate your pores," she advises. If you want to try out facial steaming, Tevelin recommends SkinOwl's Beauty Steam: Marigold Glow.
7. Keep Towels & Pillow Cases Squeaky Clean
You may have been following a regimented skincare routine, but there could be something simple letting you down.
"Don't use a dirty towel since it often has everyone's bacteria on it," says Angela Jia Kim, natural skincare expert and founder of Savor Beauty, in an email to Bustle. Instead, Kim says, "Use a clean towel if you are drying your skin or better yet, let it air dry. Mix the Savor Beauty Tea Tree Toning Mist and the Pumpkin Serum (hydrates without clogging pores) in the palm of your hand, then massage onto skin."
This advice doesn't stop at towels. Kracht advises, "Wash pillow cases every 2-3 days. I also use one with silver threads that help in keeping acne inflammation at bay."
8. Gradually Introduce An Acne Treatment
"Most topical acne products will irritate or dry out your skin," says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Janet Prystowsky, "however, if you introduce an acne treatment gradually — e.g. every few days for a few weeks, then every other day, and eventually daily — some of the dryness issues can be minimized or avoided."
"Some areas may still become irritated or very dry," she explains via email, "I recommend spot treatment of these areas with a very thin layer of Aquaphor ointment 1-2 times daily until it is resolved. For overall mild dryness, use mild moisturizers like Lubriderm or Nivea cream as needed."
9. Don’t Over Exfoliate
"Don't overwash or over exfoliate," instructs Dr. King, "this will dry out and irritate your skin. Use gentle cleansers and don't wash more than twice per day when possible. And apply a moisturizer immediately after washing to lock in the moisture." It appears you really can have too much of a good thing when it comes to skincare.
10. Stick To A Skincare Routine For At Least A Month
As much as you may want to, you really can't rush the healing process. "Stick to a skincare routine for at least one month," says Kracht, "as it takes the skin 26 days to complete it’s cycle. Give your skin love and care to allow it to take the steps to properly rebuild and recover itself."
Don't be disheartened, it's totally possible to treat dry skin when you're breaking out — just follow this expert advice and you should see improvements soon!