Does Dry Skin Cause Acne? Causes & Treatments
By Abby Vinas
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Dry skin is a common skin condition that affects millions of Americans each year. Medically known as Xerosis, dry skin can occur to anyone of any age, for a variety of reasons. Dry skin is characterized by a feeling of tightness in the skin, which is sometimes worse after water exposure whether that be in the shower or after hopping into the swimming pool.
Your skin may itch, and show signs of flaking or scaling. There may be patches of redness, or even areas of skin that look grey and ashy. In severe cases, you might even have deep cracks in the skin that bleed when irritated. Having dry skin isn’t fun, and while it’s a common condition, that doesn’t mean you have to simply live with it.
In our guide, we will answer your most pressing questions including, “Does dry skin cause acne?”, “What causes dry skin?”, and “How do you treat dry skin and acne?” to help you find relief from dry skin symptoms and improve your complexion and achieve healthier, more radiant skin.
Does Dry Skin Cause Acne?
Does dry skin cause acne? Technically no, dry skin is not a direct cause of acne (that typically comes down to hormones and genetics). The better question is “Can dry skin cause acne?” Dry skin and acne can be related because it can contribute to breakouts if left untreated. This is because when skin becomes dry, it can trigger the production of more sebum (oil). When excess oil is produced to combat dry skin, it can actually clog your pores and lead to acne flare ups.
So, bottom line, can dry skin cause acne? While dry skin doesn’t necessarily cause acne, dry skin can worsen your acne problems.
How Do I Know If I Have Dry Skin?
Rough texture, dehydrated appearance, and flakiness could signal that you're suffering from dry skin. Being aware of these red flags can help you find the appropriate treatment and nip the problem in the bud.
If your skin is dry, it’s in your best interest to get rid of dry skin as soon as possible, as its presence can contribute to acne or more troublesome skin conditions such as eczema. But first, you need to determine what the underlying cause of your dry skin is.
What Causes Dry Skin?
Figuring out what is causing your dry skin isn’t always so simple because there are actually a variety of factors that can add to this issue. Fortunately, there are also just as many solutions.
Problem: Genetics play a role in your skin type. So, in part, dry skin is hereditary. If either of your parents struggle with dry skin, you’re more likely to deal with the same issue.
Solution: While you can’t control your genetics, according to Harvard Health Publishing, there are daily habits that could be contributing to your dry skin. Learning which behaviors dry out the skin and circumventing these habits can help clear up dry, irritated patches.
Problem: If you take hot showers, you could be doing your skin a disservice. It might feel wonderful on those cold winter days, but according to Baylor College of Medicine, your skin may suffer the consequences of too much time spent in a steamy shower stall. The hot water and steam can strip the skin of its natural oils, depleting the pores of essential sebum. While too much of this oily substance leads to pimples, too little can lead to dry, brittle skin.
Solution: So what can you do instead? Simply limit your showers to five minutes—plenty of time to get clean without drying out your skin. If you like your showers extremely hot, it’s time to dial down the temperature. Lukewarm water is still comfortable and much more forgiving on the skin.
Problem: The time spent in the shower and temperature of the water aren’t the only factors affecting your skin when it comes to shower habits. Take a look at the soap you’re using. If you have a harsh soap that unnecessarily dries out the skin, you could be washing away not only dirt and bacteria—you can also wave goodbye to the healthy oils that keep your skin feeling soft and supple.
Solution: Stick to gentle, simple cleansers that utilize natural ingredients. Your skin will thank you.
Problem: It’s important to avoid abrasive materials. If you notice you have a great deal of dry skin, you may be tempted to slough off those old skin cells with a pumice stone or scrubbing sponge. Unfortunately, this can do more harm than good.
Solution: Use a soft washcloth that doesn’t irritate the skin, or simply stick to using your hands. After getting out of the shower, don’t dry your skin too aggressively. Rubbing your sensitive skin with a towel can actually exacerbate dry patches and irritation; dab lightly and let your skin air dry as much as possible to retain as much moisture as you can.
Lack of Moisture
There are many reasons your skin can lack sufficient moisture. According to Harvard Health Publishing, some of the most common factors that cause skin to lack moisture include:
- Not drinking enough water
- Living in a dry climate
- Dry weather
- Using skincare products with alcohol
- Illness (hypothyroidism, diabetes, etc.)
Solution: If you’re suffering from cracked, dry skin, there are plenty of treatment options and skin care tips to consider, but none more important than moisturizing. The cardinal rule for anyone struggling with dry skin is to moisturize regularly. Even those that don’t suffer from excessively dry skin should follow a daily moisturizing regimen.
Select your moisturizer based on your skin type. Those with oily or combination skin should go for lighter, water-based formulas. What makes skin oily is the sebum produced within the skin's sebaceous glands; adding heavy moisturizers on top of this excess oil can worsen breakouts. Try our plant-based moisturizer that can soften and hydrate skin without causing excessive oiliness. Those with excessively dry skin should use heavier creams that can provide the utmost in moisture. You may find it necessary to switch moisturizers by season, with lighter lotions during the summer and thicker creams in the winter months.
A skincare routine for dry skin should include a hydrating product like Drink It Up, which is an oil-free, highly-concentrated, super-hydrating serum that delivers an immediate surge of hydration while continuously releasing moisture all day or all night. Drink It Up contains sodium hyaluronate, watermelon, apple, and lentil, which all help keep skin properly hydrated.
Quench your skin’s thirst with this super-hydrating serum that also helps fight signs of aging and keeps your skin soft and plump.Stay Hydrated
Using an Acne Treatment That's Too Harsh
Problem: Those that deal with acne and dry skin must be particularly careful about acne treatment products. Many products use benzoyl peroxide as a key ingredient; while this does have acne-fighting capabilities, it can also deplete the skin of moisture and irritate surrounding areas, which can exacerbate already dry skin and result in painful, red, unsightly patches.
Solution: Use acne treatments that avoid harsh ingredients. Our acne-fighting 3-step Clear Skin Routine contains salicylic acid, an effective acne fighter that penetrates pores without overly drying out the surrounding skin. This treatment is then followed up with gentle, restorative gel that soothes the skin and leaves your face looking clear and radiant.
Not Using Sunblock
Problem: Whenever you are outside, you are exposed to harmful UVA and UVB rays that can cause damage to your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer.
Solution: No matter the season or the weather outside, you should be wearing sunscreen to protect your skin from the harsh elements so you can avoid skin damage and reduce your risk of skin cancer. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends putting on sunscreen about 30 minutes before you go outside. Whenever you’re exposed to the sun, you should reapply frequently if you plan on being outside for hours at a time. Some people believe sun exposure helps skin issues, but can the sun help remove acne? Not necessarily, but it can help blemishes look less noticeable temporarily, but how the sun affects your skin depends on many factors, including what types of treatments you’re using.
Problem: Have you ever noticed that as the leaves change, the weather cools, and the wind picks up, your skin begins to feel itchy and starts cracking? This is because, as humidity levels drop, the air becomes drier during the winter months. Dry skin plagues much of the population during winter, but there are ways to alleviate the negative effects that cold temperatures and dry air can have on your skin.
Solution: Be wary of blasting your heater as it can further dry out your skin. If heating is a must, be sure use moisturizer and cover up your skin as much as possible to retain natural moisture. Also consider investing in a humidifier; they can put more moisture in the air to help prevent your skin from drying out.
Hidden Underlying Causes of Dry Skin
Sometimes dry skin is merely a symptom of a larger underlying problem.
If you have any of the above-mentioned symptoms and they aren’t reacting to the recommended treatment solutions, it’s important to seek a professional diagnosis to ensure there aren’t any hidden health issues causing your dry skin including diabetes, psoriasis, kidney issues, thyroid problems, or other more serious skin conditions.
While some individuals simply experience seasonal dry skin or dryness due to one of the above-mentioned issues, it may be more than that.
When Should I See a Doctor for Dry Skin?
Generally, dry skin isn’t a major cause of concern, but there are cases in which it’s a good idea to see a dermatologist or doctor about your symptoms. If you experience any of the following, you may want to consider making an appointment with a health care professional:
- Your skin is so itchy that it interferes with your sleep
- You have open sores due to scratching
- There are large areas on your skin that are peeling or scaling
- Your skin doesn’t respond to home remedies
A dermatologist can examine your skin and determine if you actually suffer from eczema, psoriasis, or another skin condition that requires its own treatment plan.
Acne Treatments for Dry Skin
While certain changes in your lifestyle, as mentioned above, can help improve dry skin, sometimes treatment is needed. Acne treatment for dry skin may include:
- Non-comedogenic skincare products and cosmetics (like our range of clinically proven products that are gentle and effective for treating dry skin and acne)
- Corticosteroids (including hydrocortisone cream which can help relieve itching and swelling)
- Treatments for underlying conditions
- Natural acne remedies
In addition to the solutions and treatments we’ve discussed, you can also help reduce dry skin breakouts by limiting how often you touch your face. Based on your lifestyle, skin type, and underlying issues, you can try different treatment options to see what works best to keep your skin hydrated and blemish-free.
Key Takeaways: Does Dry Skin Cause Acne?
- Does dry skin cause acne? It is not a direct cause of acne.
- Can dry skin cause acne? It can cause acne to worsen.
- What are common causes of dry skin? Genetics, showering habits, lack of moisture, not using sunblock, harsh acne treatments, and winter weather can all contribute to dry skin.
- What are the symptoms of dry skin? If your skin feels rough or appears to be flaking, peeling, or cracked, you may be suffering from dry skin.
- How do you treat dry skin? Dry skin can be treated by changing some of your lifestyle habits, using a gentle acne treatment and sunblock, or taking medication.
Abby Vinas has long been an active member of the holistic health community, advocating in favor of its benefits to both our physical and emotional well-being. Her commitment to leading a healthy lifestyle has made her an authority on self-care practices. Abby is passionate about fitness, nutrition, and proper skincare, and is also an avid lover of avocado toast and dog-petting.