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Treating Acne in Dry Skin

5 Tips to Treat Acne in Dry Skin Types

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Updated April 10, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Most of us associate acne with oily skin, so it catches us by surprise when our dry skin starts breaking out. But acne in dry skin types isn't as uncommon as you might think. Although it can happen at all ages, acne and dry skin is usually found in adults with acne.

Treating acne in dry skin can be challenging. Many of the acne skin care products you find over the counter are generally made for oily-skinned folks, and can be way too drying and irritating for your skin type (although there are now more skin care products specifically for treating acne in dry skin types.)

Because acne treatments by their very nature are drying, treating your acne with dry skin can be quite challenging. But with the right steps, you can get good results from your acne treatments and keep your skin feeling fairly good too.

1. Get the Right Acne Treatment and Use It Correctly.

There is no way around it: Acne treatments cause dryness. But certain forms can be more drying than others.

Medications that come in pads or pledgets (think Stridex pads), toner-like solutions, and water-based gels can be too drying for your skin type. Instead, you'll probably prefer the feel of treatment lotions, creams, or ointments.

Whether you're using OTC products or prescription acne medications, do be sure you're using them correctly. Don't slather on more, or use them more often, than directed.

Even when using treatments properly, your skin may still dry out. To combat this, try using your treatments every other day or every three days, and slowly build up to using every day. Your doctor may recommend letting the treatment set for only 20 or 30 minutes the first few weeks of use, then washing off. The key is to let your skin adjust without letting it become overly irritated.

If dry skin is really bad, stop using your treatments for a few days. Once your skin is feeling better, you can slowly start using your treatments again.

2. Use a Good Moisturizer Regularly.

Regular use of a moisturizer will help your skin look and feel better and will help combat treatment dryness. Of course you're worried about moisturizers breaking you out, but with careful selection you needn't be.

To avoid triggering breakouts, always look for an oil-free, noncomedogenic or nonacnegenic brand (it'll say so right on the label.) Apply your moisturizer twice daily, or more if needed, and always after you cleanse your face.

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, don't choose an acne treatment moisturizer. They contain medications that can further dry the skin. Instead, pick a highly emollient brand that you feel moisturizes your skin well.

You can apply moisturizer first, and then apply acne medications right over the top. Some dermatologists feel that layering in this way can help reduce dryness and irritation caused by acne medications.

Dealing with body acne too? Make sure your body lotion is oil-free as well. You may also want to steer clear of fragranced lotions if they seem to irritate your skin.

3. Pay Special Attention to Your Cleanser.

You don't want a harsh, stripping cleanser. It won't help clear acne faster, but will dry your skin out in a hurry.

Instead, go for a clean-but-not-overly-dry feeling. Non-foaming cleansers, also called cream cleansers, are typically less drying than foaming options. Pay attention to how your skin feels. Super tight, dry, or itchy skin after cleansing is a good clue it's not the right product for you.

Again, if you're already using a topical acne treatment, don't use a medicated acne cleanser. Choose a non-medicated option (unless your doc tells you otherwise, of course.)

If you're using a topical treatment for body acne, you may want to steer clear of acne treatment body washes as well.

4. Wash Your Skin Right.

Don't over-wash the skin, or you may be stripping away the small amount of oil your skin needs to protect it from dryness. You may need just one wash with a cleanser daily, especially during the drying winter months. A splash of water can do at other times.

Hot water also can contribute to dryness. Don't take a steamy shower or wash your face in super hot water. Warm water is a better alternative.

5. Protect Your Skin from the Elements.

Going out in the wind or the cold? Use a hat, a cute scarf, or something similar to protect your skin from the elements.

And don't think that if it's fair and balmy out you're in the clear. Sunscreen is a must for everyone. Just like with your moisturizer, choose a noncomedogenic or nonacnegenic product.

With careful selection of your skin care products and treatment medications, you can control acne and dry skin. If you need help, don't hesitate to call your doctor. He/she can help you choose an OTC acne product, prescribe a prescription medication if needed, suggest skin care products, and help you develop a skin care routine that is right for your skin type.

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  5. Acne and Dry Skin - Treating Acne and Dry Skin

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