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Does dry skin cause acne, or is dryness the result of your acne treatment? Both of these scenarios are possible: Those with dry skin can experience acne breakouts, but some acne-treatment products can also trigger dryness and flaking, especially if overused or used in combination with one another. Fortunately, you can overcome either of these skin concerns with a gentle yet effective skincare routine. The key is to choose the right products that can address the underlying causes of acne, without further disrupting your skin's protective barrier. Below, we’ll share some useful tips that can be used to help improve the appearance of dry, acne-prone skin.

How To Help Minimize Acne and Help Prevent Dryness

  • Wash your face with a gentle acne cleanser in the morning, evening, and after exercising.
  • Avoid over-cleansing or over-exfoliating your skin. This can disrupt the skin’s protective barrier and potentially worsen acne and dryness.
  • Don’t use harsh astringents or alcohol-based toners, which can strip the skin of its natural moisture.
  • Choose moisturizers that are labeled “non-comedogenic.” This means that the product won’t clog your pores or contribute to acne breakouts.

Why Does Dry Skin Still Get Acne?

Contrary to popular belief, acne is not reserved only for those with oily skin. Anyone can experience acne breakouts, including individuals with dry skin. There are several factors that can cause acne breakouts on dry skin. These include external influences like improper skincare practices, the use of pore-clogging skincare products, or humidity levels. It’s also possible for age, genetics, and hormones to play a role.

When it comes to treating acne, it’s important to remember that acne can differ from person to person—from the type of acne blemishes you experience to when, why, and how often you break out. For personalized guidance, seek the help of a board-certified dermatologist. They can assess your skin and recommend the best acne treatment for dry skin with acne.


Can Dry Skin Cause Acne?

It’s well known that excess oil is a contributing factor to acne, but you may not know that dry skin can contribute as well. Dry skin lacks essential moisture, and this can prompt the skin to produce more oil. When this happens, excess oil can build up in your pores (along with dead skin cells and bacteria) and potentially trigger acne breakouts. This is why, if you have dry skin, it’s important to keep it properly moisturized.

Moisturizer is a key product in any skincare routine, but some hydrating products for dry skin may feel too rich for your acne-prone skin. They also might contain pore-clogging ingredients. Therefore, it’s important to be careful when selecting a moisturizer for dry, acne-prone skin. (More on that ahead.)


Can Acne Treatments Cause Dry Skin?

Some acne treatments (like those with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid) can cause dryness or flaking, especially when overused or applied incorrectly. This increased dryness is one of the reasons why some people give up on their acne routine.

One of the best ways to avoid dryness from acne treatments is to apply them correctly, per the instructions on the packaging, and resist the urge to go overboard. You can also try reducing acne treatment applications to every other day to see if dryness subsides. If you’re experiencing ongoing dryness or sensitivity as a result of acne treatments, consult a board-certified dermatologist for advice.


How To Care for Dry, Acne-Prone Skin

A dedicated skincare routine can help you manage acne from dry skin as well as dryness caused by acne treatment products. Below, discover CeraVe’s skincare tips for managing acne on dry skin.


Follow a consistent skincare routine

Consistency is key for skincare success. We recommend building a morning and evening regimen that’s suitable for dry, acne-prone skin, and sticking to it on a daily basis. Acne treatments can take time to work, and sometimes, a bit of patience is needed. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), it takes at least 30 days to determine whether or not a particular product is working well for your skin’s needs.1

If you’re building a new routine, introduce products one at a time. This can be especially important if your dry skin is also prone to sensitivity. Applying too many new products at once can be harsh on your skin and potentially lead to unwanted flaking, irritation, or redness.


Support your skin’s protective barrier

Ceramides are a key component of your skin’s natural barrier. Without sufficient ceramides, your skin barrier may not be able to effectively keep moisture in your skin and harmful irritants out. Studies have found that lower levels of ceramides may be linked to dryness and dry skin conditions such as eczema.2 Research also shows that a weakened skin barrier may contribute to acne formation, as your skin overproduces oil to compensate.3

CeraVe Tip: All CeraVe products for dry skin and acne-prone skin are formulated with a blend of three essential ceramides that are identical to those found naturally in your skin. Our formulas are designed to lock in moisture and avoid further disrupting the skin’s protective barrier.


Start your daily regimen with a hydrating acne cleanser

A gentle acne cleanser with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid can help control acne. Additionally, a formula with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and niacinamide can help soothe your dry skin. It’s generally best to cleanse dry, acne-prone skin twice per day, once in the morning and once at night (as well as after sweating).

To help clear existing acne pimples on your face, try CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser with 4% benzoyl peroxide. This gentle acne treatment thoroughly dissolves dirt and excess oil while reducing acne without dryness or flaking.

If you have more severe acne on your body, your dermatologist may recommend a cleanser that features a higher concentration of benzoyl peroxide. This is because the skin on your body is thicker than the skin on your face and, therefore, may require a different treatment option. To help clear acne on your body, we recommend CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Wash with 10% benzoyl peroxide. This acne product is clinically-tested and contains the highest concentration of benzoyl peroxide available without a prescription.


Use a gentle acne treatment for dry skin

As we’ve mentioned, acne treatments can be drying. But not all formulas are the same. If you’re prone to dryness, we recommend trying a daily-use option that’s suitable for dry skin. Using acne treatments that are made with all skin types in mind—including dry skin—can help you avoid unwanted side effects, like flaking, sensitivity, or redness. Look for key terms such as “non-drying,” “gentle,” “fragrance-free,” and “alcohol-free.”

One acne treatment to consider for dry skin is CeraVe Acne Control Gel. The hydrating acne treatment contains 2% salicylic acid to treat acne, ceramides, and a lactic-glycolic acid blend. This non-drying acne gel is alcohol-free, fragrance-free, and developed with dermatologists to clear acne and help prevent new breakouts without compromising the skin’s protective barrier.


Don’t forget about moisturizer and sunscreen

Any effective skincare regimen should include moisturizer and sun protection, regardless of whether your skin is dry, acne-prone, or both. Daily moisturizing can help improve the dryness that’s sometimes associated with acne treatment. The right moisturizer can also complement any other anti-acne products you might be using. For dry, acne-prone skin, we suggest looking for moisturizers that are labeled “non-comedogenic”—this means they won't clog your pores or contribute to acne breakouts.

For daytime, your moisturizer should also include broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or above to help protect your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. This is especially important when using acne treatments, since research shows that some acne-fighting ingredients can make your skin more susceptible to sun damage.4 For dry, acne-prone skin, we recommend CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion. This lightweight morning multitasker with broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen allows you to hydrate your skin and help protect it from the sun’s rays in one convenient step, with reapplication at least every two hours for sunscreen protection.

At night, you can skip sunscreen and opt for a moisturizer specifically designed for evening use. The right formula can help alleviate dryness and provide additional skincare benefits (such as soothing your skin) while you sleep—all without causing clogged pores. One non-comedogenic nighttime moisturizer to consider is CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion, which features niacinamide, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid.


Treat dry, acne-prone skin with care

Take extra care and be gentle with your skin. This means applying your products correctly and avoiding any skincare practices that may irritate your skin or worsen dryness. For example, over-cleansing or over-exfoliating your skin can strip it of essential moisture and cause skin barrier disruption.

Harsh, astringent products (such as alcohol-based toners) can also weaken your skin barrier and cause increased dryness or irritation. Lastly, try to avoid picking at acne blemishes or scrubbing your skin with abrasive scrubs, which can damage your skin’s natural barrier, cause skin injury, or result in post-acne marks.

For help choosing the best skincare products for your specific skin type and skin concerns, use our Find My Skincare Solution tool.

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