Skin School  >   Acne Basics

Is Dry Skin More Prone To Acne?

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Like chocolate-flavored toothpaste, or pineapple on pizza (yes, we went there!) — dry skin and acne appear to be two things that have no business mixing.

However, as we’ll come to see, dry skin doesn’t offer automatic protection from pimples, blackheads, or bumps. If anything, at the skin’s driest during cold, harsh weather like fall and winter’s, seasonal acne can be the one year-end present we’d happily go without!

But is there something about dry skin that makes it more susceptible to acne? If yes, does that mean dry skin equals weak skin? Actually, let’s back up a little — how can you tell that you have dry skin to begin with? We’ll be answering these questions and more, starting with easy pointers on identifying skin types.

How can I tell if I have dry skin?

First, get in front of a mirror. When you’ve gotten over how great you look, take a close peek at your pores — this part’s important.

If upon examining:

  • A. You’re wondering what pores are, because you can’t notice any on your face — chances are, you have normal skin. Or
  • B. You’re aware of enlarged pores and a glossy facial sheen — that most likely spells oily skin. But if
  • C. You’re staring at tiny pores which probably feel tight; that’s a common indicator of dry skin.

However, dry skin isn’t always identifiable by small pores. In some scenarios, this skin type can be accompanied by large pores, and a lot of anger directed at the skin gods.

For other signs to confirm dry skin — look out for redness and rough/flaky skin which may crack in cooler months. This flaking is usually apparent in the eyebrows and corners of the nose and mouth. The neck, plus inside of the arms and thighs can also exhibit dryness.

In extreme cases, dry skin manifests where the skin produces deep cracks that may bleed.

But what causes dry skin? Usual culprits are cold weather, low moisture in the air, soaking in hot baths, using harsh soaps, or certain skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

I’m curious. Does dry skin equal weaker skin?

Ever heard of the skin moisture barrier — the outermost layer of the skin made up of lipids that provide the protection necessary to retain water and moisture, while also defending against harmful irritants like bacteria? Yes? Great. 

At its healthiest, the moisture barrier ensures the skin stays supple and in good physical condition. However, when damaged, cracks can start to appear - literally.

According to Dr Suzanne Friedler - Clinical Instructor of Dermatology, Mt Sinai Medical Center, “Dry skin is often associated with defects in the outermost layers of the epidermis which create the "cornified envelop" that is a barrier to the outside world, and which holds in our skin's moisture.”

When the moisture barrier is injured, the skin experiences redness, inflammation, itchiness, as well as flaking; known symptoms of dry skin. The skin also experiences dehydration, which btw, is different from skin dryness.

While dry skin can essentially be a symptom of a weakened skin barrier, board-certified dermatologist Dr Deborah Longwill doesn’t believe in a ‘weaker skin-type’. According to her: “All skin types have their pros and cons.” She notes ‘the best thing you can do for any skin type is to wear sunblock daily, eat a healthy diet, stay hydrated, refrain from smoking, and get your beauty sleep!‘

That said, however — when dry, the skin does operate with a compromised protective layer, leaving it open to the complications of dry skin like rosacea, irritated skin, and notably, increased breakouts.

Does this mean dry skin is more prone to acne?

According to Dr. Longwill, this isn’t necessarily true. She says, “‘it is possible for one to experience acne with dry skin” (but) … “Anything that can clog your pores can cause breakouts.” This means that while dry skin isn’t always more acne-prone than say oily skin; dry acne-prone skin can be a major cause of breakouts, as shown with seasonal acne.

Now here’s why: when the skin loses moisture, it becomes dry, which can lead to flaking. To compensate for the dryness, the skin glands produce more sebum (oil), which can become excessive. Worse still, this excess oil often combines with dead skin cells, which can lead to a build-up that causes acne.

TL;DR: Skin gets dry. Skin compensates by producing more oil. Excess oil combines with dead skin cells and a build-up occurs. Cue ominous music as the inevitable acne breakout appears.

What do we have to sacrifice to treat dry skin?!

Nothing, thankfully. For a guide on how to get rid of dry skin on the face and body, you can’t go wrong with these skincare measures:

1. Keep things nice and moisturized

With dry skin, consider 'moisturizers' – AKA the trusty handyman, set to rebuild your damaged skin barrier. To select a moisturizer, you’re going to need one capable of not just attracting and sealing moisture into the skin, but efficient enough to undo the damage caused by dryness. Rescue Balm is full of ultra-hydrating ingredients like panthenol and beta-glucans which penetrate the skin and hold moisture deep in the skin tissue. It is also great to relieve redness and improve the texture of irritated skin.

2. Don’t look at harsh soaps, don’t even think about them

No really, harsh soaps can be very drying to the skin. They can strip the skin of moisture and necessary oils. Go for softer, cleansing creams or mild soaps with added oils.

3. Slow down on those baths

And speaking of soaps, make sure your soap usage and bathing time are to a minimum, long showers can strip the skin of natural oils and moisture. The same goes for hot baths - they feel great, but can be pretty bad and drying for your skin. Keeping baths/showers to around ten minutes is just what the doctor ordered.

4. Your humidifier is your best skin friend

Your skin deserves a break from hot and drying indoor air. Humidifiers help to infuse moisture into your home and can help to manage the skin dryness.

Article by guest writer, Elizabeth Plumptre.

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