Dry Skin Acne – 5 Solutions That Will Clear Your Skin

dry skin acne - 5 solutions to clear skin

Do you wash your face every day with acne products but still have breakouts? The problem may not be oily skin. Your breakouts may actually be a form of dry skin acne. I used to wash my face with a popular 3 step acne care system morning and night and still deal with breakouts. 

It was a frustrating problem to say the least. You never knew if you're going to wake up in the morning with a shiny new zit somewhere on your face. Typically when you have something important to do...Its the worst!

It wasn't until I went to a professional that I finally figured it out. She identified that my acne was not caused by my oily skin. It was in fact caused by overly dry skin. The exact opposite of what I had been thinking.

If you're washing your face and still dealing with breakouts then these 5 powerful solutions are just what the doctor ordered. 

dry desert sand

How does dry skin cause acne?

First we should look at how dry skin causes acne. I mean, isn't acne caused by dirt and oil? Yes and no. There's actually three main causes of acne: 

  1. Oil Production 
  2. Dead skin cells
  3. Bacteria 

​Here's how it happens: You go through a hormonal change and your face starts breaking out with acne. You head to the store and pick up some face wash. You exfoliate, use toner, and use the creme twice a day. It works for a while but then you begin breaking out again. What happened?

At this point your skin is breaking out again because its too dry. Many people think that dry skin isn't producing enough oil. That isn't always the case though. When your skin is dry it still produces enough or even more oil when in an attempt to compensate. When high oil production combines with dead skin you get clogged pores and acne breakouts. 

Most off the shelf products contain benzoyl peroxide and the point of benzoyl peroxide is to make your face dry. Specifically to dry out acne. However, it may also cause your face to become too dry and result in more breakouts. 

How to treat dry skin acne at home​

natural remedies for dry skin acne

Dry skin acne is a fickle beast. You may be tempted to just exfoliate more or push through and keep using your product because it works a little. Here's the thing: that's only going to make it worse and continue the acne problem. 

If you're tired of acne and you're ready to try something new, below are 5 things you can do to reduce dry skin acne. 

​1. Use salicylic acid instead of benzoyl peroxide treatments

Main benefits: 

  • Clears acne while still being soothing
  • Anti-inflammatory - good for reducing swelling and redness
  • Doesn't dry your skin out
  • Works on the breaking down the skin cells that have a habit of clogging pores

The down side: 

  • Doesn't kill bacteria - which is another cause of acne
  • May be irritating to some individuals

How it works:

Salicylic acid helps to slow down the shedding of skin cells inside of the hair follicle. Thus reducing or preventing dead skin cells from clogging your pores and creating acne. 

How to use it:

Salicylic acid is available in many over the counter face washes which carry their own set of directions. Typically the directions say to wash your face once in the morning and once at night. If you get your own tube you can use it as a spot treatment. Simply apply a small dab over any pimples once or twice a day. 

  1. ​Cleanse your face before applying and pat dry.
  2. Apply a thin layer of the product over the areas affected by acne. 
  3. That's it. Now just leave it alone and let the product do the work. 

Where to get it: 

Most of your large retailers like Walmart and Target carry it or you can order it online. 

I recommend trying this one on amazon

Since the benzoyl peroxide is overly drying to your face, switching to a less abrasive agent can do wonders for your dry skin. Salicylic acid is unique in that it can kill off acne while still being soothing. 

Benzoyl peroxide works to kill the bacteria that causes acne. However, as you already know, it also causes dry skin and as a result, more acne.

Salicylic acid on the other hand is derived from aspirin (anti-inflammatory) and is powerful at minimizing inflammation and redness. A big benefit of salicylic acid on acne is that it works to correct the abnormal shedding of skin cells which may cause clogged pores and acne.

Like any acne treatment you have to use this product daily. Always test new products on a small area on your face first. You want to make sure you're not going to have any adverse reactions before putting it everywhere. 

When purchasing a salicylic acid make sure to avoid any that include alcohol, rice or corn ingredients, or anything else that could be drying or irritating. ​Many facial cleansers contain salicylic acid or you can buy it on its own as a spot treatment. The big draw back with salicylic acid is, unlike benzoyl peroxide, it doesn't kill bacteria. Not to worry though, I've got you covered.

(Related Reading: 7 Skin Care Tips for a Glowing Complexion)

2. Raw Manuka Honey​

raw manuka honey

Raw honey - specifically Manuka Honey is the ideal solution for killing bacteria on your skin. In fact, manuka honey has been tested and works equally well on both antibiotic susceptible and antibiotic resistant bacteria. 

Main benefits: 

  • Kills bacteria 
  • Rich in natural antioxidants 
  • Anti-inflammatory properties - reduces swelling and redness
  • Removes excess oil and leaves your skin baby soft and hydrated
  • Completely natural and safe

The down side: 

  • Doesn't exfoliate - but you can easily get a good exfoliant
  • Slightly expensive
  • Can contain some bacteria of its own - never feed honey to babies under 1 year old

How it works: 

  • Honey works as an osmotic antibacterial - the sugar of honey actually sucks the water out of bacterial cells and kills them.
  • Honey is slightly acidic - making it hard for bacteria to grow.
  • Honey naturally produces hydrogen peroxide - which destroys bacterial cells.

How to use it: 

  1. Remove any makeup. 
  2. Dampen your face with warm water (this will make it easier to spread the honey).
  3. Take a small amount of honey and massage gently on your face. 
  4. Rinse with warm water and pat your face dry.

Where to get it:

The easiest place to get raw manuka honey is on amazon.com. I recommend this one. Otherwise you can purchase the next best thing (normal raw honey) at your local farmers market and usually get a good deal. 

​As you may have already heard, honey has a million different uses. Its been used to treat ulcers, wounds, burns, allergies, as a cough suppressant (in a study of 139 children, honey beat dextromethorphan [cough medicine] and diphenhydramine [antihistamine] as a cough suppressant), and more. Honey is perpetually being researched and new discoveries are being made. The big takeaway is that honey is both healthy and perfect for your skin.

3. Masks for dry skin with acne

face mask for dry skin

Masks are great for dry acne prone skin. However, you should know that most masks are made with clay to dry and suck impurities out of your pores. This can leave your face even more dry than when you started. To avoid further drying and breakouts you'll want to find a mask that is specifically for dry skin.

Main Benefits: 

  • Absorbs oil and dirt helping to refine pores
  • Softens the skin and increases blood flow
  • Moisturizes and hydrates your skin (if you use a moisturizing mask)
  • Helps remove dead skin (which can clog pores)

The down side:

  • Can further dry your skin if using a clay based mask
  • Can be messy

​How it works:

Face masks work in different ways depending on the ingredients. But the over arching premise of a hydrating face mask is that the mask will hold nourishing vitamins and moisture against your skin which dry skin will soak up.

How to use it: 

  1. Masks can get a little messy so put on a shirt you don't mind getting dirty and pull back your hair. 
  2. I recommend starting with a clean face. Wash your face with honey or one of your favorite cleansers (specifically for dry skin). 
  3. Dampen your face a little and then apply the mask with slightly damp hands. Liberally apply the mask to your face and neck area. It should go on thick and look like you're wearing a mask. Avoid the eyes and make sure your nostril area is clear. 
  4. Relax. The mask you choose will have its own directions on how long to wait so follow those directions closely. Its okay to leave it on a minute longer but try not to get impatient and wash it off early. 
  5. Wash it off. Use warm (not hot) water to gently rinse away the mask. A wash cloth can help this process. Just be sure not to scrub your skin and cause further irritation. 
  6. Pat dry and marvel at your beautiful skin. 

While your skin is dry, its okay to apply a mask every day. But when it begins to recover (it shouldn't take long) you can drop it back to using it twice a week.

Where to get it:

Hit your favorite makeup store like Sephora or Ulta for some great masks. If you want to save a little money and get the same quality you can always go online for a bigger selection and the convenience of shopping in pajamas. I like this one on amazon. It's perfect for dry skin. However, they tingle so it's not ideal if you have overly sensitive skin.

Just make sure to look for a hydrating mask that works for dry skin acne. Yogurt based face masks are a good place to start and they often contain raw honey as an added bonus. Typically you'll notice that the masks for hydration contain food ingredients like (yogurt & honey) avocado, coconut oil, apricot, oatmeal, raw milk, green tea, etc. 

Follow the directions on the package and you'll have softer skin and less acne in no time. 

4. Moisturize 

bottle of moisturizer

Moisturizing seems obvious but I thought I'd include it anyway. Sometimes moisturizing can be a confusing topic. For example, I used to think that putting moisturizer on my face could cause further breakouts. I didn't want to risk it so I avoided them. In reality there's lots of quality moisturizers that both keep your skin moist and help fight breakouts. 

Main benefits

  • Helps your skin maintain a healthy glow
  • Prevents flaking and dull looking skin
  • Can help to treat sun damaged skin
  • Helps maintain your skins youthful appearance
  • Helps to prevent breakouts caused by dry skin

The down side

  • Some moisturizers can cause breakouts - always test on a small area of your face
  • Many contain alcohol and other ingredients that can actually dry your skin out
  • Some contain harmful chemicals such as fragrance

How it works:

The outer layer of skin acts as a barrier between you and the rest of the world. Your cells are supposed to be plump with water and fat which keeps them tightly packed together. This is good because it prevents things like bacteria from slipping through. Fats on top of your skin also help to prevent moisture from escaping. Moisturizer hydrates your cells and often contains fat (often in the form of oils) which helps to prevent that moisture from escaping. If you're nervous about using oils there are plenty of oil free moisturizers available. 

How to use it: 

  1. Best time to apply is when your face is a little damp like right after a shower or washing your face. 
  2. Pat your face dry leaving just a little moisture.
  3. Put a small dab on your finger and gently massage on your face. Start from the bottom and work your way up using gentle circular motions. 
  4. Tip: apply from bottom to top (rather than top to bottom). Applying top down causes tugging on your skin down which can lead to sagging.

Where to get it:

You can find good moisturizers at your local beauty store and try this one on amazon.  

Many moisturizers contain substances known as humectants (AHA, sodium PCA, hyaluronic aid, glycerin, urea, etc.). Humectants are designed to pull moisture from the air and continue moisturizing your face all day long. That's great if you live in Florida where there's plenty of humidity. But what if you live in a dry climate? Humectants can actually pull the moisture from your skin and make it more dry.

To avoid this make sure your moisturizer also contains an occlusive to help seal in moisture. Just stay away from any silicones and waxes that are commonly included as occlusives in moisturizers. They're both triggers for acne. 

Great natural alternatives as moisturizers include: 

  1. Rose water hydrosol - helps maintain moisture and pH balance. 
  2. Aloe Vera gel - contains natural anti-inflammatories which are good for dry skin and acne
  3. Coconut Oil - use raw unrefined coconut oil. It contains natural antibacterial properties which are great for preventing breakouts. 
  4. Avocado - high levels of fats and vitamins that are great for keeping dry skin nourished and moisturized. 

Always test anything new on a small patch of your skin before putting it all over your face. It is always a possibility that a new substance on your skin can cause an adverse reaction. 

5. Exfoliate - Just Not Every Day


Many of the popular home face wash kits include exfoliation as the first step. Exfoliation is great but not as an every day solution. If your skin is dry and you're getting acne you may think more exfoliation is what you have to do. Not true. In fact, exfoliating every day can irritate your skin and lead to further dryness. However, if done right exfoliation is great for your skin. 

Main benefits

  • Removes dead skin that can clog pores
  • Improves the texture of your skin
  • Can help fight fine lines and wrinkle formation
  • Helps your moisturizer and other products penetrate deeper
  • Helps even out skin tone
  • Minimizes the appearance of pores

The down side​

  • May cause further irritation
  • Over exfoliation can thin your skin making you more likely to wrinkle
  • Some exfoliants can strip the skin of its natural oils leaving you more prone to breakouts

How it works:

It's pretty obvious how these work if you've ever exfoliated your face. They contain small abrasive particles which can be plastic or silicon beads, small natural granules, or many other things. The abrasive texture of the exfoliant works to scrub away the dead skin. The solution part of the exfoliant often contains elements that help dissolve dead skin cells making them easier to remove. 

How to use it: 

Exfoliate two to three times a week max. You may also want to try a dry exfoliant as they tend to be less harsh than wet exfoliants. To exfoliate: 

  1. Pull your hair back and out of your face. 
  2. If using a wet exfoliant - get your face a little damp.
  3. Apply a small amount to your face and gently scrub (circular motions) using your index and ring fingers only. 
  4. Rinse off with a warm wash cloth or simply warm water.

​Where to get it: 

A good exfoliator can be purchased at your local beauty store, on amazon.com or you can make your own.

I like this one by Nelly.

My aesthetician swears their products are the best and I'd say I have to agree they're top notch. 

Tip: Oatmeal scrubs are particularly helpful for dry skin and can be made at home. Simply grab a tablespoon of whole oats, get them a little wet and massage them into your face for about 1 minute. You'll be amazed at how well this works. 

Give it a try! 

Well there you have it. Try these 5 tips for dry skin acne and you'll notice definite improvements in both your acne and the overall health of your skin. Leave us a comment below and tell us about your favorite tips! 

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