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Can dryness make acne worse?

Find out if dryness can make acne worse.

Skin dryness can lead to irritation and itchy skin. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Skin dryness can lead to irritation and itchy skin.

Can Dryness Make Acne Worse

Dermatologists are often asked the question, "can dryness make acne worse?" The answer is yes; cleansing the skin too frequently and vigorously with strong products can irritate and dry the skin, making acne worse. A mild cleanser is a better option, particularly for those with dry skin. According to the Acne Resource Center, acne isnt just an affliction for those with oily skin; in fact, those with dry or normal skin can suffer with it as well. Some may have combination skin on different parts of their body, resulting in different kinds of acne and different treatments that need to be used to control it. Acne in those with dry skin is usually more of an issue below the surface of the skin, rather than on top of the skin as in those with an oilier complexion.

A change in season can also make acne more of an issue for those with dry skin. Lower humidity in the outside air combined with the dry heated air inside homes and buildings makes skin even drier. Skin can becomes so dry that it cracks which allows the introduction of bacteria, making acne worse.

Causes of Acne

Acne isn't caused by dirt, but rather by hormones, bacteria, certain medications and heredity. These factors contribute to an oilier complexion that causes acne, although the reason isnt known. While acne is most common in teens, people of all ages can struggle with acne. Women will sometimes experience breakouts due to menstruation, pregnancy or birth control pills. Along genetic lines, if a parent had acne as a teen, chances are the child will have it too.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne occurs when an overproduction of oil and dead skins cells clog hair follicles. The oil and dead skin cells combine, push to the surface and cause a pimple. They can also be trapped beneath the skin, forming a cyst. Acne is most commonly seen on the face, back, neck and shoulders, where the largest numbers of oil-producing glands reside. It's widely thought that certain foods, such as chocolate and greasy fried foods, make acne worse. However, this is a myth. The consumption of those foods doesnt cause excess oil in the skin.

Acne manifests in different ways, and sufferers can have a number of types of pimples. Whiteheads and blackheads occur when the hair follicles opening is plugged. Papules and pustules are both red, tender bumps; pustules also have a white tip at the center. Like cysts, nodules form deep beneath the surface of the skin and are also painful.


According to AcneNet, treating acne early is important in minimizing scarring. Treatment for acne focuses on preventing new breakouts; existing pimples must heal on their own. Medicines used for acne work to decrease oil production, increase the rate of cell turnover, reduce inflammation and control bacterial infections.

For most people, treating acne usually starts with over the counter products. Benzoyl peroxide is one of the more popular active ingredients in over the counter acne medications, and works well for mild acne. If improvement isnt seen after six to eight weeks, stronger topical medications such as tretinoin and adapalene, which are both derived from vitamin A, may be needed to be prescribed by a dermatologist. They prevent follicles from becoming plugged by encouraging cell rejuvenation.

Oral antibiotics may be also be prescribed, which help to fight bacterial infections. Sometimes a combination of both topical and oral treatments is needed to control acne. A dermatologist will diagnose the particular type of acne and prescribe medicines accordingly.

A dermatologist may also use light therapy, which penetrates into the deeper layers of the skin. The theory behind laser/light therapy is that it seems to work by damaging the oil glands that causes them to produce less oil. Acne sufferers should be careful though, because often treatment that is meant to cut down on oil production can increase it. If the skin becomes too dry, then it will over-compensate by creating more oil and this can cause breakouts.


Once existing acne responds to treatment, the focus becomes prevention. Laser therapies may be continued. The use of acne products twice a day and showering after heavy sweating will help keep further breakouts to a minimum.

Picking at pimples or popping them increases the likelihood of scarring, in addition to providing a vehicle in which bacteria can be introduced into the skin. Makeup should be noncomedogenic, meaning it doesnt block the pores. Makeup should be removed completely before bed. Oily hair can also add to acne woes, as well as sports equipment that traps sweat against the skin. Wearing hair off the face, and having a layer of cotton between sports equipment and the skin can help in preventing further breakouts. Treatments often take time to work, and using products more often than recommended can dry out the skin, making acne worse instead of better. Tanning, whether by natural sunlight or tanning beds, doesnt make acne better. In fact, some products designed to help control acne will sensitize the skin to the sun.

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