Acne is a broad term for facial blemishes, such as:

  • whiteheads
  • blackheads
  • pimples

Acne is often associated with oily skin. Oily skin occurs when the sebaceous glands produce too much sebum. Sebum is a natural skin oil that lubricates and protects the skin. Too much can lead to clogged pores and acne breakouts.

Even though oily skin and acne often go hand in hand, acne can also occur with dry skin.

Anything that clogs your pores can cause breakouts. And while sebum is a common culprit, it’s not the only one.

Here’s what you need to know about dry skin and acne, and what you can do to fight breakouts.

A regular skin care routine is one of the best defenses for fighting acne and dry skin. But if you have sensitive skin, you’ll need to choose your skin care products carefully.

Sensitive skin is more likely to react negatively to harsh skin care products.

To deal with acne and dryness, choose products that won’t further irritate your skin. Everyone’s skin is different, so a product that works for one person might not work for you.

For the most part, avoid heavy skin care products. This includes oil-based lotions, moisturizers, and sunscreens. They can leave behind residue that clogs pores. Find oil-free, noncomedogenic products. This is true for anyone with acne.

Be mindful that products containing alcohol, dyes, and fragrances may be irritating to some people.

To treat acne and dry skin, start by addressing your dry skin. One way to do this is to choose products that will help your skin retain moisture. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Use a gentle cleanser to remove dirt, oil, and bacteria. A gentle product can clean your pores without overdrying the skin.
  • Apply an oil-free and noncomedogenic moisturizer immediately after cleansing.
  • Only wash your face once a day. While washing helps remove irritants from your skin, overwashing can rob your skin of moisture.
  • Avoid exfoliating. Exfoliating can have a drying effect on skin as well as irritate skin. Avoid skin care products that contain alpha hydroxy acids. It can strip your skin of natural oils.
  • Be mindful of acne products. They typically reduce oil production, which can worsen dryness. Effective acne ingredients that have a drying effect include benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid.
  • Maximize certain medications while minimizing others. Retinoids can be a very effective treatment for acne. If you use a retinoid like adapalene (Differin) or tretinoin (Retin-A), reduce your use of benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid and maximize your retinoid use.
  • Use treatments with care. For example, you can reduce the drying effect by applying an oil-free moisturizer to cleansed skin before applying an acne medication. The moisturizer creates a protective barrier to reduce the drying effect. It also helps to spot-treat acne.
  • Be careful where you apply treatment. Only apply medication to actual blemishes, rather than your entire face.
  • Start small. Begin with a lower dose of acne medication. This can tackle acne while minimizing dryness.

Along with choosing the right skin care products, a few home remedies can help improve dry skin and acne.

  • Cleanse your skin with lukewarm water instead of hot water. Hot water may feel soothing and relaxing, but it can also dry out your skin and damage your skin’s surface.
  • Pat-dry your skin. Rubbing or scrubbing your skin with a towel can make dryness worse and lead to irritation.
  • Use a humidifier. Adding moisture to the air in your home may help reduce dry skin.
  • Don’t touch your face. This can transfer dirt from your hands to your face, triggering acne breakouts.

To control acne and dry skin, choose a facial wash that addresses dryness and sensitive skin.

Look specifically for gentle facial washes that are noncomedogenic, free of dyes, fragrance-free, and hydrating for dry skin.

Hydrating cleansers include ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acids. Here are a few highly rated options:

If your skin doesn’t improve with home remedies or over-the-counter medication, see a dermatologist for advice on how to address acne without causing further dryness.

They can determine the cause of dryness and confirm whether you have run-of-the-mill acne or another skin condition, such as:

You can book an appointment with a dermatologist in your area using the Healthline FindCare tool.

Dry skin and acne can be a frustrating combination, especially since acne medications can worsen dryness.

Focusing on boosting your skin’s hydration might be the key to fighting breakouts.

If home treatments aren’t working, reach out to a dermatologist for help.