What to Do When You Have Acne and Dry Skin

What to Do When You Have Acne and Dry Skin

Caring for dry, acne-prone skin requires a unique approach that nourishes skin while clearing up breakouts in a gentle way. Once you find the right products, the result can be beautifully smooth, clear and hydrated skin.

Start with a Soothing Cleanser & Toner for Dry, Acne-Prone Skin

This replenishing duo leaves skin soft and completely makeup and oil free.

Fight Breakouts with the Best Acne Treatment for Dry Skin

Choose products that effectively, gently, and quickly combat acne and clogged pores.

Hydrate & Replenish with the Best Moisturizer for Dry, Acne-Prone Skin

Give skin the moisture it needs, while getting the smooth, clear complexion you want.

Skin Care for Dry Skin + Acne

If your skin feels dry and oily plus prone to breakouts all at the same time, you’re actually struggling with dehydrated skin and acne, which is very different than dry skin and acne. Dehydration is typically brought on by using the wrong skin care products such as overly drying cleansers or harsh ingredients like denatured alcohol, mint, menthol, eucalyptus, and lemon.

While having oily skin with acne is not uncommon, only a small percentage of people find themselves with truly dry skin and acne. For those unlucky few, it’s an infuriating struggle. Trying to find a moisturizer that addresses the needs of dry skin without clogging pores and causing more breakouts is hard enough. Then there’s the issue that products that get breakouts under control often make dry skin even drier. It can be a real dilemma when shopping for skin care products.

Does this sound more like your skin type? If so, taking care of dehydrated skin with acne has a separate protocol, which you’ll find here.

Once you’ve determined that your skin is dry (not dehydrated), and you've ensured that your skin care routine is free of aggravating factors, you can focus on the gentle yet effective ways to get your dry skin and acne under control. Following are our expert recommendations.

Start with a soothing cleanser and toner duo, like you’ll find in our CALM Redness Relief collection for Normal to Dry Skin to leave skin thoroughly cleansed, yet replenished and soft. This combination is formulated for the most sensitive of skin and is even gentle enough for skin prone to eczema.

Bring in the big guns (though still ultimately gentle) with a BHA exfoliant to unclog pores. Our SKIN PERFECTING 2% BHA Lotion Exfoliant has a light lotion texture that softens and hydrates as it gently and naturally exfoliates to clear pores deeply and to reveal bump-free, smooth-looking skin. Perfectly gentle to reduce the appearance of those hard, tiny, white bumps on the cheeks and face. It's even suitable for skin prone to milia.

Stop breakouts before they begin with benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide is a powerhouse ingredient for preventing acne eruptions before they happen. Use it consistently in your breakout-prone areas, give it a couple of weeks, and you will see what we mean! Higher concentrations, particularly 10%, can be drying for many people so we strongly recommend you try starting with a 2.5% concentration, like our CLEAR Regular Strength Daily Skin Clearing Treatment and see how your skin responds.

Find the perfect balance in a moisturizer and/or serum. This is admittedly the tricky part. You want a moisturizer and/or serum that contains rejuvenating and skin-renewing ingredients but is also hydrating enough to quench dry skin. It also needs to be less emollient than a standard cream moisturizer so it doesn’t exacerbate breakouts. While it may take some experimenting, here are a few of our suggestions, starting with the lightest option in each category first.

Daytime moisturizers with SPF 30 or greater (you simply can’t take care of any skin type and overlook this fundamental skin care step):

Nighttime moisturizers:


Learn more about dry skin.

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!