Beauty Skincare & Makeup

How To Treat Oily and Dry Skin with Acne


 Did you know that you can have dry and oily skin at the same time? While it may sound contradictory, it’s a common struggle among those of us who have acne.

Maybe you have a greasy t-zone but your cheeks feel flaky and dry. Or maybe your skin feels tight after cleansing but you wake up to a slick face in the morning. Even though they sound the same, there’s a difference between dry skin and dehydrated skin:

Dehydrated skin means that your skin temporarily lacks hydration due to overuse or misuse of products that are inappropriate for your skin type. Dry skin means that you have weakened outer layers of skin due to genetics, prolonged unprotected sun exposure, or skin disorders.

You can tell you have dry skin if you consistently feel there’s almost no oil at all, no matter your surroundings or the time of year, whereas dehydrated skin feels like it’s dry underneath but oily on top and it changes with the environment or seasons. 

The combination of dehydrated, oily and acne-prone skin can be an extremely frustrating issue to deal with, especially if you don’t know your skin type, are using the wrong products, or both.  Overusing tools, products with irritating ingredients or unnecessary scents can all contribute to our skin stresses.     

To get clear, supple skin, establish a skin regimen that is right for you. Just as consistency is key with any diet or exercise plan, your skincare requires dedication and time to get desired results.  It’s important to choose the right products for your skin and stick with your routine.  To start, here are a few tips on different treatments.

1. Exfoliate 2-3 Times A Week

Washing your face regularly is a given, but don’t forget to exfoliate!  Exfoliation shouldn’t be just a once-in-a-while spa treatment. It’s actually vital to acne-healing, as it sloughs away dead skin cells on the surface, provokes
skin cell turnaround and minimizes clogged pores.  Keep in mind that it is more effective to frequently and gently exfoliate (about 2-3 times a week) than it is to exfoliate less often with a heavy hand.  

For another DIY treatment to absorb excess oils and detox your skin, try this homemade activated charcoal face mask.  

2. Treat Acne With The Right Ingredients

Both salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are mainstay treatments for acne, but it’s important to know the difference and how to use them.  Here’s a brief introduction to both:

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid and anti-inflammatory
What it does: exfoliates to remove dead skin in your pores and on your skin’s surface.
Best used: for blackheads and large inflamed spots.
Most effective: when applied like a leave-on toner or lotion so it has enough time to work

Benzoyl Peroxide is an antibacterial product
What it does: kills bacteria
Best used: on whiteheads
Most effective: as a spot treatment. Don’t overdo it or you’ll suffer flaky dry skin! Start with the lowest concentration and increase if your skin doesn’t respond.

Whether you use either or both, do not combine these with alcohol.  In fact, don’t use products which contain harmful types of alcohol, period. Alcohol is to great for making many products lightweight and easy to absorb, but certain types (SD, cetearyl, cetyl, and stearyl alcohol) unfortunately cause free-radical damage, dryness, and slow your skin’s ability to heal.

3. Look For Healing Ingredients

dry oily dehydrated acne prone skin aloe vera

courtesy of

Aloe Vera
When it comes to skin, Aloe Vera works for more than a sunburn.  It is an anti-inflammatory, moisturizer, and anti-aging and acne treatment among many other uses.  It is also commonly used to treat itching due to skin conditions like psoriasis and and eczema.  Two natural hormones found in aloe reduce inflammation and provoke skin cell growth to help speed up healing.  

Aloe Vera doesn’t just work wonders on your skin.  Click here to learn how to use aloe vera for thirsty hair.

Apple Cider Vinegar
While it’s common knowledge that vinegar makes for a streak-free glass cleaner, the use of apple cider vinegar in particular has become more and more popular as a skin remedy. And for good reason, too!  Not only does it work well as an anti-inflammatory, but it’s also antibacterial and balances the pH of your skin while drying up excess oil.  

To us: Dilute ACV (1 part vinegar to 3 parts water) and apply as an astringent for 10 minutes or overnight, then rinse off and continue with your moisturizing routine. Interested in learning about other unexpected benefits of apple cider vinegar? Read more here.


4. Avoid Oily Emollient Or Greasy Formulations

If your skin is already oily, avoid applying even more oily or greasy products.  Lotions or creams that are too rich or thick may end up worsening already clogged pores or make your face look slick.  Still, this doesn’t mean that you should skip the moisturizer altogether.


5. Moisturize

A common misconception is that if you struggle with acne, your oily skin doesn’t need moisture, right?  Wrong!  Actually, moisture is vital to your skin, regardless of what skin type you have.  The difference is the type and amount of moisturizer you use.

Oily, dehydrated and acne-prone skin requires lightweight moisturizers and gels.  Sure, it might seem counter-intuitive to add more moisture where your skin is technically already “moist,” but keep in mind that if you don’t moisturize at all, your skin will work overtime to produce even more oil. To minimize sebum (the oil that your skin makes) production on your face, apply moisturizer where and when you need it.  

Overall, it’s important to observe your skin’s reaction to anything you apply on it. If you notice redness or sensitivity after using, it could be that your skin needs more time to adjust to the new product.   Rome wasn’t built in a day and your skincare regimen won’t likely be, either.  We’ve all tried new products for a short time and given up when we didn’t see results immediately. The key is to be consistent so your skin has time to get used to the new products, but be receptive to your skin’s responses and stop treatment if a rash allergic reaction occurs.  Regulate your use so that you don’t sustain a bad or extreme reaction.  

Taking care of your skin today will help you prevent problems in the future.  Watch Vlogger SoutherSophis‘ updated skin care routine for acne-prone skin:

For more information on treating dry, acne-prone skin, we recommend that you check out Paula’s Choice for expert skincare advice.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    October 5, 2017 at 11:55 pm

    In my opinion Dermalmd blemish serum has been the BEST find for my skin!!! I struggled with acne and dryness and dermalmd solves both problems. I never get breakouts with painful cystic acne under the skin anymore and the only breakouts I do get are hormonal and very minor. This serum has really even significantly decreased the hormonal breakouts though.

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