Dry Acne-Prone Skin? This May Be Why (+ How to Fix It)

Dry skin that is also breaking out? You’re not alone. Skincare, diet, nutrient deficiencies, and gut health may all be at play. Here are science-backed solutions to solve each possible root cause.

Dry Acne-Prone Skin? This May Be Why (+ How to Fix It)

Dry skin that is also breaking out? You’re not alone. Skincare, diet, nutrient deficiencies, and gut health may all be at play. Here are science-backed solutions to solve each possible root cause.

Dry skin that is also breaking out? You’re not alone. Although most people tend to think of oily skin as more acne prone, those with dry skin are not immune to breakouts. 

The good news? Clear, healthy, and well-hydrated skin is achievable, even if it’s currently feeling like an impossible feat. If you’re struggling with dry acne-prone skin, let’s talk about the potential causes, as well as the actionable steps you can take to fix it. 

The Potential Causes of Dry Acne-Prone Skin

From aggravating skincare products to gut health, here are the potential underlying causes of your dry and breakout-prone skin. 

Culprit #1: Harsh Skincare

harsh skincare for acne

While they may be effective to some degree, many formulas specifically designed to fight acne are harsh on the skin. Products made with high concentrations of acne-busting ingredients (like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid) can strip away the skin’s natural oil and cause damage in the process. The result? Parched, aggravated skin.

It’s especially important to highlight how these products can weaken your skin barrier. This protective layer of the skin works as a shield against environmental aggressors – think pollutants, UV radiation, and bacteria. At the same time, your skin barrier holds moisture in and prevents transepidermal water loss. 

When the barrier is damaged, not only are you more likely to have dry and sensitive skin, the skin may actually be more prone to breakouts. Ultimately, this means that overuse of harsh acne treatments may be doing more harm than good in the long run. 

How to Fix It

If you think your skincare routine may be at fault for your dried out skin, it’s time to assess your products. The key is gentle yet effective formulas that treat and prevent breakouts without zapping the skin’s moisture levels or harming the skin barrier. 

First, take a look at your cleanser. If you’re using an aggressive acne-fighting cleanser or exfoliant, try swapping it out for a mild hydrating face wash. This type of formula will wash away dirt and other debris that may clog pores, but will do so without stripping away all of the skin’s natural oils.

Next, take a look at your treatments and serums. If you are using a potent acne-fighting formula (like a benzoyl peroxide lotion or a salicylic acid treatment), consider using a spot treatment made with the same active ingredient instead. This way, you can fight any active blemishes without having to dry out the rest of your skin. Here at Kuma HQ, we’re fans of using pure tea tree oil as a spot treatment. 

If you are using multiple different products at once, consider paring down your routine to simply a cleanser, spot treatment, and moisturizer. 

Using retinol in your routine? To get the benefits without the side effects, use it in moderation. Many with drier skin may find that using it one to three nights per week works best for their complexion. As another option, try bakuchiol. We love this plant-based retinol alternative, as it offers similar benefits without the risk of unpleasant side effects.  

Culprit #2: Using the Wrong Moisturizer for Your Skin

moisturizer for acne-prone skin

Moisturizing is essential for all skin types, but it’s especially important for dry skin. A moisturizer prevents water loss to keep your skin supple and soft, and also enhances barrier health (which, as we now know, is crucial for clear, healthy skin!). 

Here’s the problem: not all moisturizers are safe for acne-prone skin. In fact, many formulas – especially those made specifically for dry skin types – are loaded with ingredients that can clog pores, eventually leading to breakouts. Use a moisturizer that doesn’t cooperate with your skin type, and you may be directly contributing to the breakout cycle. 

How to Fix It

You need a moisturizer that gives your dry skin the support it needs without clogging pores. If you think your current moisturizer is the culprit, switch it out for a non-comedogenic formula to ensure it’s free of potential pore cloggers. You’ll also want to look for a cream or gel-cream moisturizer to help you maintain a plump, glowing, and moisturized complexion. 

So what ingredients should you be looking for? Ceramides are always a good idea when it comes to restoring dry skin, as they increase hydration and improve barrier function. Ingredients like squalane, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin are also great for boosting moisture and hydration levels to counteract dryness. 

Moisturizers made with oils can feel risky for those with acne-prone skin, but not all oils are bad. In fact, they can actually be great for keeping your complexion moisturized – you just need to use the right ones! Some of the most effective non-comedogenic oils include jojoba and argan. 

Of course, it’s equally as important to know what ingredients to avoid. Everyone’s skin is different, which means one ingredient may trigger a breakout in one person, but be completely fine for the next. That said, there are some common ingredients that tend to be big no-nos for those with acne-prone skin. Coconut, olive, and avocado oils may exacerbate acne and congested skin so save those for the kitchen.

Culprit #3: Lack of Omega-3

foods rich in omega-3

We’ve tackled skincare influences on your skin, but it’s equally as important to look into the role diet plays on your complexion. Specifically, a lack of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet may be impacting your skin – both in terms of dryness and breakouts. 

Omega-3 fatty acids (which include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)) are integral for optimal skin barrier function. 

In one study, researchers found that daily supplementation of flaxseed oil (which is packed with ALAs) helped improve skin hydration levels and minimize skin roughness. Similarly, another study revealed that supplementing with hemp seed oil (another great source of ALAs) reduced skin dryness in participants with eczema. 

Omega-3s don’t only affect dryness – they may also play a role in breakouts. These fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is believed to trigger breakouts, which means lowering inflammation levels may benefit those tackling acne. A small study has even revealed that supplementing with fish oil may reduce breakout severity, particularly in those with moderate to severe acne.  

How to Fix It

It’s time to work more omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods into your diet! Fatty fish (such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna) are an especially great source, as are oysters. Flax seeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds are also all packed with omega-3 fatty acids (and they are easy to add to smoothies, oatmeal, and cereal!). Because plant-based and sea-based sources of omega-3 provide different types of omega-3 (ALA vs DHA and EPA), ideally you’d get your omega-3s from a mix of both. 

If you’re having a hard time getting enough omega-3 fatty acids from your diet, supplements may also help. A nutritionist or doctor can help you identify the best supplement for your needs. 

Culprit #4: Poor Gut Health

gut health for acne

Imbalances in your gut microbiome can have a major impact on your complexion – in more ways than one. While they may seem unrelated, ongoing research has revealed just how closely linked the relationship is between our skin and our gut. 

Let’s start with the skin barrier. Research has shown that supplementation with the probiotic strain Lactobacillus paracasei can help improve skin barrier function recovery while also decreasing skin sensitivity. Further research has shown that there are specific strains that may fight dryness in the skin by minimizing transepidermal water loss, helping to maintain the skin’s hydration levels from within. This includes Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus plantarum, and Lactobacillus acidophilus. 

What about acne’s relation to gut health? It’s been shown that people prone to breakouts tend to have an unbalanced gut microbiome and less microorganism diversity compared to those without acne. Studies have shown how supplementation with probiotics may work to clear breakouts over time. One example is a study in which participants with acne supplemented with Lactobacillus rhamnosus SP1 for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, researchers found that an impressive 80% of participants saw a reduction in breakouts. 

In short, a healthy gut microbiome with balanced levels of “good” bacteria strains can put you on the path towards clear, healthy, and hydrated skin. 

How to Fix It

If you have dry acne-prone skin, giving a little extra love to your gut health can make all the difference. There are many habits you can adopt to support your gut, including eating fermented foods, reducing processed foods, drinking plenty of water, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep each night. In addition to these lifestyle changes, one of the best ways to support your gut for healthy skin is by taking a targeted probiotic – like Glow Biome. 

Unlike other probiotics on the market, Glow Biome was specifically developed with the gut-skin connection in mind. It contains the optimal blend of clinically validated probiotic strains that support skin health, including Lactobacillus rhamnosus SP1, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Lactobacillus paracasei. 

Rather than putting a bandaid on the problem, this daily probiotic is designed to get to the root of common skin issues, including both hydration and breakouts. Glow Biome has even been clinically tested and proven to improve both breakouts and dry skin, with participants noticing visible results within 6 to 12 weeks. For dry skin prone to acne, it’s the ideal solution to achieve glowing skin from within. 

Learn more about Glow Biome

  Woman with acne and clear skin probiotics, Glow Biome

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