We’re not sure where it started, but the rumor linking oily skin and acne got twisted through the grapevine. Especially the part about using harsh products to dry dry dry out acne when in fact, it makes matters worse. But even experts have been under this oily skin spell. “As a teen, I was brainwashed into thinking that my breakouts were caused by too much oil,” confesses Gabi Stephan, Holistic Esthetician, and Makeup Artist at green beauty boutique, Lena Rose Beauty. “But now I know better. Dehydrated skin contributes more to acne than any single skin type,” she says. That’s right, dry skin and acne have a BIG link. And we’re here to explain.
First, let’s back up. Skin types are genetic and classify how much sebum, or oil, our sebaceous glands produce. Dry skin type is due to low sebum production and has a tendency to feel and look dry. Oily skin type is caused by highly-productive sebaceous gland. “The best way to classify if you are a true oily skin type is if you wake up with an obvious oil layer on the skin that isn't caused by a product,” says Gabi. It’s most popularly associated with acne (unfairly, but more on that later) even though people with this skin type tend to age more slowly. Combination skin is when both types exist on your face in different sections, like an oily nose but dry chin. Normal skin type is a generally well-balanced complexion. So where do dehydration and breakouts fit into all of this?
Dehydrated skin is a skin condition (or what we like to refer to as a skin state) not a type. At first, this lack of moisture can lead to a dull complexion and possible flakiness. Over time it can cause premature aging, sagging, wrinkles, and acne. When your skin is dry, it starts impacting your acid mantle, lipid layer, and microbiome— what are collectively called a skin barrier function. Together these elements keep skin hydrated and bacteria free, but studies show that when any part of this delicate defense system is off it can lead to acne. Meaning dehydrated skin may be a driving force of acne-prone skin. And it’s not uncommon for sebaceous glands to overproduce in order to balance from the dryness caused by dehydration. “Many customers think they have oily skin when it’s really just a reaction to dryness,” says Dominique Carron, herbalist and founder of Apoterra Skincare.
So if you are struggling with dry skin and breakouts, consider rehydrating as the first step to healing acne. Below are three easy lifestyle tips to hydrate and rebalance.
1. Snack on these
Of course, drinking the recommended 8-10 glasses of filtered water a day will help, but sometimes it’s hard to get in. Thankfully, there are some other, frankly more exciting, ways to hydrate. Try snacking on water-rich produce, like watermelon (95% water), oranges (88% water) and cucumbers (95% water). They will do two things: hydrate from the inside out, supply vitamins and minerals, and maybe even satisfy that sweet tooth. (Okay, three things.) Not to mention they are extremely versatile in their preparation. Can you say cukes and hummus errday? When these gems aren’t quite in season, aim for their frozen counterparts, like strawberries (91% water) or peaches (89%) to make delicious smoothies. Another easy way to up your water intake: homemade soups. For starters, bone broth is high in collagen, which supports a healthy glow. Plus it’s easy to find recipes with lots of water-rich vegetables.
2. Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate
“Another reason dehydrated skin can cause breakouts is through excess dead skin cells clogging pores,” says Dominique. Gently exfoliating 2-3 times a week can help reduce the number of dead skin cells and speed up the repair of your skin barrier. For this, Gabi recommends our Hibiscus Exfoliating Mud. The natural fruit acids and enzymes remove dead skin and clear away potentially clogging compounds allowing the hydrating honey and organic hibiscus, acai, and pumpkin to better absorb. And exfoliation helps improve detoxification and lymph drainage. This is a key step in revamping your complexion, but be careful not to exfoliate too hard or too often. It can cause irritation and worsen your skin’s condition.
3. Moisturize with the right oils
Yes! Oil is your friend! Adding it back into the skin will start to repair the skin barrier function and ease the overproduction of sebum. But not all oil is created equal. Finding the right one for dehydrated, breakout prone skin can be difficult because some can cause breakouts in certain people. In this case, Dominique recommends using the Night Clarifying Treatment from our Nourish Ritual. It’s formulated to be both deeply nourishing with sea buckthorn, coQ10, pomegranate oil, prickly pear oil and active in keeping pores clear via the sugar extract, green tea infusion, and anti-inflammatory and antibacterial essential oil blend. Additionally, if your skin is in need of a deep repair (like if you see premature wrinkles), Gabi recommends adding our Night Regenerative Balm. “It has been a game changer for me and my clients, especially during the winter months,” she says. This balm contains cupuacu butter, which can hold up to 400 times its weight in water. When applied after using the Neroli Toner, it emulsifies into a cream making it less heavy than many balms on the market.
“Skincare and skin wellness is not linear,” says Gabi. Our skin is a live organ responding to elements (pollution, sun, lifestyle changes, food, products... must we go on?) and sometimes “clear skin” and “healthy skin” don’t mean the same thing. “I often see clients who don't have a single blemish on their face, but they are so dehydrated, saggy, and wrinkled, it often appears they are older than they are,” she explains. So instead of treating your acne-prone skin for it’s “type,” and hating on oil, start by adding a gentle exfoliating routine and blast of hydration through products and foods for up to four weeks. Happy hydrating!
Main image: Oscar Keys
Women with flowers: Artem Kim
Dry earth: Wolfgang Hasselmann
Watermelon: Elena Koycheva
Masking woman + facial oils: Naomi Huober