Your Breakouts May Be Caused By Dry Skin—Not Oily Skin—Here's Why

By Ama Kwarteng, @amakwarteng

In This Article

People often assume oily skin causes congestion and those annoying, occasional breakouts. In reality, dehydrated, dry skin is often the real culprit and makes congestion tricky to solve. While congestion is the result of excess oil, reducing oiliness by drying the skin out can make things worse because the body may overcompensate by producing more oil, says dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick. That said, there are ways to reduce oil in conjunction with products that help to keep the skin moisturized and maintain balance to prevent overly drying the skin.

How to tell if you have dry skin

How to Tell if You Have Dry Skin

According to Dr. Garshick, dry skin can appear: 

  • Red, flaky or dull, sometimes with the skin feeling tight
  • Itchy, burning, or sensitive

Even if your skin type is balanced, combination, dry, or oily, you can still suffer from dehydrated skin, which is caused by lack of water retention in the upper-most skin layer.

What causes skin dehydration?

  • Using/overusing/misusing skincare products with harsh ingredients
  • Weather
  • Environment
  • Diet or lack of drinking water

Harsh ingredients and weather can irritate and dry out the skin, damaging the barrier and making it difficult for your skin to retain water. As a result your skin may look dull and rough, feel tight or stretched, and over time develop more obvious fine lines and wrinkles.

How to tell if you have dry skin

How Dry Skin Causes Congestion and Breakouts

Dry skin can lead to congestion and breakouts in a few ways, says Dr. Garshick: 

  1. When your skin is dry, it triggers your body to create more oil to help your skin retain H20, which can lead to clogged pores and congestion.
  2. Dry skin can also lead to breakouts by clogging pores because of excess skin shedding - a perfect environment for bad bacteria.
  3. If you are prone to breakouts and use products that clog pores while addressing excess oil (aka your skin reacting to dryness) it can lead to more congestion and breakouts because of the true underlying cause - dry skin!
How to treat dry congested breakout prone skin

How to Treat Dry/Dehydrated Skin That Is Congested and Breaking Out

Avoid typical drying acne treatments: they can make the situation worse! According to Dr. Garshick, you want to focus on products that will help repair the skin barrier and prevent clogged pores with non comedogenic, nourishing ingredients. 

Choose the right products: 

  • Plant oils with a high percentage of linoleic acid (like safflower oil) are a great option because they nourish and repair without clogging pores.
  • Sea buckthorn, green tea and thyme all have been shown to help reduce break outs and are nourishing when properly used in a formulation.
  • Honey has anti-bacterial properties and is also a humectant, which helps keep skin hydrated.
  • Vitamin C and B3 (niacinamide) are both great for nourishing the skin and addressing hyperpigmentation. 

Exfoliate to prevent congestion: Dead skin and excess sebum are the main components of clogged pores (congested skin). Exfoliation targets both of these and refreshes your skin. A nourishing and gentle chemical exfoliant — like the Hibiscus Exfoliating Mud (made with raw honey) has the bonus exfoliation while repairing your skin barrier and improving water retention. 

A Natural Skincare Routine for Acne & Dry Skin

For a simple, hydrating and clarifying acne routine targeted at dry skin, try our Clear Skin Solutions (Dry & Combo) Routine

Products In This Skincare Routine:

"You should also consider your internal health when trying to treat your congestion," says Dr. Garshick. A good diet and hydrating properly can all help your skin’s state. But keep in mind, sometimes just drinking water is not enough. Your body might be low in potassium, which makes it difficult for cells to retain water. Check out additional reading below for more tips.


Additional reading:

I changed this one simple thing about my diet and cleared my cyclical acne

4 delicious winter foods to reduce hormonal acne

5 foods to avoid for acne prone skin

Skin cleansing tips to prevent dryness and breakouts


 Source: Dr. Marisa Garshick (@drmarisagarshick


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