People may be able to treat dry skin and acne with a range of over-the-counter products and careful skin care. In more severe cases, stronger medications that require a prescription may be necessary.

Dry skin and acne are very common conditions that affect many people. Both can be uncomfortable and may require treatment.

Some people will develop dry skin and acne at the same time. The dry skin might contribute toward acne, but it can also be a sign of an underlying condition, such as dermatitis.

In this article, we discuss the causes and treatment of dry skin and acne. We also provide some tips on preventing these conditions through skin care practices.

a girl using a cream to treat Dry skin and acneShare on Pinterest
Over-the-counter creams may help reduce acne.

The skin contains lots of hair follicles from which hair grows. Acne is the result of these becoming blocked.

Tiny glands near the surface of the skin produce sebum, an oil that prevents the skin from drying out. They can produce too much sebum, which blocks the hair follicle. Other debris, such as dead skin, also builds up.

When hair follicles become blocked, they form lumps in the skin. These are either whiteheads or blackheads. Bacteria can also build up and worsen symptoms.

When the skin lacks moisture, it becomes dry and scaly. To counteract the dryness, glands beneath the skin might produce more sebum. The excess sebum and dead skin can build up to cause acne. In this way, dry skin and acne can occur together.

People with both dry skin and acne should focus on treating both conditions without aggravating either. A doctor or dermatologist can offer advice for individual cases.


Many different over-the-counter creams, gels, and lotions are available for reducing acne.

These treatments usually contain benzoyl peroxide, an antiseptic substance for treating mild cases of acne. Benzoyl peroxide reduces bacteria and inflammation on the skin.

In moderate-to-severe cases of acne, a doctor may suggest prescription medications. These treatments could include antibiotics or retinoid creams or tablets.

The antibiotic medication will help fight the bacteria on the skin and prevent infection. Retinoid creams remove dead skin to stop it from accumulating in the hair follicles.

Dry skin

Dry skin is usually the result of an underlying condition, such as dermatitis, which people more commonly refer to as eczema. Treating the underlying condition will reduce dry skin.

Treatments for dry skin might involve using a moisturizer, which helps reduce dryness in the skin. Moisturizer usually comes as a cream, lotion, or oil.

Stronger moisturizers contain urea or lactic acid. These substances help the skin retain water but can cause stinging.

In severe cases, a dermatologist might prescribe corticosteroids or immunosuppressant drugs. These treatments are more effective but have additional side effects, such an increased risk of infections.

It is also possible to treat acne and dry skin at home.

Applying tea tree or jojoba oil might help reduce acne. Aloe vera or honey are other options that some people find beneficial.

It can also help to wash the skin gently using lukewarm water. The American Academy of Dermatology recommend washing at least twice a day, particularly after sweating.

It is important to avoid washing with an abrasive product that could further irritate the skin. Picking or touching the skin can also cause irritation.

Learn about home remedies for treating acne here.

Using gentle, fragrance-free products on the skin may prevent dry skin flare-ups. Regularly moisturizing the skin, especially after a bath or shower, may also help treat dry skin, even in cases of eczema.

Learn more about home remedies for managing and treating dry skin here.

Looking after the skin is sometimes enough to prevent dry skin and acne. However, some conditions, such as eczema, are difficult to prevent.

Some tips to reduce the risk of dry skin and acne include:

  • avoiding makeup or other skin products containing ingredients that irritate the skin
  • looking for products that have “noncomedogenic” on the label
  • avoiding changing acne treatments too often, as some — such as benzoyl peroxide — take time to start working
  • washing all makeup off before bed
  • avoiding washing the face too many times each day, as this might dry the skin out and cause further irritation
  • removing sweat by dabbing the skin with a towel instead of rubbing it
  • avoiding touching or squeezing acne
  • using a gentle cleanser on the face instead of scrubbing the skin
  • avoiding tanning beds and minimizing time in the sun
  • applying moisturizer immediately after washing to help the skin retain water
  • using unscented skin products that are gentle on the skin
  • choosing a laundry detergent that does not irritate the skin
  • using a humidifier to keep moisture in the air

If home remedies and over-the-counter medications are not working to treat both dry skin and acne, a person should see a dermatologist.

A dermatologist is a specialist skin doctor who can help determine the best treatment for dry skin and acne in each case. They can also offer prescriptions for stronger medication when necessary.

A buildup of sebum and debris in hair follicles causes acne to develop on the skin. Dry skin can contribute to this process. Bacteria might also accumulate and worsen the symptoms.

Both acne and dry skin are treatable. There are many over-the-counter options, such as benzoyl peroxide. In more severe cases, a dermatologist might prescribe stronger medications.

Practicing good skin care is the best way to prevent acne and dry skin. For example, people can avoid substances or practices that irritate the skin, such as scrubbing with an abrasive brush.

Many cases of acne and dry skin will clear up with over-the-counter treatments and good skin care. A dermatologist can help if these approaches are not working.