The Guide to (Undrying) Dry Skin

What to avoid, and what’s good for you

Is your skin dry as a desert day? Sick of hiding flaky patches under makeup? You’re not alone. Dry skin happens to people of all ages. It’s irritating and painful, but we’ve compiled a dry skin watch list that lists the common causes — and how to prevent them!

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What's "normal" skin?

To understand dry skin, let’s first dive into what makes “normal” skin soft, pliable, and pleasant to touch.

The answer is a combination of water content and fat. Normal skin contains a healthy amount of both. The most common culprits of dry skin reduce water content, lipid content (the building blocks of fat), or both.

The dry skin watch list

Watch out for: Instead:
Subpar skincare Replace harsh soaps with non-soap skin cleansers. Regular and antibacterial soaps can dry up your skin.

Choose non-alcohol based moisturizers!
Harsh exfoliation Back away slowly from harsh physical exfoliators! They’ll only irritate your skin. Use a konjac sponge instead, but be gentle.
Long, hot showers or baths Short showers are good for your skin and the environment. Run the water warm, not hot
Dry air Get a humidifier to restore moisture
Dehydration Drink plenty of water throughout the day (especially when you’re sweating or consuming alcohol)
Winter dryness Wear gloves, hats, and scarves in the winter. Consider a humidifier to keep dry air moist

Summer dryness Try not to blast the AC constantly (it dries out your skin)

Use a moisturizer that offers sun protection

Itchy clothes Get rid of itchy clothes! And avoid scratching your skin.

Other culprits: aging and drugs

Drugs like diuretics or certain retinoids can temporarily cause dry skin.

As we age, changes in our metabolism can naturally lead to drier skin. Older people tend to take in less liquids, and oil glands become less active.

Hormonal changes from menopause, hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism can also cause skin dryness.

Acne care for dry skin

The big question: does dry skin cause acne?

Well, kind of.

While dry skin doesn’t directly cause acne, it can lower defenses and make skin more vulnerable to breakouts. Dry skin may become more easily irritated, or more vulnerable to invading bacteria. Dry, dead skin cells might also clog your pores. In general, dry skin makes acne care more difficult — which is why it’s important to have a licensed professional overseeing your medication (whether that’s a personal provider at Curology or another dermatologist).

In general, here are tips for treating acne for dry skin:

  • Ease into your medication. Apply every other day, then slowly increase the frequency
  • Wait 10–20 minutes after washing your face before applying medication. Applying it on damp skin means it gets absorbed more quickly, which can cause irritation. Skip the waiting once your skin adjusts.
  • Try applying moisturizer first, then your medication (it works just as well!)
  • Dilute your medication right before you apply it by mixing it with moisturizer in the palm of your hand
  • Remember: if your anti-aging medication includes tretinoin, your wrinkles may be more noticeable for a short time only! Tretinoin helps dead skin cells shed faster, which can contribute to skin dryness at first. But your skin should adjust. If irritation continues, consult your provider.

The last word

Dry skin is a battle that many of us fight. Remember you don’t fight alone! Arm yourself with what you’ve learned in this guide — and remember, if you’re a Curology subscriber, your medical provider is there to fight the fight along with you.


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