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Winter, dry, acne prone skin, and 6 simple steps to beat it

Posted by ALMOST PEGGY on
Winter, dry, acne prone skin, and 6 simple steps to beat it

Dry skin

The colder months have hit down here in Melbourne, Australia, and for those of us who suffer from one of Mother Nature's more irrational skin combinations - acne AND dry skin - we’re certainly feeling the brunt of it in breakouts *le sigh. This infuriating affliction can be tough to combat, but with a few small tweaks to your routine, you can get some sweet relief.  

At only 5,019 km from Antarctica, Melbourne has a microclimate that punishes us with cold, dry winds from the southern seas in winter. Not only does it lash at our bodies and chill us to the bone, but as The Mayo Clinic reports, ‘[s]kin tends to be driest in winter, when temperatures and humidity levels plummet’. With an average relative afternoon humidity of just 60%, Melburnians with dry skin can certainly attest to that! Staying warm and cozy while the weather blows and shrieks outside requires heating at home, in the office, in the car, in social spaces. You get the point! This means our single largest organ has a doozy of time trying to stay hydrated!

Dry skin is uncomfortable. It itches, burns, cracks, bleeds and has a persistently tight feeling that, to be quite frank, completely and utterly sucks. You know what else sucks? ACNE!!

Acne prone skin

Unfortunately for a lot of us, this frustrating skin condition does not end after puberty. Dr Diana Howard at The International Dermal Institute discusses the rise in adult acne stating ‘[c]linical studies indicate that between 40 and 55 percent of the adult population age 20-40 are diagnosed with low grade, persistent acne’.  Bummer…  

To add insult to injury, the very treatments we seek for acne quite often have an aggravating effect. Most common over the counter blemish specific products contain active ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and sulfur, all of which can actually cause irritation and, you guessed it, dry skin! And if you’re suffering severe, prolonged breakouts, deep cystic acne or hormonal bouts, prescribed medications can be even worse. Oral contraceptives  and  isotretinoin (accutane) therapies prescribed to treat acne can reduce or even prevent, the production of sebum, eliminating your skin’s natural method of moisturisation altogether 😱 . Gaagh!!

And so... we have acne AND dry skin that becomes even drier because we seek to remedy our breakouts... it really is a catch 22 of the most unfair proportions 😩 . Double gaagh!!

Quite naturally then, we reach for our moisturiser, right? But is our choice of moisturiser another part of the problem?


Many store bought moisturisers contain mineral oil which is the synthesised by-product of the process of distilling gasoline. This common ingredient, also referred to as a “petrochemical”, is highly comedogenic, meaning it creates a ‘physical barrier over your skin’ which clogs pores and can even lock in bacteria ‘increasing risk of breakouts’. So definitely not ideal for acne sufferers 👎.

Another common ingredient in moisturisers is vegetable oil. The type of vegetable oil can be anything from sunflower to olive to coconut, the list goes on. Each oil has a comedogenic rating from 0 to 5; 5 being almost guaranteed to cause breakouts for skin that is susceptible. Olive oil, for instance, has a comedogenic rating of 2. This tells us that it is less likely than coconut oil (with a rating of 4) to cause pimples, but more likely than grapeseed which has a score of 1.

An oil’s comedogenic score is not the only factor that to consider when dealing with acne prone skin. You should also look at the linoleic acid level. All oils contain fatty acids, two of which are oleic and linoleic. Oleic oil locks in moisture, so a certain amount is required for dry skin. However linoleic oil is the one we’re really interested in. An article published in the The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology reports that ‘[a]cne patients have [...] been shown to have low levels of linoleic acid in their skin surface lipids’ and that ‘low concentrations of linoleate in sebum impose a state of essential fatty acid deficiency on the cells’. Thus, introducing extra linoleic acid to help re-balance this deficiency should result in fewer breakouts. Not only does grapeseed oil have a very low comedogenic score, but it also has a linoleic composition of a whopping 77%, and a healthy balance of the oleic variety at 21%, This makes grapeseed oil an ideal candidate for a moisturising agent for dry, sensitive, acne producing skin.

To recap;  for dry acne prone skin sufferers, the things we use to pummel pimples dry us out, and the moisturisers we often use for keeping dry skin at bay can cause more damn spots! Is there anything we can do to find some sweet, sweet relief? The answer is yes!

6 steps to soothe, heal and prevent dry skin and breakouts

1. Reduce the heat and length of your showers

Hot showers cause our skin quite a bit of distress. The heat not only causes itchiness, inflammation and peeling, but it deteriorates the skin’s natural oil balance needed to keep it healthy and looking and feeling its best. UMPC HealthBeat online says ‘[dr]y skin can increase your chances of infection and actually lead to an over production (sic) of oils in an effort to compensate for the lack of moisture.’ So, acne sufferers: beware hot showers! If you are red afterwards, the water was too hot 😡 . Limiting the time your skin is exposed to heated water is also a good idea to reduce the amount of oil loss.

2. Don’t over wash and use gentle products

For the same reason you should avoid spending too long under a piping hot shower, you should avoid over washing your face. By too frequently removing the skin’s natural oils we cause irritation and dryness, then dryness causes inflammation, and for the acne sufferer this generally equals more acne! The Askanesthetician (sic) blog writes that ‘[o]ver washing your face breaks down the very top layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, and that leads to bacteria entering your skin since your skin can no longer protect itself. More bacteria can mean more acne.’

Over washing also includes the use of harsh chemical detergents and soap based products. “Exposure to outside irritants such as chemicals, solvents, detergents and excessive water can make skin dry” says Dr. Donna Pellowski, UAMS dermatologist. Look to avoid ingredients such as parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLES) or (SLE), synthetic colours and fragrances, alcohol and mineral oils. These all strip the skin of oils and cause irritation. And, interestingly, Dr. Pellowski also advised that “[e]xcessive water intake [...]  is not recommended nor is effective for dry skin.’ So even though it may seem counterintuitive, don’t over hydrate!

3. Moisturise immediately after shower

After your shower, partially pat dry your skin and then apply your moisturiser. This helps the moisturiser to lock in the remaining water on your skin adding extra hydration. To avoid pulling/dragging on your sensitive skin unnecessarily gently pat on your hydrating oil or cream of choice rather than rubbing it in. Make sure you’re using a moisturiser that won’t clog your pores so look for non-comedogenic ingredients, oils with a high linoleic acid percentage, and steer clear of mineral oil!

4. Moisturise throughout the day

If you ride your bike to work in the dry winter air, are stuck in a climate controlled office most of the day, or just like to crank the heating to stay nice and toasty, reapply your non-comedogenic moisturiser as often as you feel necessary. Ensure you select a natural product containing no petrochemicals and there really isn’t a reason to limit the number of times you top up.

5. Cool cloths

If reapplying your moisturiser just isn’t cutting it, place a cool damp cloth over your face to find fast relief. For severe irritation, wrap an ice pack in a tea towel and apply to the affected area. A cool compress removes excess heat and, as Dr. Adrienne McLeod of advises, reduces symptoms ‘by slowing the transmission of nerve signals from the affected skin’.

6. Use a humidifier overnight

Introduce some humidity with a humidifier. You probably know them best as the steaming lamps your mum put in your room as a child to help alleviate your blocked nose and dry cough. ‘Running a humidifier in the home can help to put moisture into the skin by making the air less dry’ advised the Advanced Dermatology Clinic. These marvelous, inexpensive little contraptions are a genius way of combating the dry wintertime air so can get your hydration on while you dream of holidaying in a warm tropical climate.

In conclusion

Dry acne prone skin sufferers really do have an extra level of difficulty in keeping their skin clean and clear. All hope is not lost, however. By incorporating these few tips into your daily routine, you can keep your symptoms under wraps. Turn down the heat in the shower and stay in there for less time; moisturise with a non-comedogenic, high percentage linoleic acid product immediately after your shower to lock in water; reapply moisturiser throughout the day as needed; use cool cloths for extra relief; and plug in an air humidifier at night to introduce humidity back into the dry winter air.

Lucy & Clare @ Almost Peggy xx

Check out ALMOST PEGGY Face Honey, the very best all-natural, gentle daily face wash for sensitive, blemish affected and dry skin


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