How to manage dehydrated and oily acne-prone skin

Wait! Need a primer on dehydrated skin? Check out this article.

Dehydration is one of the most prevalent skin conditions seen in all skin types, but is particularly common for those with oily skin. Yes, it may seem counterintuitive, but don’t worry, we’ll explain.

Signs & symptoms of oily and dehydrated skin

If you have oily skin and experience any of the following, your skin is probably dehydrated:

  • Dull and lacking radiance
  • Rough texture 
  • You feel like your face “eats” your makeup and leaves it patchy
  • Skin feels tight, despite still having visible oil

All of these signs and symptoms occur because the skin does not have enough water to carry out normal processes and regulate oil production. 

Why is dehydration so common in oily skin?

Unlike dry skin, which is a skin type characterized by a lack of oil, dehydrated skin means your skin lacks water. Oily skin, as the name suggests, overproduces oil, causing the skin to look shiny, feel greasy and contribute to clogged pores. The look and feel of oily skin often makes people hesitant to use moisturizers or hydrators for fear of excessive shine or increased congestion. In reality, the lack of moisturizer leaves the skin barrier weakened, allowing water to easily evaporate and further dehydrate the skin. The chain of events continues, stimulating your skin to produce even more oil to compensate. 

Because of this overproduction of oil – and likely increase in clogged pores and acne –  the instinct is usually to exfoliate and dry out the skin. Unfortunately, instead of treating the problem, this only makes it worse. Stripping the skin of all oil continues damaging the skin barrier, paving the way for even more dehydration. 

How to manage oily and dehydrated skin

First and foremost, you must strengthen your skin barrier, otherwise water will continue to evaporate. This means using a dedicated, daily moisturizer. The right moisturizer will have what’s needed to regulate and reinforce your barrier, not weigh you down. Look for products described as gels or gel-creams, which have the highest amount of humectants (ingredients that retain water, like glycerin, hyaluronic acid and urea) and the lightest consistency. In addition to humectants, these products will have some skin-friendly emollients, like squalane and ceramides. Make sure to check your moisturizer’s ingredients using our Skindex tool to make sure it’s acne-friendly.

Essences, toners and/or hydrating serums (again, look for humectants!) are great to use underneath a moisturizer. Essences are watery, lightweight and fast absorbing, allowing hydration to penetrate deeper into the skin without feeling heavy. Use an essence after cleansing, while skin is still damp, before your serums. Very importantly, make sure you’re using a moisturizer after to trap it all in. During the day, your sunscreen might eliminate the need for a separate moisturizer. Use these products daily to maintain hydration.

Be sure you’re using a cleanser formulated for oily skin and not over exfoliating with acids or drying acne treatments. You don’t want to undo all of the work you’ve just put in! Check out our Smooth Operator Silky Gel Cleanser for a gentle option.