When I have a pimple, I’m either smothering it with exfoliants or spot treatments until it dies, or avoiding it like the plague—it all depends on what product I’m using. My whole life becomes a strategic game of pile on the acne-fighters while keeping any enemies—AKA pore-cloggers or irritants—at bay.
But there’s one product in my beauty arsenal that makes me hesitate in this war on acne: moisturizer. It feels like a skin-care conundrum—you need to hydrate your skin, but it feels as though putting a moisturizing cream on top of a breakout will only make it angrier, or somehow block it from vanishing. Welp, a dermatologist schooled me on the matter.
Basically, not moisturizing your acne will have the opposite effect of what you’d think. “When the skin is dry, it can be more irritated and make acne look and appear worse,” explains Rachel Nazarian, MD, a New York-based board-certified dermatologist. “With acne, the issue is inflammation in the skin—most acne responds better and improves when you calm it down. Therefore, moisturizing is helpful.”
“Many people find that their skin starts to over-produce oil in reaction to dry skin, which is another reason to keep skin balanced by applying a moisturizer.” —Rachel Nazarian, MD
Another important thing to note: Most pimple treatments do their job by halting oil production—which is even more evidence on why you still need to hydrate when your skin’s broken out. “Many acne medications work by targeting oil glands and decreasing production of oil on the skin,” says Dr. Nazarian. “So it’s important to use a moisturizer to keep your skin moisturized so that it can tolerate the acne regimen. Many people find that their skin starts to over-produce oil in reaction to dry skin, which is another reason to keep skin balanced by applying a moisturizer after every time you wash.”
That’s not to say just slathering on any old any moisturizer will do the trick—you still have to be savvy about the ingredients you use. Like, don’t use a hydrating cream that’s occlusive or comedogenic. “Choose an oil-free, lightweight moisturizer and ingredients like ceramides or hyaluronic acid,” says Dr. Nazarian. “These will help make your skin stronger and to maintain more water and hydration with continued use.” So continue using your moisturizer—your zits will thank you.
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