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I break out in zits but have extremely dry skin; do I have acne?

Dr. Ellen Marmur, MD
Dermatology

No,it is more like an acne imposter and should not be treated in the same way you would acne (i.e., by drying out pimples and killing bacteria with benzoyl peroxide). What you have is an "acneiform" reaction pattern that mimics acne. There are tiny papules filled with neutrophils, but there are no P. acnes bacteria, nor is there keratin plugging the pore. It is an inflammatory response to a stress on the skin - in your case dehydration. Seasonal changes and environmental variations can cause them too, which is why you may break out in these pimples on vacation. Some people get these breakouts as a reaction to waxing or bleaching facial hair or from an irritating ingredient in a skin care product - even simple soap. Therefore, using harsh acne medications to dry out the pimples is the wrong tactic and will make the problem even worse. If you moisturize your skin to counteract the dryness, the inflammatory papules will go away.

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Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.