Oily vs. Dry: Differentiating between the Acne and Eczema and How to Treat Them

Updated on September 22, 2020

Acne and eczema: two of the most common skin problems in the world. Both are itchy, disfiguring, and difficult to treat. Having lesions or inflammation on the skin, front and center, can be physically frustrating and impact someone’s life in a way that goes deeper than skin.

Let’s look at the difference between these two skin afflictions and the right way to treat them when they appear together:

Oily vs. Dry: Differentiating Acne and Eczema

Although both conditions can be characterized by redness and inflammation, there should be no confusion between eczema and acne.

For one, it’s relatively easy to identify acne. Acne occurs when there is an overproduction of sebum, the oil for the skin. It results from a combination of excess oil secretion, accumulation of bacteria, and irritation of the tiny hair follicles on the skin. 

Overproduction of oil clogs the pores on the skin surface, leading to bacteria buildup, which can irritate the hair follicles. What we typically associate with acne is pimples, or the small raised and inflamed spots that result from too much oil. These spots can either produce or not produce pus. Acne can also appear as blackheads, whiteheads, and greasy skin.

Eczema, on the other hand, is a little harder to diagnose, as their symptoms mirror other conditions. It typically appears as a red, itchy rash on the cheeks, arms, and legs. If scratched, it can lead to scaly skin patches and open sores with crusts, which might get infected. Though it’s hard to trace the exact cause of eczema remains unknown, current studies suggest a combination of factors, including genetics, an overactive immune system and what is called the “barrier effect.” This barrier effect refers to a gap in the skin that allows water to drain out of the skin quickly and germs to enter.

We can say that acne and eczema are an “oily” and “dry” skin problem, respectively.

Treating Both Eczema and Acne

Finding the right acne treatment is hard enough for some people; adding eczema into the mix is a whole other level of problematic. Here’s where it gets tricky: acne occurs in people who overproduce sebum, while people who suffer from eczema often produce insufficient sebum.

The best way to address both skin conditions simultaneously is to keep the skin at a perfect balance of oil. Use non-drying and gentle cleansers and light hydrating moisturizers that won’t lead to a breakout.

Avoid scratching off or squeezing your acne to prevent spreading and formation of unsightly, dark scars.Thebest serum for acnewill prevent red marks and pigmented scarring. Refrain from using greasy face creams or cosmetic products.For eczema, use only the recommended medications and avoid contact with irritants (detergent, dust mites, stress) to minimize the risk of flare-ups.

When in doubt, consult your dermatologist to determine the most effective and safest way to treat both afflictions, and guide you with a proper regimen and medication, including ointments and creams.

If you want to prevent flare-ups and further breakouts and irritation, it’s imperative to use your acne medications only on the areas with acne, and your eczema medication only on the areas with eczema.

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