How to Treat Acne Breakouts in the Winter

Danielle Emig
How to Treat Acne Breakouts in the Winter
Photo: Edward James/Getty Images

It may be surprising when you get breakouts in the winter, but your skin care routine and the cold, dry air could be to blame. When you see a pimple forming (or several) your first thought may be to zap it with whatever harsh acne fighting products you have — but the products you were using in the summer to fight breakouts won’t work the same in the winter.

The cold weather along with indoor heat will cause your skin to become drier, and fighting back with drying ingredients will only make your skin worse. Using cleansers or acne spot treatments high in benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid will dry out your pimples yes, but it will also cause your skin to produce more oil to compensate for the over-drying. The oil can clog pores and make your breakouts worse. Even if your skin is oily and breaking out, it’s important to use a good moisturizer come winter to keep your face from drying out. The drier your skin, the more irritated it can get. If your skin begins flaking and cracking, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria — something you really want to avoid especially if you’re acne prone.

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Follow these tips to change up your cleansing regime to fight and prevent acne this winter.

Use a gentle cleanser

Harsh cleansers will dry out and irritate your skin further, so opt for a gentle cleanser that won’t strip your skin of its natural moisture. Try Philosophy Purity Made Simple One-Step Facial Cleanser as it deep cleans while it hydrates. Use it once in the morning and once at night. Cleansing more than that will dry out your skin.

Limit the use of topical acne treatments

Treatments high in benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid will dry out the skin when it’s already dry, so these can be too harsh for winter. If you have stubborn pimples that need a little extra care, go for a treatment that has a smaller concentration of these ingredients, like Neutrogena On-The-Spot Acne Treatment.

Don’t forget to moisturize

You may think that lotions will clog pores and lead to more breakouts, but you need to keep your skin hydrated. Heavy creams may be too much if you’re acne prone so try a light moisturizer like Evologie Stay Clear Cream that uses natural ingredients to hydrate while it keeps your skin clear. You can use a heavier cream at night if your skin is still too dry.

Drink plenty of water

Many of us don’t think to drink as much water in the winter as we do in the summer, but you need to hydrate yourself from the inside out. Try to drink about 8-10 glasses of water daily, even if that means steeping with tea.

MORE: 12 Unconventional Products Celebrities Use to Hydrate Their Skin

Change your pillowcases often

Oil from your hair and skin gets on your pillowcases which can lead to more breakouts if you don’t change them frequently. Change them at least once a week, maybe more if you’re acne prone. Also avoid touching your face during the day, you don’t want the bacteria on your hands transferring to your face, especially if your skin is dry and cracked.

Originally published November 2012. Updated November 2017.