Julia March

Julia March is one of the top facialists in New York, according to connoisseurs such as New York Magazine, Allure, and us.

Many of our customers ask us what they can do about the dreaded dry skin and acne combo — particularly in cooler months, when cold air and indoor heating conspire to suck extra moisture out of skin.

It is a quite a puzzler, since most acne treatment products are designed for oilier skin types.  But no quandary is too challenging to tackle for top New York facialist Julia March, who always has answers for us.

Ayla: How do you handle dry skin that breaks out?

JULIA: Basically, dry skin with acne needs some help with salicylic acid, but usually a salicylic acid cleanser — not a leave-on medication. Typical leave-on medications can end up drying skin even more and creating more breakouts.

Note: Medik8’s betaGel is an exception and works well on dry skin as a spot treatment.

Ayla: What type of regimen do you recommend in these situations?

JULIA: For surface whiteheads, I would add a once- or twice-weekly wash with a salicylic acid or white willow bark cleanser. Also, a clay mask with a little raw honey mixed in either once every week or once every other week will nourish skin and clean up the breakouts.

How often you use the cleanser and mask depends on how dry you feel. If skin is very dry and flaky, I’d do a mask every other week. Always observe the skin and make sure it’s not getting too dry. If that happens, use the salicylic acid cleanser just once a week.

Note: A great pick for dry and acne prone skin is Kahina’s Cleanser, which features willow bark extract and a non-drying formula. Alternatively, Medik8’s poreCleanse Gel can be used as an occasional breakout buster. And our top mask pick is Kahina’s Antioxidant Mask, which features hydrating argan oil and exfoliating lactic acid along with clay (with nourishing argan oil already mixed in, you don’t need to worry if you don’t have raw honey on hand).

Ayla: What do you recommend for the rest of the skincare regimen for dry skin with acne?

JULIA: In the morning, just splash your face with lukewarm water. Use a creamy cleanser on alternate evenings (when not using a salicylic acid cleanser). I suggest moisturizing with a lotion or a light cream during the day; use a gel at night mixed with a few drops of oil, like argan oil. A simple, gentle regimen is best in cases like this.

Note: Our top cream/lotion pick is MyHavtorn’s lightweight Organic Face CreamThe Organic Pharmacy’s Antioxidant Gel mixed with either The Organic Pharmacy Antioxidant Serum or Kahina’s Argan Oil is a great nighttime choice.

I also recommend a once-weekly hydrating mask as well to keep skin balanced and nourished.

Note: Our top picks are Voya’s Maskerade, which will hydrate without exacerbating breakouts, and Luzern’s new Hydra-Enzyme Mask, which provides deep hydration while exfoliating (which will help keep skin clear of further breakouts).

And drinking herbal teas like nettle, burdock or dandelion help to support the liver and clear up the skin.

Ayla: Why do you suggest using gels and oils, particularly at night?

JULIA: They create a nice, lightweight layer that lets the skin rest and not feel too puffy in the morning, since the skin goes through a detoxification process at night. Creams have a lot of ingredients; oil is simple.  Even if you’re using a combination of oils, you still have fewer ingredients to interfere with the skin’s detoxification process.

Both oils and gels are great to have on hand.  I often suggest taking a break from creams when breakouts are occurring. The nice thing is that you can still get anti-aging benefits during times like this from gel-based serums or moisturizers (which often contain a lot of active ingredients) mixed with oils (which can help them penetrate into the skin). And during the day, oils can be mixed with cream-based moisturizers for additional protection against the cold.

Our favorites: The Organic Pharmacy’s Antioxidant Gel and SerumKahina’s Argan OilOlie Biologique 006MyHavtorn Organic Facial Oil

Ayla: What if someone is dealing with deep, painful blemishes?

JULIA: That usually requires a lot of water to speed up lymph flow and help with the body’s natural detoxification process.  Drinking 8oz of water with 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar an hour after lunch will help, too.

In these cases, sometimes skin can be very red, dry, and dehydrated. If that happens, just use a hydrating mask (no clay) for a week or two and wash with a creamy cleanser and plain water in the mornings until dryness improves.  Then, incorporate a salicylic acid cleanser every other day, and try a clay mask (like Kahina’s) or a plain clay mask mixed with yogurt.

About Julia March: Julia is a skin care therapist who specializes in facials exclusively. From June 2000 until July 2002 she was the senior aesthetician at one of the most prestigious salons in NYC, where she offered treatments to celebrities, models and editors including Brigitte Hill, Eva Herzigova, Liv Tyler, and Miranda Brooks. She began her own practice in Soho in September 2002. According to authorities including Allure, New York Magazine, and us, she’s one of the best facialists in New York. Learn more about Julia’s impressive background (or try to get a coveted appointment) here.


Any topic discussed in this article is not intended as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, please check with your doctor.