Itchy acne can make you feel awful. Not only do you have unsightly blemishes, but you also feel like scratching. Learn what causes it and what you can do.

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Itchy Acne: Causes, Treatment, And Prevention

2/20/20238 min read

Pimples are bad enough, but when your blemishes start itching, it can be even more frustrating. Not only do they look bad, but now they're causing you discomfort, too. So, what can you do about itchy acne?

To help you overcome this common skin condition, let's look at what causes itchy acne and what you can do to treat it. We'll also discuss strategies for preventing it in the first place.

If you're ready for better skin days, read on.

Table Of Contents

Symptoms Of Itchy Acne

Woman scratching itchy acne on her shoulder

Any acne you have can become itchy. Evidence suggests that this side effect is common. In fact, 70% of acne patients reported itching in this study.

Your itchy acne might look like red bumps or patches on your skin. It may also look like whiteheads, blackheads, or cysts, depending on what type of acne you're dealing with.

In addition, you may notice the skin underneath your acne is dry. You may see it flaking or cracking, too.

Where Does It Appear?

You can get itchy acne anywhere on your body that you experience acne breakouts. This includes your face, chest, and back. It's even possible to get itchy acne on your scalp, shoulders, or around your genitals.

A Similar Condition

Just because you have itchy pimples doesn’t mean you’re dealing with itchy acne. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, one acne-like condition, folliculitis, is also extremely itchy.

With folliculitis, you'll notice a sudden appearance of red bumps caused by damage to your hair follicles. Once there's damage, germs can get into the area and cause inflammation. That inflammation can contribute to itching.

If you're not sure whether your itchy bumps are acne or not, it's best to see a dermatologist. They can tell you exactly what the problem is and devise a treatment plan.

Itchy Acne: Causes

Many different factors play a role in the development of itchy acne. Here are a few of the most common.

Dry Skin

Dry skin is often itchy. So if you already have dry skin, you're more likely to experience itchy acne when you get a breakout.

Excessive Sweating

Woman sweating after a workout

Have you ever heard of sweat pimples? When you leave sweat on your skin for too long, it blocks your pores and can lead to red or pink bumps.

And once you have acne in an area exposed to sweat, it can become irritated the next time you exercise or go out in hot, humid weather. This means that sweating can not only cause itchy acne but can also make it worse.

Sun Exposure

Too much sun exposure can make your skin dry and itchy. So if you have a breakout and spend a lot of time outdoors, the sunlight could be causing your trouble.

The Natural Healing Process

As your body repairs itself, it sheds old layers of skin and replaces them with new skin cells. This is necessary to heal blemishes and make your skin look better. But, unfortunately, this healing process can make your skin itch.

Reactions To Irritants

Certain products and allergens can cause itchy skin. So can some chemicals, like benzoyl peroxide. Since this is a common ingredient in many acne treatments, applying it could actually make your acne feel worse before it gets better.

But it's not just benzoyl peroxide that can cause this problem. Certain soaps, perfumes, and cleaners can irritate your skin and make you want to scratch, too. Once you encounter an irritant, your body releases a chemical called histamine, which is responsible for the itch.

Treating Itchy Acne

Woman scratching acne on her face

Now that you know what causes itchy acne, what can you do about it? Are you destined to keep scratching your pimples until they go away on their own? Thankfully, no!

Here are some tips to help you stop itchy acne in its tracks.

Don’t Scratch!

It might be tempting to scratch your itchy skin, but it's best to resist the urge. Scratching only makes the situation worse. By scratching or picking at your pimples, you risk permanent scars or other skin damage.

You can also transfer oil or bacteria from your hands to the itchy area. This just adds fuel to the fire and can make you break out even more.

Hydrate Your Skin

Keeping your skin hydrated is key to stopping itchy acne. As we mentioned earlier, dry skin tends to itch. So it's important to keep your skin hydrated, both on the outside and inside.

How? Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and use a moisturizing product regularly. Also, look for creams or lotions made specifically for acne-prone skin and integrate them into your acne-fighting skincare routine.

Keep Your Face Clean

A dirty face is a breeding ground for acne. To prevent bacteria and oil from building up, always wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser.

In addition, try to stay away from harsh soaps, as these can strip away the natural oils of your skin and bump your sebaceous glands into overdrive. If this happens, it might cause more acne and worsen your skin.

Try Calamine Lotion

Woman applying calamine lotion onto itchy acne

If you've ever gotten into poison ivy or stinging nettles, you're probably already familiar with the calming effect calamine lotion has on skin. This pink lotion works wonders for itchy acne as well.

The main ingredient is zinc oxide, which is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. And as a bonus, calamine lotion helps dry out pimples and reduce their redness. This means it'll act as a spot treatment for your acne as it helps relieve your itch.

Use A Cold Compress

Cold compresses are great for itchy skin because they can help temporarily numb the area. They also constrict the blood vessels, which can decrease the redness you’re experiencing.

To use a cold compress, place crushed ice in a clean cloth. Then, apply it for 10 minutes at a time. For safety reasons, never place ice directly on your skin. It could cause a painful ice burn.

Use Antihistamines

Do you suspect that an allergic reaction to an irritant triggered your itchy acne? If so, try taking an over-the-counter antihistamine. These medicines work by blocking histamine to reduce itching.

However, if allergies are not the root cause of your itchy acne, it's best to talk to your doctor before taking this kind of medication.

Talk To Your Doctor

If you're still dealing with itchy acne after trying the tips above, it's time to crank your treatment up a notch by talking to your doctor. After examining your skin and confirming the problem, they can give you personalized treatment advice.

A dermatologist may prescribe stronger treatment options, like retinoids or antibiotics, depending on what's causing your acne.

Preventing Itchy Acne

Once you get rid of itchy acne, you don't want it to return. Implement these tips to help keep your skin healthy-looking and hydrated.

Use Good Shower Practices

Woman taking a shower

Long, hot showers are not a good combination when you're trying to clear up your skin. Instead, turn the water down to lukewarm and make it a point to get in and out quickly.

Moisturize Regularly

Your body needs water like it needs air, so keep it hydrated. In addition to drinking plenty of water, pick a moisturizer designed for your skin type and use it regularly. Every time you get out of the shower, it's a great opportunity to apply it.

Spot Treat Existing Blemishes

When you notice a new pimple, treat it as soon as possible. Use a spot treatment with an ingredient like salicylic acid to help reduce redness and swelling. Promptly taking care of new breakouts can keep the itchiness away.

Avoid Tight Clothing

Friction can cause breakouts, so make sure your clothes fit comfortably and aren't too tight. Wear loose-fitting garments made of breathable fibers, like cotton, linen, or silk.

Use Non-Comedogenic Products

The products you select for your skincare routine can help or hurt your acne. Opt for non-comedogenic products, which are designed to not clog pores. This will reduce the chance of itchy pimples developing in the future.

In addition, select products from a trusted skincare company, like Bodewell.

Stop The Itch

Woman scratching itchy acne on her back

Itchy acne can be uncomfortable, but it doesn't have to take over your life. With the right treatment plan and preventative measures, you can keep your acne under control.

From keeping your face clean to staying moisturized, the above tips can help you stop the itch and clear up your skin. You deserve to look (and feel) your best, so don’t give up. Better skin days are ahead!


American Academy of Dermatology Association
Wiley Online Library

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